Tips for Brushing a Dog’s Teeth

Brushing a dog’s teeth can be stressful on both the dog and their owner.

To help make that easier here are several suggestions store owners can share with their customers about way to make it a more pleasurable experience.

– It’s never too early to start practicing good oral canine health. Owners should start working with puppies immediately to get them comfortable with the practice.

– Practice opening a dog’s mouth, and looking at their teeth, even when brushing is not involved. This makes both the owner and the dog more comfortable with the motions.

– If using a toothbrush-type product, make the dog feel comfortable with it by having it around even when they are not brushing their teeth. For example, the owner could have it  next to them, while they are sitting on the floor playing fetch with their dog.The idea is to make the dog not panic every time they see the toothbrush.

– Make brushing fun. Owners should give dental care the same enthusiasm they show when it comes to going for a walk. Many dogs play off their owners emotions, so if the owner is excited, the dog will be, too.

– Give them a treat. This may seem a little counter productive — giving a dog a treat after cleaning their teeth, but anyone who has ever met a dog knows they are food motivated.

Behind the Scenes at Hartz and Field & Stream 2

Stacy Kisla and Christopher Dane of Hartz talk to Pet Age about the photo shoot in Montana for the Field & Stream and Hartz products.

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Global Pet Expo

Yes it’s that time of year again. We are all getting ready for Global Pet Expo. This year it’s Feb. 20-22 in Orlando which is great because I am going to Disney World right after.


Anyway, a lot of companies spend A LOT of money on going to and exhibiting at Global. So to help you be the most successful I put together the following 5 Ways to Get the Most out of Global Pet Expo. Here we go…

1. Have a Rep Network Built BEFORE the Show. This is overlooked by many smaller companies that are just starting out. They buy booth space, spend a lot of money on pop up stands, go to the show and sit in their booth and hope a big customer comes by and falls in love with their product. This is NOT a good strategy. What I tell my clients is to build a rep network way before the show – at least a month or two. This way the reps can bring their best customers to your booth to discuss your product. This is a much more effective strategy than hope. Hope is NOT a strategy.

2. Be in the New Product Showcase. If you have a product that was introduced AFTER Global last year you qualify. This space I think is a few hundred dollars but serves a very important role for you. It is like an ad in the new product showcase. Every buyer worth his/her weight goes through the new product showcase fairly carefully. Spend some money on a nice tabletop display so you stand out a bit. If your product requires demonstration, but in a digital picture frame that supports video or a portable DVD player on a loop. A lot of companies simply through their product on the table and walk away. Don’t be one of them! This is a very important area of the show. If you can catch the attention of a few buyers they will write down your booth number and stop by.

3. Advertise in the Show Dailies or other materials offered at the show. You are spending so much money to be at the show, why not invest a little in advertising? You should be consistently advertising in publications like Pet Age every month to generate trade awareness of your product.  I am also a big fan of the Pet Business Show Dailies. This magazine is distributed on each day of the show with new editorial. It is read by just about everyone who attends the show – it is great bowl reading if you catch my drift. You don’t need to do a full page if you don’t have the budget, but do something in this publication and be sure to include your booth # in your ad. Oh and get your ad designed by a professional to make it really POP and get you the attention you deserve.

4. Put a Press Release in the Press Room. This is FREE!  Write a press release about your new product or whatever you are introducing at the show and put 50+ copies of the release in the press room.  The press room is located right outside the main entrance to the show floor near the down escalator.  Just do it!  Better yet, get involved with a press tour at the show.  For about $2k you can have press visiting your booth and covering your new products.  One way to do this is by contacting a public relations agency, such as  K. Sutherland PR.

5. Never Leave Your Booth Unattended. Bring two people if at all possible. You never, ever, ever want to have your booth unattended. The time you slip away for a bathroom break is usually when Wal-Mart decides to drop by so don’t do it! This is another reason why having good reps helps. They will usually pitch in for a little bathroom break duty.

Have a great show!  I’m looking forward to seeing you there!  And if you want a FREE Marketing & Sales consult at the show, contact me at


Behind the Scenes at Hartz and Field & Stream

Stacy Kisla of Hartz and Mike Tewey of Field & Stream talk to Pet Age about how the two brands joined forces to create a new line of dog products.

