United Pet Group Voluntarily Recalls Certain Bird Products

United Pet Group voluntarily recalled a limited quantity of the products, “Ultra Blend Gourmet Food for Parakeets,” “ēCotrition Grains & Greens Nutritional Supplement for Parakeets,” “ēCotrition Grains & Greens Nutritional Supplement for Canaries and Finches” and “ēCotrition Grains & Greens Nutritional Supplement for Cockatiels.”

These products contain small quantities of dried parsley flakes supplied to United Pet Group by Specialty Commodities, who on Feb. 11, initiated a voluntary product recall of the parsley flakes distributed to United Pet Group and other pet food suppliers, because the products may have the potential to be contaminated with salmonella.

Specialty Commodities distributed the products to United Pet Group on May 30, 2012, and Aug. 29, 2012. The listed products were distributed throughout the United State and Canada between October 2012 and February 2013. For a full list of the impacted products visit the FDA website.

No other United Pet Group, Inc., products were impacted by this voluntary withdrawal. Customers who have purchased any of the products noted above are urged to dispose of them or return them for a full refund.

There have been no known illnesses to date associated with the consumption of these products. If you have these products, please contact United Pet Group’s Consumer Affairs team at 1-800-645- 5145, Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:30a.m. – 5 p.m. EST for a refund.

Global Pet Expo 2013

Hy-Vee Voluntarily Recalls Dog Food

Hy-Vee, Inc.  issued a voluntary recall of certain bags of their dog food because of elevated levels of a chemical contaminant commonly found in corn.

Routine random tests conducted by the Iowa Department of Agriculture indicated higher-than-normal levels of aflatoxin in some samples of Hy-Vee dog food produced at a Kansas City plant operated by Pro-Pet, LLC.

Hy-Vee officials emphasized the recall is being conducted as a precautionary measure. No illnesses have been reported in dogs consuming the product, and the product does not pose a health risk to humans handling it. Hy-Vee officials have also removed all potentially affected products from Hy-Vee stores.

The recalled products carry three different “Best By” dates and were distributed to Hy-Vee stores in Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin between Oct. 26, 2012 and Jan. 11, 2013.

Any bags of Hy-Vee dog food subject to the recall, whether opened or unopened, may be returned to Hy-Vee stores for a full refund. A full list can be found on the FDA’s website.

Aflatoxin is a naturally occurring chemical produced by the mold fungus Aspergillus, which is often found in corn, particularly during drought conditions. Pets that ingest higher-than-normal levels of aflatoxin, especially over a period of time, may become ill.

 

Nature’s Variety Issues Voluntary Recall

Nature’s Variety issued a voluntary recall of one batch of Instinct Raw Organic Chicken Formula over concerns that pieces of clear plastic may be found in some bags and could cause a potential choking risk to pets.

The source of plastic has been identified and the issue has been resolved.

The affected product  limited to a single batch of Organic Chicken Formula with the “Best if Used By” date of Oct. 4, 2013, including:
UPC# 7 69949 60137 1 – Instinct Raw Organic Chicken Formula medallions, 3 lbs. bag
UPC# 7 69949 70137 8 – Instinct Raw Organic Chicken Formula medallions, 27 lbs. case
UPC# 7 69949 60127 2 – Instinct Raw Organic Chicken Formula patties, 6 lbs. bag
UPC# 7 69949 70127 9 – Instinct Raw Organic Chicken Formula patties, 36 lbs. case

The “Best if Used By” date is located on the back of the package below the “Contact Us” section. The impacted product was distributed through retail stores and internet sales in the United States and Canada. No other products were impacted.

Nature’s Variety became aware of a potential issue after receiving a consumer complaint. To date, there have been no reports of harm to dogs or cats.

“At Nature’s Variety we take quality and safety very seriously,” Reed Howlett, CEO of Nature’s Variety, said. “We believe that under all circumstances, the health and safety of pets comes first.”

Consumers feeding the affected product should discontinue use and monitor their pet’s health, and contact their veterinarian if they have concerns. Consumers who have purchased one of the above products can obtain a full refund or exchange by either returning the product in its original packaging or bringing a proof of purchase back to their retailer.

Consumers with additional questions can call the Nature’s Variety Consumer Relations team at 1.888.519.7387 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST. Questions may also be emailed directly to cservice@naturesvariety.com.

