ENGAGE PET OWNERS WITH QUESTIONS
The best approach to educating dog owners about treats and chews is
through face-to-face conversations, industry insiders reported.
At West Lebanon Feed & Supply in West Lebanon, N.H., the store’s
employees educate first and sell second.
“We don’t want [staff] to ‘sell’ a customer a bill of goods, but instead,
we want them to help our customers by being problem solvers and educate
them on the latest nutrition and information to improve the quality of their
animals’ lives,” said Curt Jacques II, president and CEO.
Jacques said the staff is educated through weekly training meetings,
and the store also hosts in-store seminars on nutrition for customers.
“This information—along with newsletters, e-mail blasts and Facebook
posts—keeps our customers on the cutting edge of the information
pipeline,” he added.
Engaging customers and asking targeted questions is another way pet
specialty retailers can help pet owners select the right treat or chew.
“Treats are fairly simple, and it only takes a minute to point out a few
key things that pet owners should consider when choosing a treat for their
dog,” said Ann Hudson, vice president of marketing for Dogswell, a brand of
St. Louis-based Whitebridge Pet Brands.
She said retailers can start by finding out what owners want to achieve.
For example, do they want to train their dogs, reward their dogs or indulge
Nichole Nonini, marketing director for Plato Pet Treats in Fresno, Calif.,
agreed and recommended asking customers how their dogs have reacted
to different treats.
“It helps if your associates are able to trial treats and fully experience
each brand for themselves,” she said. “Being familiar with ingredient panels
helps them point the customer in the right direction.”
Katia Rossi, manager of All Natural Pet Supply, which has two locations
in Vancouver, Wash., said she offers personal testimonials. In addition, she
shares feedback from other customers.
“We also hand out samples for them to take home and will point out the
single ingredients,” she said.
In-store demos provide effective opportunities to educate dog-owning
customers about treats and chews, said Kathleen McCarron, founder of
Portland Pet Food Co. in Portland, Ore.
Steering the conversation toward a pet’s health can also be beneficial.
“If you truly want to be a resource, educate on using treats in a way that
doesn’t increase obesity but still can be used to make the pet happy and for
training,” said Melinda Miller, CEO of Bravo Pet Foods in Manchester, Conn.
“Giving too many treats is unhealthy no matter how healthy the treat is, so
remind pet owners how they can maintain a healthy lifestyle for their pets.
This way, you truly become a resource for whatever the pet needs for its
“It also creates that connection and makes you a go-to location for
everything they need for their pets,” she added. “You’re not just selling
products but selling information and helping with lifestyle.”
EFFECTIVE DISPLAYS MOVE
Savvy placement of treats and chews, along with cross-merchandising,
can boost sales of these products, according to industry participants.
Here are four strategies pet specialty retailers can employ to move
inventory and spice up sales.
1. Front and Center
“Regardless of their function or purpose, treats are, in many cases,
still an impulse buy,” said Ann Hudson, vice president of marketing
for Dogswell, a brand of St. Louis-based Whitebridge Pet Brands.
“Put them near the front of the store or in a place that really stands
out. Simplifying the shopping experience through merchandising
and secondary placements will drive higher sales.”
Nichole Nonini, marketing director for Plato Pet Treats in
Fresno, Calif., agreed, adding, “Front window displays aren’t used
to their potential. If a store can effectively tell a story from their
window display that can resonate with a consumer, then they
already come in curious about what they see in the window.”
“We use open shelving to display our treat bags at eye level
and keep our chews in metal buckets that are easy to see and grab
from,” said owner Heidi Liedeker.
2. Counter and Endcaps
“The golden location of counter and endcap displays can never go
wrong,” Nonini said. “Endcaps are front and center and capture the
attention of the shopper, while counters are great for impulse buys.”
West Lebanon Feed & Supply in West Lebanon, N.H., use
special displays to promote sales in this category.
“We custom built portable treat displays that we position
near the checkout for added impulse sales,” said Curt Jacques II,
president and CEO. “Our endcaps are changed twice a month, and
we select treats to ‘feature’ at our checkout.”
Katia Rossi, manager of All Natural Pet Supply, which has two
locations in Vancouver, Wash., said the best-sellers at her store are
on an endcap on pegs.
3. Partner with Food
Because pet owners take feeding their dogs very seriously, Nonini
recommended merchandising treats and diets together.
“It’s wise to merchandise premium treats with premium food
brands,” she said. “Oftentimes, we see there is limited loyalty in
the treat category, but consumers have been buying the same food
brand for years. If consumers can align the quality of food and
treats they purchase, then dogs will reap those nutritional benefits
Melinda Miller, CEO of Bravo Pet Foods in Manchester, Conn.,
“The more stores do to tie in diets and treats and help
customers see the shared attributes of particular brands, that
helps educate the consumer and makes it easier for them to move
forward with these healthy items,” she said.
Several retailers reported success with samples.
“We also will use new product treats to give to our customers’
dogs, with their permission, for instant palatability success sales,”
All Natural Pet Supply places treats in glass jars atop a cabinet
and tapes the package in front of them so customers can try them
with their pups, Rossi said.
All Natural Pet
Supply, which has
two locations in
displays treat samples in glass jars for
pups to try.
“As the relationship between
pets and people continues
to evolve, the desire we have
to make our pets happy
continues to increase. Treats
are one way to do that.”
—Ann Hudson of
Whitebridge Pet Brands