Hartz Mountain Corporation Voluntarily Withdrawing Two Products

Hartz is withdrawing its Hartz Chicken Chews and its Hartz Oinkies Pig Skin Twists wrapped with Chicken for dogs after finding trace amounts of unapproved antibiotic residue in samples of the products.

The recall was done by Hartz even though two-thirds of the products that were tested did not contain antibiotic residues. The antibiotics are approved for use in poultry in China and other countries, including European Union member states, but are not among those approved in the U.S. Based on the FDA’s review of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets results, there is no evidence that raises health concerns and these results are highly unlikely to be related  to the reports of illnesses FDA has received related to jerky pet treats.

Immediately upon learning of this finding, Hartz contacted the FDA to share our test results and execute a nationwide voluntary withdrawal. There have been no known illnesses to date associated with the consumption of these products.

“Upon learning about the nationwide voluntary withdrawal of several other brands of chicken jerky products through media reports, Hartz acted immediately to begin additional testing to determine if the same unapproved antibiotic residues were present in our products,” Sean McNear, senior director of quality and regulatory at Hartz Mountain, said.

Supplements to the Rescue

The days of reptile owners depending entirely upon food diets for complete nutrition have gone the way of the Dodo bird.

Today’s busy shell and scale lovers look to pet retailers to provide reputable and reasonably priced reptile nutritional supplement products that can fill in the dietary gaps for such critters living in captivity. Consequently, many manufacturers have infused the market with a plethora of vitamin drops, powders, pellets and more that can better help herps survive and thrive outside their natural wild habitats.

Kevin T. Fitzgerald, PhD, DVM, DABVP, staff veterinarian for Alameda East Veterinary Hospital in Denver, Colo., said he’s encouraged that pet owners, retailers and vets alike are continuing to gain a better understanding of basic reptile nutritional requirements.

“It is very hard for [vets and pet owners] to mimic in captivity the nutritional base that reptiles experience in nature,” Dr. Fitzgerald said. “In captivity, these animals often become deficient in vitamins, nutrients and obtainable calories. As a result, we need to supplement captive reptiles.”

While a greater variety of reptile supplement products are available today than ever before, the prominent trend experts in the industry are observing is manufacturers formulating complete diets, or “superfoods,” for specific species.

“These complete diets include the daily required vitamins and minerals for the specific reptile you have, so you don’t need to supplement on top of feeding,” Kate Larsen, general manager for LLLReptile and Supply Co. Inc., Vista, Calif., said. “Since it’s not convenient for everyone to have live feeder insects on hand, complete diets are becoming more popular as successful formulas become more readily recommended by top breeders and retailers.”

One innovator in this arena is Repashy Superfoods, which offers formulas for a variety of species, including a meal replacement powder for all fruit-eating geckos that also serves as a supplement for anoles, skinks, chameleons and iguanids.

Eric Haug, owner of Pets-A-Plenty: The Ultimate Reptile Shop in Hockley, Texas, a retailer that specializes in reptiles and amphibians, continues to recommend meal replacement formula products by Repashy and others to his customers.

“We can sell our customers a tortoise that eats vegetation and then give them a list of 12 different grasses, veggies, leafy greens and other things they should get. But the truth is that not a lot of people will go out and purchase that many different foods for the animal,” Haug said. “These superfood supplements help fill in the gaps.”

Two other big movers for Haug are Herptivite and calcium with or without vitamin D3 powder, both by Rep Cal. Herptivite is a multivitamin, multimineral and amino acid food supplement for reptiles that boasts a “sea vegetation” base rich in essential trace elements and minerals. It also uses beta carotene instead of vitamin A to guard against vitamin A toxicity.

Rep Cal’s calcium powder with vitamin D3 is scientifically formulated from 100 percent natural oyster shell, phosphorous-free calcium carbonate with added vitamin D3 to aid in calcium absorption—ideal for lizards, turtles, tortoises and other cage-bound creatures kept under artificial light. For herps kept outdoors in natural sunlight as well as nocturnal species like leopard geckos, Rep Cal’s calcium powder without vitamin D3 is a wise choice, Haug said.

The alternative to superfoods and powders is a liquid supplement. Vita-Drops by Oasis Pet Products, configured in a 2 ounce bottle with a dropper cap, is a popular choice.

Tortoise and box turtle owners have yet another supplement option. Blocks, such as Zoo Med Labs’ Tortoise Banquet Block, can help augment nutrition while also preventing overgrowth of the animal’s beak. Zoo Med’s product is a food and calcium supplement in one.