Embracing Nature

When it comes to licensing your brand to be used on a product, one of the most important things is making sure it’s a good fit.

The pet product industry was always one of the areas Field & Stream wanted to get into, because through research they noticed their core customer was also a dog owner, but they put the plan on the back burner.

“First we did sporting goods, then apparel and sunglasses,” Mike Tewey, president and owner of Field & Stream, said. “We kind of waited on pet, because we were unsure of how to get together with the right player. We looked around at different options, went to pet shows and talked with people.”

It wasn’t long before Field & Stream met its match, and when they did, the process moved quickly.

“We met with Hartz about a year and half ago and started a dialogue,” he explained. “We just gradually came to an agreement that they would be our licensing partner in all things pet.”

That means, Hartz has the licensing rights for any Field & Stream product you can think of – leashes, vests, harnesses, treats, flea and tick control, travel accessories, food and more.

Making the Connection

Tewey said one of the reasons Hartz was such a natural fit was because Hartz didn’t have a “big outdoor brand,” but had quality products.

“That was the driving force behind the partnership,” Tewey explained. “We worked with Stacy and with Chris and the rest of the folks at Hartz and really capitalized on what they already had – which is a great sales force, a great company and great product development. Design was also important, and they have everything you need.”

The two people Tewey is referring to are Stacy Kisla, senior director of marketing and brand guardian for Field & Stream pet products and Christopher Dane, senior director of creative services.

Along with several colleagues, they have been working on all things Field  & Stream – everything from product development and merchandising to publicity images and ads creation.

“We really felt that the heritage that comes along with Field & Stream fit very well with our line of products for dogs,” Kisla said. “It’s all about enjoying the outdoors, hunting, fishing, working dogs. It fit very well with a product line for pets. If dogs are out in nature, you want to protect them against the elements. We wanted to create products that fit with the lifestyle of being outdoors.”

Phase one of that plan is introducing several of the new Field & Stream products at the Global Pet Expo in Orlando this month, including a variety of made-in-the-USA flea and tick products like topical treatments, collars, shampoos and a spray.

“We want it to withstand the elements,” Kisla said. “It’s the best formulation we have and the topical kills fleas within 15 minutes, as well as ticks. The collars are bright orange to provide visibility and are water resistant so they work even after rain or swimming.”

But, the new product line doesn’t just stop there.

Durability and Functionality

Just like a pet owner would grab a power bar for themselves if they were outdoors for the day, this new line will allow them to do the same for their pet.

New energy bars are specially formulated for the active dog lifestyle, and to help with joint health and mobility.

“They are gluten free with no artificial flavors or colors, no corn, no soy, no wheat, no animal byproducts,” Kisla explained. “They are straight from the source. No propylene glycol,  no BHA, BHT or ethoxyquin and loaded with antioxidants.”

Hartz’s popular Dura Sport Ball also got an upgrade for the Field and Stream line. It has a special foam latex exterior and is filled with a special foam for even extra durability. Plus, a tempting bacon aroma comes out as it is squeezed.

The collars have an extra layer of neoprene, and the Field & Stream leashes have a special shock absorbing feature that will help with pulling on both the dog and owner’s end.

Since many states are passing mandates that a dog must be restrained when driving in a car, Hartz designed the Field & Stream harness to come with a seatbelt tether, making getting in and out of a vehicle easy.

They also looked at ways to create products that were multifunctional, like their backpack and Frisbee bowl.

The backpack is reflective, making it good for hikes in the dark or dusk, but also has pockets that can be filled with pick up bags, treats or other accessories. The Frisbee bowl is a food/water dish and toy in one – when it collapses, the exterior ring is so durable, owners can use it as a Frisbee; when it opens, they can use it as a dish.

The Perfect Shot

Whenever a brand introduces a new product, there are a lot of elements that go into it, including getting the perfect images to use not only on the product itself, but for publicity, marketing and more.

So Kisla and Dane headed to Montana in early October of 2012 for what ended up being more than they ever could have expected.

“It would have been impossible to create the shots [we got] in a studio, and create the dynamic when you do something like that,” Dane said.

