Oscar Nominees’ Gift Bags Help Shelter Pets

This year, celebrities who don’t take home the Oscar Gold at the  Oscars will still be winners in the pet community, as Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres’ pet food company, Halo, Purely for Pets, in partnership with Freekibble.com, is giving 20 non-winning Oscar nominees 10,000 meals of natural pet food to donate to the animal shelter or rescue of the celebrity’s choice.

The gift is part of the coveted $55,000 nominee “Everyone Wins at the Oscars” gift bags from Distinctive Assets, the LA-based marketing firm that launched the craze of celebrity swag 15 years ago, and will once again be consoling non-winning Oscar nominees in the Best Actor/Actress, Supporting Actor/Actress and Director categories with an array of special products and services.

The Halo and Freekibble.com gift makes a notable departure from the typical expensive gift bag products geared toward leisure time and pampering and taps into the penchant of many celebrities for giving.

With this in mind, the 10,000-meal donation to the animal rescue or shelter of the recipient’s choice is one of the most expensive items in the gift bag, a $6,100 retail value.

“We know many celebrities are extremely generous,” said David Yaskulka, Halo’s vice president of marketing communications. “So we decided to gift them with something different that we think will mean a lot to them. We’re looking forward to making those donations!”

Well known for its year-round philanthropic efforts, Halo, Purely for Pets partners with Freekibble.com to donate more than 1.5 million meals to shelter pets each year.

The company also donated 1 million meals to shelter pets for the U.S. Postal Service Adopt a Shelter Pet Stamp Program, and sponsors the acclaimed PBS series “Shelter Me.”

Celebrity recipients will also receive some Halo Spot’s Stew food and Liv-a-Littles treats for their own pets to enjoy.

In addition to Halo and Freekibble.com’s donation, lucky “losers” will receive luxury items like Chocolatines chocolate, Slow Watches, the PolarLoop activity tracker, luxury trips and more.

Learn to Increase Profits, Loyalty

Dan Barton, pet business coach, founder of Splash and Dash for Dogs, author of “STOP Your Bitchin and Start Making Real Money!,” will teach pet store owners to start working on their business rather than in it, by offering a course in four locations across the country.

The seminars are designed to help grooming shop owners increase business loyalty and profit through marketing, product inventory and employee training.

“It is important that as a business owner you think in terms of building relationships when marketing your company,” Barton said. “Think outside the box.”

Splash and Dash allows members unlimited visits for dog brushing, bathing and drying per month at participating grooming salons for one fee. There are currently 30 salons that have adopted the Splash and Dash for Dogs program. The program provides extra income and customer loyalty for store owners.

Barton developed the Splash and Dash program as a way to increase customer loyalty in his own grooming and retail store and now shares his expertise nationwide.

Breakfast, lunch and grooming products will be given away at all seminars. Registration is open.

The first seminar is on March 14 in Orlando, then April 14 in Nashville, April 28 in Atlanta and finally May 19 in Boca Raton, Fla.

Phillips Offers New Marketing Program for Retailers

Phillips Pet Food & Supplies is offering retailers a new marketing program designed to help streamline operations.

The iT Kit includes marketing and customer outreach, store design, insurance and point of sale.

It has tools to help retailers reach customers through direct mail, email and text to drive both new and returning customers through promotions and marketing messages. Store design has resources to help merchants improve their store design and displays, as well as get online.

The kit also helps retailer leverage insurance rates by grouping stores together and point of sale features LightSpeed’s system that helps streamline inventory management. It also offers mobile checkout and collects customer data to help salespeople better engage their customers.

The programs that make up the iT Kit center around three customer principles: drive, enhance and retain. A retailer needs to drive customers into the store by making them aware of their store’s existence. Once they are in the store, enhance their experience in comparison to the competition. Lastly, they need to retain them to turn the customer into a loyal, repeat customer.

There is a “mail iT” program that allows retailers to send direct mail postcards to targeted consumers in a store’s neighborhood at a reduced cost.

The “Web iT” is a partnership with Pet Store Websites, affording retailers a discounted website creation, management content and social media.

Phillips partnered with Big Oyster and Petz Mobile to offer retailers the “text iT” program. It allows retailers to send store and manufacturer offers via text, directly to consumer’s opted-in phones every single week.

The “POS iT” program is partnered with LightSpeed to help retailers who don’t have, or need to improve their, POS system. If a store has fixture, design or layout needs, Handy Store Fixtures is the solution for the “design iT” program.

Finally, insurance is something that every retailer needs but not all have the time to shop around for the best rates and premiums. Phillips created an comprehensive program with negotiated savings for the independent retailers and that is available through the “insure iT” program.

PIDA Distributor Sales Increase to $3.3 Billion

A recent Pet Industry Distributors Association survey shows member distributors collectively did more than $3.3 billion in sales at wholesale last year.