–  Erik J. Martin

Less Ingredients, Careful Marketing Create Big Win

Natural pet treat ingredients are becoming simpler while the marketing for them has become more elaborate.

Some walk the line between nutritional supplement and culinary sensation, but they all have a specific purpose and are designed for active training, supplemental feeding, or the favored “just because I love you” gourmet treat. 

“Good nutrition is the single most important factor in promoting longevity and quality of life for your pet,” Marie Moody, founder of Stella & Chewy’s, said.

This could account for why the U.S. market for natural pet products is projected to grow 32 percent in 2013, as retailers devote more shelf space to manufacturers’ specialty channels, according to Packaged Facts.

The robust sales of natural pet treats present unique marketing opportunities for boutique pet stores. Many of which are now offering pet treat samplings at “yappy hours” and as giveaways to draw people into booths at special events, which drive sales and encourage customer loyalty.

But, to really capitalize on the success of all-natural treats, it’s important to understand the ever-changing consumer, who is taking the time to learn, and care about their pet’s food, just as much as they would about their own.

“Providing the best possible product for pets not only nourishes the health and well being of the animal, it nourishes the relationship between pet and parent,” Rob Cadenhead, vice president of sales and marketing for Spring Naturals, said.

Pet owners are turning to raw, grain-free and locally-sourced treats as they look to be more eco-friendly in their overall life.

Whole Life Pet was one of the first to take consumer concerns to heart.

“We pioneered the concept of Farm to Friend,” John Gigliotti, founder of Whole Life Pet, said. “Our freeze-dried treats are made in our own state-of-the-art facility in western Massachusetts. Our treats are human-quality, hormone-free, free range and organic meat – guaranteed.”

WYSIWYG (pronounced whizzy-whig) is the buzzword that encompasses what pet owners seek out in pet treats. Meaning, what you see is what you get, consumers want treats that are nutritious, functional, all-natural and preservative-free.

Functional ingredient combinations that focus on “super fruits” (such as blueberries), meat-only treats (particularly for carnivores like cats), and simple, highly-nutritious ingredients are also important to consumers.

Barksters from Loving Pets boasts nine healthy varieties that consists of flavor combinations of beef, liver or chicken with alfalfa, brown rice or sweet potato.

“We find more and more that pet-parents are reading the ingredients on each treat’s package,” Eric Abbey, president of Loving Pets, said. “So promoting our simple, all-natural ingredients like fresh meats, fruits and vegetables are very important to us.”

Many companies are also creating specialty treats to assist in resolving problems, including joint rescue or active dog training.  Treats that include antioxidants, glucosamine, or vitamin supplements are now popular to both reward pets as well as act as dietary supplements.

Environmentally conscious owners are actively seeking out dog and cat treats that utilize recycled materials, sustainable resources and fair-trade ingredients.

“People want to know where their pet’s food and treats are coming from,” Lucy Postins, founder of the Honest Kitchen, said. “We always choose sustainability over cost. Our free-range chicken and line-caught wild haddock, fair-trade quinoa, non-genetically-modified produce and recycled, compostable packaging.”

Pet food and treat manufacturers are becoming increasingly aware of the impact packaging has on their success. Treats in packaging that supports freshness and ease of use are important. Resealable packages made of recycled materials, and ease of display is nearly as important as what is inside the package.

“Each package of Barksters features a distinctive die-cut bone-shaped box for excellent merchandising, and contains a resealable inner treat bag, guaranteeing freshness and the ultimate air-popped crunch,” Abbey said.

Independent retailers are taking advantage of this trend by showcasing holistic, grain-free all-natural treats in separate sections within the pet treat aisle. They are also spending the time and money needed to educate their employees on the health-promoting benefits to the pet as well as customer affordability. The goal is to offer solution-oriented products that are good for pets’ health as well as the consumer’s pocketbook.

“Every dog’s needs are different, so engaging with the consumer and asking some key questions about their pet is very important,” Abbey said. “Do their pets have any food allergies, health issues, dietary restrictions, etc?  This will help independent retailers offer solution-oriented products that are a win-win for everyone.”
Educating consumers and listening to the individual challenges they have with their pets will help guide customers to the best treat for that animal.