Although they did have a rough plan – they knew how long they were staying for, they contracted with a well-known photographer, Dusan Smetana, who has worked with Field & Stream before and is surrounded by that lifestyle, as well as scouted the people and dogs they wanted to use – many of the best shots they captured were unplanned.

Dane recalled one of those situations.

“We had a shoot planed for later in the week, but didn’t have one scheduled that afternoon. We were going over the products in a meeting and the sky just opened up, and we just had great light. We grabbed the neighbor, and the neighbor’s dog, and went into the backyard, which goes on for several hundred acres. It felt very off the cuff because you’re dealing with pulling people out of their lives and saying come do this with us for a couple of hours. It’s much less directed and much more spontaneous, and the place offered you various elements, whether it was rocks, or a field or a stream.”

By doing this, they were able to capture the essence of the Field & Stream brand.

“Being out there in the elements, in the middle of that lifestyle, we were focusing more on the dogs and little on the people and the products,” said Kisla. “The dogs just being out there in nature. You saw the dogs enjoying being outdoors and doing what they were born to do.”

Dane added, “You have to be in the place with the people, get the dust in your eyes, see them take the dog that just dove into 6 feet of water, and then clean him off to get ready for the next shoot. It’s impossible to create the shots in a studio or that dynamic when something like that happens.”

Over 6,000 photos and 3 ½ days later, Dane said, that’s what the company wanted to capture.

“It’s not about the stuff so much, but it’s about the situation, the people, the animals and the relationship between them,” Dane said. “That’s what Field  & Stream Pet is about.”

Pet Age recently spent a day behind the scenes at Hartz and Field & Stream talking to them about their partnership, getting a look at the new products and listening to stories from their Montana photo shoot. The videos can be found below.

 

Buying More On Valentine’s Day

People buying pet food and supplies for dog and cats, had a propensity to spend more money on Valentine’s Day products more than any other spending category, according to research conducted by Exponential, a global provider of advertising intelligence and digital media solutions to brand advertisers.

Ken Nelson, vice president of Exponential, said the company tracks over 200 million unique users a month in the United States, which allows them to create an analytics platform called deep dive.

“The whole thing came about from when we had a meeting with a pet food company and we did an analysis of cat and dog lovers,” Nelson said. “We found the biggest expenditure was on Valentine’s Day.”

“The people buying pet food and supplies had a propensity to spend money on Valentine’s Day products more than any other spending category.”

Some of the other things found in their analysis were patterns between cat and dog owners.

Cat owners tend to be fans of home-based activities such as knitting and baking. They therefore spend money on home furnishings and hobbies associated with the home. They are also big fans of romance novels. When they do venture out, you can most likely find them in restaurants. They are really into food and restaurants. Cat owners also show a preference for cruises.

Dog owners prefer to go out. They are actively fans of sporting events, concerts, movies and monter truck rallies. As outdoor enthusiasts they tend to spend money on sport apparel, RVs and motorcycles. Tyey will also spend money on maintaining cars.

 

Are Face-To-Face Sales Obsolete?

An article on Inc.com today suggests that selling face-to-face is no longer practical, and that now a salesperson must instead use all the technology available to them when making a sale.

They cite a study by  Dr. James Oldroyd, the world’s top researcher in the mathematics of selling, that says the days of jetting off to Los Angeles to meet with a client and then Miami the next to see another potential lead, is obsolete.

His study showed that hiring for “outside” sales positions had gone down to .5 percent annual growth and “inside” sales has grown fifteen times faster. Even salespeople who do meet with customers face-to-face are doing so less and less and over two fifths of all customers conversations conducted by “outside” salespeople are done over the phone according to Oldroyd.

It’s something we even see in our own company. Our sales people, as well as our publisher Craig, spend a lot of time on the phone. Even in the office we hear them always switching from their cell phone to the office phone while also checking their emails. Then, when they go out to meet a client, they are constantly on the phone talking to other clients during their free time.

Although they might be “on the road” all the time, they are always accessible.

The same should go for retail business owners.

Many times they only think about the customers that walk into their store. While these are customers you must constantly think about and give great customer service to, you also can’t neglect the vast amount of online shoppers, as well as those who are interacting with your social media sites. You should give them an easy, personal purchasing experience.

Social media is a great way to talk to these customers that you may never see in the store. If a customer takes the time to thank you for your product or services on social media, you should take the time to thank them back. If a customer emails you with a problem, try your best to respond as quickly as possible.

