THE IN-PERSON ADVANTAGE
It’s important for new bird owners to understand the importance of
diet, and for pet specialty retailers, that means making sure customers
understand the differences in various options.
“Not all foods are created equal,” said Caroline Morgan, owner of TC
Feathers Aviary in Chantilly, Va. “Some people do their own research.
I’d say about 60 percent of people come in and know they need to offer
pellets, and understand that’s where birds get their vitamins and minerals.
It’s necessary for store employees to be up to speed so that they can
help educate customers effectively.
“Customers can’t get their bird’s wings clipped online,” said Walt Ecklof,
owner of Bird Lover’s Paradise in Matawan, N.J. “They can’t come in and
check it for nutrition. You can’t get that stuff online. These few extra steps
you can take—combined with knowledge and experience, and having
qualified staff who really care about what they’re doing and have a genuine
love for the birds—help tremendously.”
Aside from having a quality assortment of bird foods, retailers assert
that it is equally important to promote the available products and educate
customers about their various attributes and benefits.
“You’ve got to preach it, and show customers the difference in the bird,”
Ecklof said. “You’ve got to believe in what you’re selling.”
QUALITY MATTERS MOST
Though most customers are price sensitive to some degree, independent pet specialty retailers
reported that bird keepers are often less sensitive to price point and are more focused on quality.
“People who are more concerned with a more economic price buy it in bulk,” said Kelly Parsons,
manager of Denny’s Pet World in Kirkland, Wash., adding that most of her customers aren’t focused
However, while quality ingredients often mean higher price points, some customers still seek
out highly nutritious products that are priced to meet more conservative budgets.
“People who come in to our store are expecting premium-quality food at reasonable prices,”
said Walt Ecklof, owner of Bird Lover’s Paradise in Matawan, N.J. “We’re selling breeder-quality
food. We’re not selling the box-store, store-brand type of food.”
Human-grade ingredients are increasingly popular.
“We buy and sell human-grade nuts,” said Caroline Morgan, owner of TC Feathers Aviary in
Chantilly, Va. “The quality is drastically different. People really like that, and the birds really like that
because the quality is a lot higher.”
Because her store is focused on birds, Morgan carries a greater variety than many competitors,
she noted. Customers will travel long distances and pay for shipping just to get more of those
specialized foods, Morgan added.
“We don’t carry any brands we deem to be lower quality,” she said. “That’s deliberate, because
we want people to use what’s healthy for their birds. Most people appreciate that, and it keeps
them coming back,” Ecklof added.
Are customers attracted to avian
diets marketed with words such
as “natural,” “organic” and
“GMO free” on the label?
“I haven’t noticed too much
of that in my store. In other
things, yes, I’ve seen that, but
not too much in bird.”—KELLY
PARSONS, manager of Denny’s
Pet Worldin Kirkland, Wash. “Customers are mostly inter-
ested in fresh foods [and are]
looking more for human-grade
labeling. I haven’t come across
anyone who mentioned GMO
owner of Aqua Pets & Birds in
“A lot of people come in
wanting natural food that
hasn’t been dyed. The
GMO stuff doesn’t come
up that often. That hasn’t
really made it into the bird
world as far as I’ve seen.
are a big seller for people.”
owner of TC Feathers Aviary
in Chantilly, Va.
“[Customers] from 25 to 40
are extremely concerned with
organic food. Eighty percent
of our line is organic. It makes
it a lot easier for us to preach
it when customers can see
that we’re selling it. Organic,
non-GMO—these aren’t just
catchwords anymore. They’re
ECKLOF, owner of Bird Lover’s
Paradise in Matawan, N.J.