“Your staff is very important,” Elizabeth Pfeiffer, manager of Bark Avenue Pet Supply, said. “Our employees’ focus is on solutions for pets rather than the trend of the week. We are always seeking to learn more about pet nutrition and share what we have learned with our staff.  We invest in our employees with ongoing training by bringing experts into the store to explain the benefits of their products.”

– Stacy Mantle is a freelance writer who has covered the pet industry for nearly 16 years.

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Quiet Spot

Pet Age Named Runner-Up In B2B Twitterer of the Year Awards

Pet Age, a business-to-business trade publication that covers the pet industry, was named a runner-up in the 2012 B2B Twitterer of the Year Awards in the B2B Publications category.

The B2B Twitterer of the Year Awards recognizes B2B individuals and organizations, across the world, for outstanding contributions in practicing, promoting, and/or enhancing business by using Twitter.

“This is a testament to how dedicated our staff is about providing pet industry news and information across all publishing platforms, including digital,” Craig Rexford, vice president and publisher of Pet Age, said.

Pet Age launched their Twitter handle in mid-October, and uses it as a way to communicate with readers and industry professionals on a regular basis, as well as distribute important business and retail information.

The awards, in their fifth year, are given to qualified, nominated entities, and the judging is performed by a panel of experienced B2B veterans, with the focus solely on B2B, according to their website.

“It’s not about how many followers you have, or how many tweets you tweet,” according to their website. “It’s about creating a community, the value a B2B entity brings to it, and the integration of Twitter into the operation of your business and becoming a more social enterprise.”

Pet Age is produced out of Journal Multimedia’s New Jersey offices.

Journal Multimedia, based in Harrisburg, Pa., produces a variety of publications, events, web products, video, software and research for niche markets, and is the parent company of the Central Penn Business Journal, NJBIZ, Lehigh Valley Business and Central Penn Parent.

Top 5 Things You Need to Sell Pet Retail Chains

 1. A Strong Brand Name and Packaging. You need to stand out on the shelf and have a benefit driven brand name vs. something obscure. Think “Bug-OFF” vs. “Zonic”. Colors should “Pop” on shelf so people notice you.

2. Multiple Items (SKUs – Stock Keeping Unit). It is extremely rare for a single item to a) get sold in and on shelf (the buyer doesn’t want to bother doing the new vendor paperwork for one SKU!), b) survive if it does get on shelf. The reason is the lack of a brand block. You simply won’t be noticed. The big companies create multiple SKUs and use the 1/2 rule. Present 6, get 3 in, present 8, get 4. When I was at HJ Heinz on the Pounce Brand, we made up several flavors just to get more shelf presence. You can easily create more SKUs with more flavors, sizes or scents.

3. UPC Codes. Yes, the little code on the back of every product you buy is essential for the retailer to scan your item through their register.YOU CAN NOT BE SUCCESSFUL WITHOUT IT. They are somewhat expensive, but they are an essential cost of doing business. If you want to be taken serious by any major retail you must have a UPC code on your product. Here is the website to get you started on the road to having a UPC code. UC Council Link.

4. Product Liability Insurance. Yes, you need it and you need a minimum of $1 million for most retail chains. This is a policy you buy to protect the retailer from claims made against your product due to a defect, harm caused by your product, etc. You can find out more info about this type of insurance at this link. You can Google “Product Liability Insurance” and get a ton of sites that will give you quotes. There is no way around this requirement.

5. The Right Relationship. It is next to impossible to get your product in front of a major chain buyer without the right relationship. You can cold call and send samples to the buyer until you are blue in the face and get nowhere. You need a rep that goes to the buyer’s barbecues on the weekends. This relationship will cost you, but it’s typically 5 – 8% of wholesale sales into the chain. Yes this is an ongoing cost but worth its weight in gold and cheaper than hiring a dedicated salesperson.

“That’s a Nice Looking Media Kit You Got Right There.”

As you plan for the New Year ahead, it’s likely that a trade show or two (or forty) will make its way onto your 2013 calendar.  Trade shows can be a wonderful place to introduce new announcements about your company, debut a new product, and they allow your brand to be in a concentrated presence of industry and mainstream media.

While you may be stationed at your booth, and frankly, unable to personally engage with the media; a strong, informative media kit can extend your brand’s presence and increase the potential for media interest…if done right.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind to make a good first impression when preparing for your next show.