Recently, there was a discussion in our offices about the acceptable time of returning an email. I remember years back when, if you got back to them in the same day, that was acceptable. Now-a-days, email is almost being treated as a formal way of texting someone. Even in our offices some people expected an answer back within the hour, others said all day was fine. Whatever you may feel, you have to expect that your customer will want a quick and timely response.

While working with your customers face-to-face is still extremely important when they come into the store, your market and reach to customers must be much larger than that. While you continue to give excellent customer service to people in your store, don’t forget to give excellent customer service to those online as well.

Pinterest for Busine$$

The concept behind Pinterest- a virtual pinboard for storing images and their accompanying links- is so simple, and has taken off to become one of the most popular social networking sites on the Internet. In fact, some sites are seeing more referral traffic (and more sales) from Pinterest than even YouTube, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn in some cases.

Last month, Pinterest formally announced the launch of Pinterest for Business. Now, businesses can create commercial accounts on the social networking site with a new terms of service announced for companies and conversion features available for members with existing accounts- acknowledging cheekily by the site in the new terms stating, “If your boss is making you use Pinterest, you need to set up a business account.”

 So, I want to know- do you have a Pinterest strategy, or will you create an account for your company?

Thanks for stopping by, and happy pinning!

Kerry Sutherland

Kerry@ksutherlandpr.com

Tidy Cat Teams Up With Michael Bolton to Promote New Litter

Spotlight on Joey Herrick

Just after Christmas, we talked with Joey Herrick, the president of Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Pet Foods, about his passion for animals, the charities he is involved in and the advances Natural Balance are making in the pet industry.

The first part of the of the interview was published in the February issue of Pet Age, and can be read here.

Here is the rest of his interview:

Michelle: An interview with Natural Balance wouldn’t be complete without talking about your spokesdog Tillman. He is everywhere — on treats, becoming an honorary marine and even has his own TV show. What’s a spokesdog’s life like?

 Joey: Today, he spent the last three hours doing press for the Rose Bowl Parade. He was even in his Marine uniform. It’s funny, when he came in he was going nuts and barking. He knew it was going to be a fun day.

I saw him skateboarding, and he was just so good at it, and so funny, and Ron, his owner, was just a very neat person to be around. We’ve been together 5 years and we’ll be together many more years. We all get along great and it’s a lot of fun.

There is only one dog in the world that does what he does. I’ve never found a dog that can skateboard like him!

 Michelle: Working with rescue groups is a very important part of the work Natural Balance does. What are some of the programs you are involved in?

 Joey: We donate food to a lot of recue groups. We’ve always done that. On the back of every package of our food, you’ll find the words “Help Me Help Animals” directly above Dick Van Patten’s signature. As a pet food manufacturer, we believe it’s our responsibility to help animals everywhere.

 

 

Being Prepared For Anything

When Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast, causing millions of dollars worth of damage, leaving hundreds of thousands without power and disrupting business as usual, many companies across the country took note.

They realized that a natural disaster – whether it is a hurricane like Sandy, a major power outage, earthquake or tornado – could strike at any time, and wreak havoc on their livelihood and that of their employees.

Pet Age talked with retail store owners and insurance agents, as well as first responders and government agencies across the country, to find out what steps could be taken to prepare for it. The word, more than any other, that repeatedly kept coming up was insurance.

“The biggest thing is most of the problems happen because they didn’t seek professional advice before the situation occurred,” Kevin Alsup, vice president of insurance sales for Foundation Financial Group, said. “Most people get insurance and forget about it. You want to review it once a year to see if it changed and review it. Insurance is very black and white and it’s never grey.”

Alsup said during that review process, retailers need to take themselves through some hypotheticals. “What I would need if my building is destroyed?” “What will I need to help continue, or fix, my business?”

Ask the questions like a storm could happen any second, he said.

“So many people get insurance because they are required to,” Alsup explained. “Franchises may know what they need to carry. You always want to trust a licensed agent and they should know what to do, but they make mistakes though. Make sure you read it right away and not after you have to make a claim.”

Kevin Dougher, vice president of Johnson, Kendall & Johnson, a Pennsylvania-based full-service insurance brokerage and risk management firm, has the same conversation with clients when first talking about insurance.

