Success in the litter category hinges on
meeting a variety of consumer needs.
TO YOU IN PART BY
Cat owners seek out litters that can solve
a variety of litterbox problems.
BY LINDSE Y GE TZ
There’s no question that consumers have some specif- ic concerns in mind when they shop for cat litter. Ac- cording to Josh Wiesenfeld, founder and CEO of Santa
Monica, Calif.-based Boxiecat, the No. 1 complaint from
consumers is dust.
“It causes health concerns and can contribute to allergy
and respiratory issues as well as accumulate on furniture
and around the litterbox area,” Wiesenfeld said. “Odor is
the next most important consumer concern—it can be em-
barrassing to have a litterbox smell in the home and can also
cause a cat to avoid using the litterbox.”
Sherry Redwine, co-owner of Odyssey Pets in Dallas, said
that she gets a lot of questions about how long litter will last.
“People don’t want to have to lug 40 pounds of litter
into their house all of the time or have to dump the litterbox
often,” she said. “They want a litter that lasts longer.”
Industry participants noted that other concerns include
the ability of the litter to clump, disposability, absorbency
and product weight. Pet specialty retailers who are cognizant
of these concerns can help direct shoppers to the best product
choices for them.
“Customers want to know that you’re listening to them,”
said Shane Rippey, general manager of Fin & Feather Pet Center in Richmond, Va. “They want to know that you’re hearing
their concerns and helping them to come up with solutions.”
Often, cat owners don’t think much about the litter they are using until
there is a problem, said Geneviève Provost, director of marketing for
Intersand in Boucherville, Quebec, Canada. In fact, litterbox problems are
one of the most common reasons people abandon or even euthanize cats,
and, oftentimes, the problem could be solved simply by switching the
litter, Provost said. As such, educating owners about their options should
be a priority for pet specialty retailers.
Jean Broders, senior brand manager for Muscatine, Iowa-based Kent
Pet Group, maker of World’s Best Cat Litter, agreed that the right litter can
be a solution if a cat is having litterbox issues.
“For example, we recently launched our Picky Cat line, which includes
a natural attractant to keep cats going in the box,” she said. “There
are other factors that could also be causing issues, but litter should be
considered as a quick, easy solution.”
Shane Rippey, general manager for Fin & Feather Pet Center in
Richmond, Va., said that with the task of selling litter comes the
responsibility of problem solving for customers. He said that customers
often have questions—especially if their cat is suddenly not using the
litterbox like it always has in the past.
“The best way to address those questions is a one-on-one
conversation,” Rippey said. “We pride ourselves on making personal
recommendations that are right for each individual cat, but the only
way to do that is to actually talk to the customers and find out
what’s going on.”
Unpleasant odors and the challenge of keeping the litterbox clean are
among the most common issues that cat owners face.
“Litterbox odors are always a good topic as they can affect both
humans and cats,” said Josh Wiesenfeld, founder and CEO of Boxiecat in
Santa Monica, Calif. “Educating on causes of litterbox odors and quality
solutions builds trust.”
Savvy retailers will make sure consumers understand a litter’s
properties, Provost noted.
“Retailers cannot just sell litter as though it is sand in a box,” he
added. “It is more than that. Each cat litter has its own properties, and
the retailers must educate cat parents on this. First, they must know their
products. Ask the manufacturer about the litter and try it for yourself.
After that, you will be able to explain to your customer why one litter may
be a better choice—and may be more expensive—than another one.”
“Educational information is beneficial for customers to learn more
about products and even share that information,” Zaro said. “Social
media channels are expanded opportunities for your brand’s voice,
content and interactions with customers.”
“One of the big things we hear from our retailers is that customers are buying food in
specialty but litter in grocery, so we suggest merchandising litter in or near the food.”
—Jean Broders of Kent Pet Group