  • Be sure to have a clearly identifiable label at the front of your kit. If your company has a vague name- clarify what your product is front and center. Your media kit will not be the only one in the pressroom; in fact, it will probably be one of thousands so it’s important to be distinguishable. This doesn’t mean you need to max your budget on light up, music playing, sequined kits (although that would be awesome). However, an easily identifiable and informative kit….is where it’s at.
  • Identify and explain what your company does, what products you are showing, with photos, and what its place is in the industry. You may think people know who you are, but a brief statement saying who you are and where you want to be will make it that much more informative for the press.
  • Include NEWS! More times than not, media attend trade shows to see and report on “what’s new.” So, tell them! Find a news angle and use it! Maybe you aren’t debuting a new product this year, but your product last year sold amazing, or you are highlighting an important feature of your product that the press may not know about- find something newsworthy and worth mention in the press.
  • Tell them where you are. Any opportunity to make your booth easy to locate, the better. Put your booth number front and center, try to identify other location points to include as well, e.g. “Booth 3342 along the wall near the south entrance.” Many times you can view the show floor map prior to the show so you can tailor press materials accordingly.
  • Update your releases for each show! A generic press release appears lazy and you may find niche opportunities at different shoes. Update your press releases accordingly.
  • And remember, a press kit…is for the press. Press materials and other company literature are not the same. Avoid including past articles, advertising or direct mail samples and heavily data-driven sales sheets and focus on developing backgrounders and editorial-friendly materials. Save the sales sheets for the distributors and the ads for the consumers.

If dealing with the media seems like something you have no time or interest in handling on your own, consider the help of a PR firm to ensure your press kits are ready for show time!

Cheers to the 2013 trade show season! I’m sure I’ll see you around!


Vitakraft Sunseed, Inc. Celebrates 175 Years In Business

When Brent Weinmann graduated from Bowling Green State University in the mid-1980s, he wasn’t ready to settle into a full-time job, so he took a temporary position filling bags with bird seed at a local company called Sunseed.

Little did he know then, the company that gave him the flexibility at the time to earn some money, while being able to explore other interests, would also be the business he would eventually go on to purchase, sell and grow into what is now known as Vitakraft Sunseed, Inc.

“In those days, the pet industry was growing like crazy,” Weinmann, who serves as president and CEO of Vitakraft Sunseed, Inc., who is celebrating their 175th anniversary, said. “The bird business was very strong. It was a combiation of good timing and good fortune on my part.”

Vitakraft Sunseed, Inc.’s original offices in Germany when they started.

Weinmann eventually purchased Sunseed in 2001, and then made the decision to sell it in 2007 to Vitakraft – a family owned business in Germany whose roots go back five generations.

“That [it was a family owned business] was part of the appeal,” he explained. “At first, I wasn’t interested, but when I saw what they could offer and felt where we could take both brands, I got excited, and it’s been quite a good ride since.”

Weinmann shuns away from taking credit for having the vision to bring the company to where it is today. He says a major factor in what has helped make Vitakraft Sunseed, Inc. so successful is listening to, and working with, the retailers — which, he says, is why when they decided to mark their 175th anniversary with a year-long celebration, they focused on the retailers.

The sweepstakes, which was open to only pet industry retailers, had prizes that featured everything from full-store displays and t-shirts with the store’s logo, to the grand prize, which was a trip to Germany for the winners to visit the parent company, where they would meet with other European retailers to share ideas, best practices and see how business is done there.

“We are a manufacturer, and the retailers are our focus,” Weinmann said, explaining why they decided to limit the contest to those in the pet industry. “Let’s celebrate with the people who have helped build our business. We are nowhere without our distributors and retailers.”

Having a pet store background himself, Les Gonda founded Sunseed in part to help solve a problem retailers were dealing with for a very long time – bug infestation. He borrowed technology from human food manufacturing, and began safely injecting nitrogen gas, which displaced the oxygen and helped eliminate bug infestation, a technique that is commonplace today.

Gonda was also one of the first people to utilize the concept of putting bird seed behind glass and instead of just dumping it into large garbage cans and letting people scoop it out from there.

“I was fortunate that Les had big ideas and I enjoyed taking those ideas and making them commercially viable,” Weinmann said, who was quickly moved up to the front office, and eventually became part of Gonda’s vision for the company. “As he grew older, he was looking for a retirement plan, but he wanted to keep the company with the people who grew it.”