“The conversation I have with my clients is that I suggest they outline what they would do if I handed them a check for a million dollars for their damaged business,” Dougher said. “If I insure you for that amount and your building isn’t there, what will you do?”

Planning Ahead

One of the first things to have in place is a disaster preparedness plan. It should address and ensure the safety of all employees and live animals in the store.

In addition, it should include policies about shutting down a business in a proper amount of time ahead of a natural disaster when it permits, where employees are expected to gather in an emergency, how animals will be cared for, and how business will be conducted if the location is uninhabitable.

Little things like emergency contact information for employees, important documents and phone numbers, like that of a store’s landlord and insurance agent, as well as how to remotely access files and forward phone calls should all be included in the plan.

After the plan is created, it shouldn’t just sit in an office drawer. Review it from time to time, as well as when new employees are hired. The same should be done with an insurance policy, or any other important records, because things can change.

What a business was worth when it opened might not be what it is presently worth, because of expansion. As a company grows, so do the assets. If its insurance, and other policies, don’t grow with it, it could lead to major issues down the road.

“Keep checking your state of value,” Alsup said. “Some don’t think to increase their insurance policy. Especially if you take over a big area, you want to make sure that new area is covered. Good rule of thumb, if you’re super tight on money, you should spend more on insurance and not less. If you have lots of money you can spend less on insurance since the $5,000 deductible won’t hurt you as much. Don’t roll the dice on there may or may not be a storm.”

Also, have a contingency plan for when you are handed the money from the insurance company. Experts say, once the money is in their hand, businesses have a tendency to sit there and say, “What now?”

Protect the Animals

Mike Canning, president of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, encourages stores owners to be prepared for various types of natural disasters.

“Moving the animals to a safer location or making arrangements for animal care during the storm is always preferred,” Canning said.

When time permits, take enough food, water and medication the animals might need for an extended period of time, because it might be a while before getting back in.

In cases like tornadoes or earthquakes, many times there isn’t much warning, leaving very little time to prepare.

This is why, he says, it’s important to have clear contact information readily available, and understandable, should someone other than the owner or employees need it.

First-Hand Knowledge

Sheila Raebel, the owner of two Dogma Dog Bakery and Boutique stores in Arlington, Va., has been through almost every imaginable disaster that could hit her area — Hurricane Sandy, the “Derecho,” “Snowmegeddon” and an earthquake.

“In July it was really bad for us,” Raebel said, referencing “Derecho,” a widespread, long-lived, straight-line windstorm that is associated with a fast-moving band of severe thunderstorms. “We lost power for the entire week at one store, we lost a lot of merchandise and equipment. My staff was incredible, even though we had no power, the girls pulled tables out to the sidewalk and a calculator and they sold whatever they could.”

After that, Raebel and her staff learned the best way to prepare for a storm and worked together to make sure they were prepared, especially when Hurricane Sandy was expected to hit.

“Smartest thing for us was to unplug everything,” Raebel said. “We learned from experience to unplug major appliances. We assigned specific people with jobs and we figured out what we can do, if we can be open with or without electricity and full power.”

The planning worked out, for the most part.

“We made out really well with Sandy, with all things considered,” Raebel said. “For us, there was a lot of prep work and we came up with a disaster plan ahead of time.”

One insurance rule many business owners don’t know about, she explained, is off premises utility insurance, which for her was a major problem with Hurricane Sandy.

“I couldn’t believe we were not covered for the power line coming down, down the road,” Raebel said. “I am sure there are some insurance agents out there that would think about that, but it’s so obscure. I never thought of it and I doubt many others would.”

After all these incidents, Raebel now has a game plan and different ways to prepare her business for a disaster. She has separate phone and internet providers, just in case one of them is knocked out.

She also has a written down disaster plan that she has shared with the staff.

“Not just for storms but also for any other kind of disaster,” Raebel said. “I have such a great staff that more than one person has access to the store. For me as the owner there needs to be a backup plan. Since I am the owner, and I couldn’t get back there, there needs to be more than one person who can do my job.”

What Happens Next?

After your business is hit by a storm, the first thing to do is contact your insurance company.

“File a claim and call your insurance company,” Alsup said. “An adjuster would come out, to access the damage. From there they would pay it out.”