That same commitment to the business, and how the owner was very much still engaged and loved talking about product and innovation, was something he saw in Vitakraft’s leadership.

Sunseed was already doing private label packaging for Vitakraft when they approached Weinmann in late 2007 about selling the business, after realizing they needed a bigger U.S. facility if they really wanted to make a dent in the U.S. market.

“I went and saw their quality control measures, and was impressed it was family run even at 170 years into their business. The owner was a real pet product guy, and I felt that I could work with them. I wasn’t looking to sell the business, but after seeing what they could bring in terms of ideas and resources, I made the decision.”

Innovation and having a long-term vision has been critical to the success of the company.

“In the ‘80s it was easy to grow by just being in business, but the competition intensifies and you have to find ways to differentiate yourself from the competition,” Weinmann said. “You can do that through innovation and product packaging, marketing strategy and figuring out how to reach the consumer better by working with retailers to make it easier to sell to the consumer. It’s innovation that drives a business forward, and has been a driving factor behind our company.”

So after 175 years in business, what’s next for Vitakraft Sunseed, Inc.?

“The consumer’s expectation level is increasing more and more,” he said. “Just the fact that they are more knowledgeable and are reading more about hamster nutrition is an example. And, there is a lot of information being shared among hamster parents. We need to be the ones that are leading that charge when it comes to things like nutritional development and making longer lasting bedding so it makes it easier for pet owners.”

The Inventory Guessing Game

For many pet retailers, decisions about inventory come down to a matter of space.

You have a certain number of square feet in which you want to display chew toys. So you procure enough chew toys to fill the space – and your retail floor looks the way you want it to look.

But often, your cash flow doesn’t. That’s because every item in inventory represents cash that’s been converted into non-cash, and is waiting to be converted back into cash. Experts in retail inventory management say it’s a common mistake of retailers to make inventory decisions by sight or by feel, rather than by hard data. And the only data that really matters, they say, is sales data.

“What we typically see is that they’re over-inventoried,” Ani Collum, a partner with CITY-based Retail Concepts, said. “And that they don’t have the right handle on what is the right amount of inventory they need to turn the sales so their floor and their back room isn’t over-inventoried.”

Decisions about how much of each item to procure must be tied to sales figures.
“Say dry pet food represents 15 percent of your sales, but it represents 45 percent of your inventory,” Collum said. “That would indicate you need to cut back on the amount you buy. At the same time, dog collars for whatever reason are doing 10 percent of your sales volume but they’re only one percent of your inventory. You need to go get more dog collars.”

A useful method might be to break down inventory by classification – possibly pet food, accessories, clothing, treats, etc. – and then analyze within each classification the percentage of inventory on hand, and its relation to sales.

That seems obvious enough, but many retailers have trouble managing through the process, especially when sales patterns change along with seasons.

“There are different cash flow cycles, so in July and August, when you’re purchasing all your fall and holiday goods, you’ve got cash that’s tied up in inventory,” Collum said. “Payroll and things like that become much more tricky. In January, you’ve gone through all this so hopefully you have cash on hand. But if it’s just sitting on your floor taking up time, energy and space, you can’t convert it to cash, and you need cash to run your business.”

According to Ted Hurlbut, a retailer consultant, retailers often get tripped up over the fear that too little of an item in inventory will cost them sales.

“They’ve merchandised their stores,” Hurlbut said. “They like the way the stores look, and they’re doing business but they’re chronically short on cash, or to put it another way, they’re short on working capital. They’ve got too much of what they don’t need and not enough of what they do.”

But if inventory should be based on sales, how does a retailer just getting started know what sales will be? Hurlbut said there are ways of answering that question that are more sophisticated than merely trying to guess.

“It’s taking the knowledge you do have and making estimates and establishing benchmarks, then measuring how you’re doing against those benchmarks,” Hurlbut said. “Before long, you’re evolving from estimating to developing some really insightful forecasts.”

The newly established pet retailer can also gain insight by asking established stores what how they seen in their own sales patterns. Not that your competitor up the street will necessarily share that information with you, but you can probably find someone, somewhere, perhaps in a different part of the country where you wouldn’t have to worry about competitive considerations, who would.

“Maybe you’ve been to some trade shows and you’ve connected with some key vendors, and they can help you based on their knowledge and contacts to develop a set of initial sales plans that you can work off,” Hurlbut said. “But it’s got to come from somewhere; otherwise you’re just throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks.”

If struggles with inventory management are more prevalent than usual in the pet retailing industry, it may ironically be a product to some degree of pet retailers’ passion for what they do. In a lot of industries, people with cold, hard profit-driven brains, get into the business solely because they see an opportunity and know how to convert it into cash. How many people do you see in the manhole cover industry who is really passionate about manholes?

But many pet retailers are huge animal lovers, and that’s why they get into the business. Is there anything wrong with that? Not in and of itself, but if their love of animals was the sole motivator for them to open a pet retail operation – and didn’t come with a commensurate base of business knowledge – such people might be susceptible to making inventory choices based on their heart rather than on data.

That doesn’t mean passion for pets is all bad – not at all. It just means you still need to be able to make rational business decisions in the pursuit of your passion.

“I have a client that is deeply passionate about fly fishing,” Hurlbut said. “And the real business driver is that passion, because customers respond to that passion. But that doesn’t mean there’s a complete skill set in place. The challenge of these retailers is being able to develop the quantitative analysis to apply the concepts.”

Dan Calabrese is a freelance journalist and syndicated columnist based in Wyoming, Mich. He covers a wide variety of industries, including pet retailing.

Nutrition Gains Popularity Among Bird Breeders

While the market for bird breeding may be a small one, Mitch Rezman, vice president of Windy City Parrot Inc., said there is a number of tried and true, must-use items that help make the process go smoothly.

“Day-to-day breeding for a bird hasn’t changed,” Rezman said. “You give the smaller birds a wooden house to live in and a cage for the larger birds so they can’t break through the house.”

Windy City Parrot also stocks different hand-feeding formulas, which can be used to feed the birds when they are born. One of the brands they stock is ZuPreem, which offers two different feeding formulas, the Embrace hand formula and the Embrace Plus.

The Embrace hand formula uses moderate amounts of protein, geared toward smaller birds, Gail Shepard, director of marketing at ZuPreem said, while larger birds, such as Amazon parrots, macaws, hawkheads, Asiatic parakeets and African greys would use the Embrace Plus, which has moderate amounts of protein and fat.

Once the bird’s old enough and can start breeding, there are different formulas available to breeders.

Preemie sells the AvianBreeder FruitBlend with Natural Fruit Flavors Diet and the AvianBreeder Natural Diet.

“The fruit blend has the different colors and shapes which some breeders like to use because it stimulates the bird and helps with the interaction of the bird,” Shepard said. “The natural is the same with nutrition; it just doesn’t have the colors or shapes.”

Both products have increased levels of protein, fat and calcium aids because the bird is using more energy, which they need to stay in good condition.

The fruit blend is also one of ZuPreem’s top sellers for maintaining a bird’s health and can be used as a compliment with other popular feeding formulas.

“The products have been the same for a while, probably 15-20 years,” Shepard said. “There hasn’t been much need to improve it or change it because we know already it’s a good product and we work with a lot of breeders all-around the world that say the same thing. What is changing is where these products are selling. Companies say they are now shipping to more retailers all over the world.”

Drs. Foster & Smith is a retailer that carries all things related to bird breeding and other bird supplies including a partner program to help organizations and breeders.

“We do provide the Drs. Foster & Smith Business Partner Program to non-profit organizations, like animal shelters and rescue groups, as well as to professionals, like breeders,” Mary Ellen Kaminski, merchandising manager for Drs. Foster & Smith, said. “Under this program eligible organizations and professionals can receive 10 percent off every day on qualified orders over $250.”

The largest selling items related to breeding that Drs. Foster & Smith carry are its various food options. One of the most popular, is the hand feeding diets from Kaytee, ZuPreem and Lafeber. They have also started selling Higgin’s New Intune Natural Hand Feeding Diets.

Other top items breeders are snatching up are economy cages, such as the Prevue Stack & Lock Breeder Cage and the American-made metal cages, such as Prevue’s Model 124 and 125 cages.

“Some of the newer items we have been encouraging breeders to use are CareFresh Ultra bedding which avian veterinarians agree make it easy to examine changes in bird droppings,” Kaminski said. “Another unique item for customers with large aviaries is the U brackets which boast versatile use, perfect for creating interactive and enriching environments.”


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