Whether or not business owners agree with the amount will make a big difference in how fast they get paid from the insurance company. In rare cases a check can get cut in a day, but it can also take weeks, which is why it’s important to regularly contribute to an emergency savings fund.

“Usually you can find a contractor that will start work if you have proof from the insurance company that you will be getting paid,” Alsup said.

\Kelly Huston, assistant secretary of the California Emergency Management Agency, doesn’t deal with insurance, but does help businesses get back on their feet after a disaster.

When preparing, there are three things to consider that will help make the time after a little less hectic.

“Number one, do you know what hazards could affect you,” Huston said. “It’s important to understand the risk you might have so you can prepare for the most likely disasters. Number two, make sure you have proper insurance for your risks. Number three, develop an emergency plan for your business and practice it with your employees.”

Huston said the first thing a business should do after it’s hit is to make sure all employees are safe and accounted for.

“The next step is to implement your plan, whatever it is,” Huston said. “It might be to continue business at another location. It might be to contact your insurance provider. It all depends on the unique situation your business is in.”

In California, and many other places, the emergency services within the state work with the services within the county to determine how severe the damage is and if a governor’s proclamation of emergency is necessary.
In a large scale disaster, FEMA will also become involved and provide federal funding and resources. That can make a big difference in money available.

“The best thing any business can do is start talking about preparedness right now,” Huston said. “Many think their current insurance covers everything and they don’t check to see if there’s gaps or if they actually have the ability to recover fully from a disaster. Taking care of your employees, planning for the worst and practicing through drills or group discussions is critical to quick recovery.”

Becoming a News Source

More and more veterinarians are turning to social media to stay connected to their clients, give advice, share tips and become a trusted source for pet related news.

“If a pet is healthy, we may only see the pet once a year for a check-up and vaccination boosters,” Billie Deam, a veterinarian at Animal Clinic of Boardwalk Square in Kansas City, Mo., said. “However, there is a lot of important information to be shared with pet owners throughout the year. Facebook and social media make it easy for us to stay connected. These sites naturally complement our mission to educate and empower pet owners to provide the best possible pet care.”

The animal hospital team first started using Facebook as a way to quickly communicate critical veterinary care news, such as recalls.

“The Facebook newsfeed makes sharing urgent news easy,” Deam said. “A single posting allows us to reach hundreds of our pet owners in a matter of minutes.”

When they saw that success, the practice decided to expand their postings.

“Virtually all of our pet owners are on Facebook,” Deam explained. “We are encouraging them to follow our practice on Facebook and join the conversation. Pet owners can ask questions about holistic and acupuncture services. They can learn more about dog and cat surgery, pet dentistry and other services at our practice. We are excited about Facebook’s ability to foster an ongoing dialogue with pet owners.”

Utilizing Facebook came in handy most recently during the holidays.

“Everything from holiday lights to dry Christmas tree needles can pose a health risk for pets during the holidays,” Deam said. “We shared holiday and winter care tips on Facebook. Our goal is to remind pet owners about the best ways to keep their pets safe this holiday season and reduce the risk for health emergencies.”

Becoming Ferret Friendly

Manufacturers are reporting that 2012 brought the first upswing in the ferret industry in four years, and the numbers are still climbing.

Feeding one ferret for a year costs about $200, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg, according to Paul Juszczak, director of sales and marketing at Marshall Pet Products, the world’s largest provider of ferrets and ferret products.

“A first-time ferret buyer will spend $300-$500 on accessories and food at startup,” Juszczak said. “Then we also know that the average ferret owner comes back within a three-to-four-month time period to buy a companion for their ferret.”

Ferrets need a cage, food and bedding for starters, but the product offerings for ferrets go far beyond the essentials. Owners buy harnesses, treats, toys and even ferret costumes. Books about caring for ferrets are also top sellers.

Some top sellers include Marshall’s Earth’s Balance brand’s 2-in-1 product called the Superchew Edible Toy, and Kaytee’s unique Clean & Cozy Bedding.

The toy is a sugar-free, high-protein treat that entertains ferrets and keeps them busy, while  the bedding comes in several bright colors, including rose, purple, lavender and blue, that will not stain pets. It allows owners to customize their ferrets’ environment according to their own color preferences.

Experts say many pet stores are leaving ferret owners’ money on the table. By focusing on several low-cost, simple marketing tactics, stores can increase register ring in this high-potential category.

“The smart marketers tailor their inventory, tailor their knowledge, train their staffs, help the customer and they’ve got that customer coming back for life,” Juszczak said.

Education Is Key

By stocking ferret food and educating staff about ferrets’ specific needs, stores can increase margin on food alone. Once employees understand the animal’s very specialized needs, they can steer customers away from the kitten food, and toward high-margin, ferret-specific food and accessories.

“Ferret owners had very few options when it came to quality food,” Sara Hamilton, president of the American Ferret Association said. “Now, with the ongoing research of quality foods and further research into the necessary nutrients for the health and longevity of our ferrets, ferret owners are experiencing higher quality food and better education on selecting the right food for their animals.”

For example, ZuPreem Premium Ferret Diet is made with real egg and fresh, never-frozen chicken. It contains no corn or fish meal and requires no supplements. Marshall’s Premium Ferret Diet uses a proprietary, low-heat process that retains more nutrients than some other ferret foods.

Most ferret owners feed more than one type of food, and because most ferret owners have more than one animal, feeding a variety of foods helps to appease them all.
Remember that enthusiastic president of the local ferret club? Invite him in to speak with your staff. It’s free training with an expert.

Gail Shepard, director of marketing for ZuPreem, said ferret owners are highly involved pet owners who often look for stores with ferret-specific expertise.

If  they can find a store with a highly knowledgeable staff, who can answer their questions and they feel comfortable with, retailers might just be able to create a customer for life.

Make It a Destination

“I think the ferret sections in stores can definitely get lost sometimes,” Annie Marcell, brand assistant for Kaytee, said. “It has become such a small section, but retailers can make it stand out and draw more attention to that area.”

Marcell said there’s a need for better merchandising in ferret products.

“Dress that shelf up a little bit,” Shepard said. “Sometimes I’m in a store and it looks like Attila the Hun has just sat down there.”

Shepard suggests placing ferret food, treats, bedding, litter, toys and accessories together, even if this means stocking some crossover products in both the ferret and small-animal departments. Building a ferret-specific area can help increase the chances that ferret owners will purchase more products.

“They’ll have a higher register ring off a ferret product than a kitten product,” Shepard said. “If they can get them into the aisle, they’re selling costumes and treats and gadgets that you can’t get in the kitten aisle.”

Shepard also sees value in featuring ferret products on an end cap, from time to time. It tells customers that the store sells ferret products, and those customers will spread the word to their ferret-loving friends.

Getting ferret owners through the door may be as simple as inviting them. For example, offer to host a meeting of the local ferret club. It brings people into the store, as well as demonstrates the store’s commitment to the animal.

According to Shepard, ferret owners rely heavily on local ferret clubs and online forums to swap tips, share stories and brag about their pets.

“I can lean across the fence and talk to my neighbor about my dog, but I can’t talk to her about my ferret because she can’t relate,” Shepard said. “Ferret owners are on the internet more because that becomes their neighborhood community.”

She suggests featuring a ferret in advertising or social-media campaigns, and cites a pet store with a live chicken named Colonel Sanders for a mascot.

“Every time they post something about that chicken, their Facebook page just goes wild!” Shepard said.

Shepard also suggests holding an in-store adoption event.

– Kristen Ryan

Digit@l Prints: Sneak Up On Your Customers

When I ask business owners if they have a Facebook page or Twitter handle, many times they look at me like I have eight heads. But, these days, using social media to reach, engage and stay in touch with your customers should be another item in your marketing toolbox, just like a press release or promotional flyer.

Part of the problem is the idea that social media is for college kids, parents who like flooding Facebook with photos of their ultrasounds and foodies who feel the need to share what they are eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  While that is partially true, it is also one of the best ways to build a relationship with your customer when you are not standing face-to-face.

According to Pew Internet Project research, 69 percent of online adults use social media as of August 2012.

That’s a lot of potential buyers.

Ask yourself this: When do you get the opportunity to talk directly to your customer?

It’s not very often.

If you’re a small retail outlet you might know a good number of the people who come into your store. You probably also know their pet’s name and ages. But, your time with them is limited.

Social media allows you to expand that time. It puts your store, or brand, directly in front of them at times when they’re not expecting – like at their desk at work, or while they’re waiting in the airport to catch a flight.

And, the best part, especially in this economy, it is likely your least expensive marketing tool, since typically there is no charge to use the popular social platforms. Even if you hire someone to create a solid social strategy for you, it’s still less than other options.

Time for a Bath

Bath tubs. Every groomer needs one.

This must-have tool is a major purchase and there are a wide variety of styles and brands to choose from. Manufacturers are always offering  new and innovative features that help groomers get pets clean, while also making it more comfortable and safer for the pet.

Look for material that is sturdy and will last for years. For instance, if it is stainless steel, check the gauge of the steel. The lower the number, the thicker the steel is.

“Fourteen gauge steel is 25 percent thicker than 16 gauge steel, and 108 percent thicker than 20 gauge steel,”  Jeanne Caples, of Forever Stainless Steel, said.

If you are buying stainless, make sure it is fully welded. If you are buying tubs made from other materials, avoid products with a lot of seams that can eventually leak.

Rich Batterton, president of Direct Animal Products, said, “Only tubs that are fully welded will hold up and not leak.”

Many groomers work alone and it can be a real challenge to get large dogs into the tub.  Bath tubs that offer ramp systems or can be raised or lowered are of vital importance so that groomers do not injure themselves.

“We offer single mold fiberglass tubs that are electric hydraulic, scissor lift,” Robert Lutz, of Ultra Lift, said. “They save money and backs.”

Some tubs, such as the Forever Stainless brand, offer features such as pump recess chambers for groomers who utilize recirculating bathing systems. This option, combined with the bathing system, allows groomers to reduce water and shampoo usage by 75 percent to 90 percent.

Look, too, for good attachment points for grooming restraints to insure you can keep dogs safe while they are being washed.

Questions to Ask

Check out the type of faucets and nozzles that are offered, and make sure they will be comfortable and practical for the way you work.

Ask: How about the drain?  Does it have a mechanism to trap hair and prevent costly clogs?

Many tubs come equipped with a rack system that keeps the pet’s feet on a non-slip surface and out of standing water. Some racks are adjustable so that they can be elevated off the tub floor and lifted for work on smaller pets.

Make sure that any rack you purchase has openings small enough to prevent toes from getting stuck in them, and that the finish is smooth, safe for pets’ feet and easy to keep sanitized.

Bathing systems are designed to get dogs clean in a faster, more thorough and highly efficient manner.  Set up and used properly, a bathing system will drastically reduce both water and shampoo usage.

Environmentally Friendly

There are several brands of re-circulating systems on the market.  They work by being submerged into the bathtub with the pet; then fresh, warm water and shampoo are added to the bathtub. There is no need to pre-rinse the pet. Instead, the groomer turns the bathing system on, and warm water and shampoo are mixed by the pump.

The action of the water mechanically pushes dead hair, dirt, oil, dander and debris out of the pet’s coat.  The chemical action of the shampoo and water trap the dirt and hold it in suspension.  Shampoo is delivered right to the skin, ensuring that every hair is cleaned from base to tip.

As with the re-circulating system, there are multiple brands and models of siphon systems available, too. Most brands of this type of system use water pressure and not electricity to create suction that draws shampoo out of their bottles and dispenses it, pre-mixed with water, on the pet.

Similar to the re-circulating system, no pre-wetting is required and shampoo is delivered with the water. Since this type of bathing system uses the force of water that comes from the tap to operate, it is best used in stationary, not mobile, operations that have good water flow.

So what’s new in this area?

Wilma Flies, a professional groomer, developed the Sav~Ur Fur system and introduced it 3 years ago.  The system has been nominated twice for Barkleigh Honors New Product of the Year award.

The Sav~Ur Fur is designed to lift thick, matted undercoat away from the dog’s skin during the bathing process.  It is a siphon type system with a unique nozzle that was specifically designed for coat removal.  The system can be used to bathe all pets, but really shines when put to work on a Chow or Malamute that is blowing coat.

Cleaning up is the backbone of the grooming profession, and can be made more efficient when the proper equipment is used. From beautifully designed tubs to innovative bathing systems, well armed groomers know that good tools make the difficult job much easier.

– Daryl Conner, MPS, CMG has loved grooming dogs and cats for nearly 30 years.

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