This translates to more than $4.45 billion in retail sales, assuming an average gross margin of 35 percent, the group said in a press release.

PIDA-member distributors have made huge investments in warehouse space, equipment and people to get manufacturers’ products onto retailers’ shelves and into the hands of consumers.

Those members have 104 distribution centers, comprising 7.5 million-square-feet of warehouse space. They maintained, on average, $326 million in inventory, in stock, for immediate delivery, and made over 3 million deliveries to retail customers, with an average invoice of $1,076 per delivery.

PIDA distributor members employ 5,400 people to sell, pick, pack, deliver and collect payment for the products that manufacturers make. Nearly 1,000 inside and outside sales people call on retailers to promote the benefits of those products.

Distributors hold 51 trade shows and open houses each year to get manufacturers and retailers together for product demos and special offers, and 21,000 pet store owners and their employees attended these events, according to the survey.

New Pet Expo Brings Retailers, Manufacturers Together

The inaugural NYC Re-Tails & Sales Expo, recently brought Northeast pet retailers together with national pet manufacturers who only make their products in the USA, for a day of networking, introduction to new items and special sales.

The “Made in America” themed event was the idea of Dana Humphrey, owner and founder of Whitegate PR, and Nancy Hassel, founder and president of Long Island Pet Professionals with Pet Age and Made in USA Certified as sponsors.

Humphrey explained a local event like this helps both the local independent retailer and manufacturers, especially the smaller ones.

“I do a lot of events in the pet industry, and Nancy and I felt that there was something missing for New Yorkers to have an event where there could be buying going on,” Humphrey said. “There are all these fashion shows where the public is invited and no one is buying anything. So what do these small independent manufacturers do? Maybe they can’t afford to go to Global, maybe they can’t afford to go to SuperZoo or maybe they don’t even know how to do that type of show. So we wanted to give them something local that they could drive to. There are so many boutiques in New York City, why not start here and get some orders going to kind of just get the buzz going and be able to have a sales environment. Then from there, we got the Made in the USA theme.”

While different pet companies came from around the nation to show off their long-standing products, others used the expo as a time to show off their new ones. Jane Bell, the owner of pet portables, recently launched a miniature version of her larger first aid kit.

“I came today because not only are all my products human grade but they are made in the USA,” Bell said. “It is also an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

Julie Reiser, co-founder and president of Made in USA Certified, said the pet sector is extremely important for them, because of the amount of consumers who are looking for made in the USA products.

“Consumers don’t really realize that the ‘Made in the USA’ claim, like putting a flag on there or saying it is made in the USA, is a very unregulated claim,” Resier said. “While the Federal Trade Commission does oversee that claim, they’re not actively pursuing and going after those companies that use that claim that maybe should not be using it.”

Retailers from around the area came to the day-long event to  find products they may never have heard of otherwise.

“If we could meet one brand and get one connection that works, if we could find a treat we are not carrying or a supplement we don’t know about or a food topping and put it in our campaign we do, it could be really great,” Vito Mileo, business relations manager of Pet Flow, said.

Hassel said that early on, and throughout the day, orders were being filled out and a lot of selling had happened. The venue was also smaller, allowing retailers to take their time with each individual manufacturer.

“We already have a waiting list of people who want to do this again,” Hassel said. “A couple of the vendors already told us today before we even started, ‘put us on the front of the list,’ so yes, we will definitely do it again.”

Stephen Trachtenberg, the owner of Chasing Our Tail, creates a 100 percent original all natural dog and cat treat, and came to the event to gain more exposure for his product.

“We cover New England really well, which is where we live, and we cover west of the Mississippi well because we have been to Super Zoo a couple of times,” Trachtenberg said. “So it’s really hard to find that show and fill that gap, there are really not a lot of shows to fill this gap in this area [New York City]. We have done really, really well today, absolutely worth the drive today.”

Critter Zone, an air purifier that doesn’t use filters or chemical sprays, originally started in Minnesota then moved to Tennessee and then finally moved to China, but things are different now.

“About six months ago we came to the realization that we need to support America,” Shar Weinrauch said. “By the time we were waiting for all the goods to come across the sea, and then you have to make sure you got the pipeline full of product, because if it’s on the ship you have to spend exuberant amounts of money. So we said, ‘Why not just bring it back?’”

Since moving back, Critter Zone has acquired some of their old employees, and in turn creating jobs for Americans.

After the event, Humphrey said they plan to put together another show like this.

“We had an amazing interest and there were a lot of people who couldn’t make it today,” Humphrey said. “We are definitely going to do another one, absolutely. It may not be ‘Made in the USA’ themed, it may be another theme, but we will absolutely do another, maybe even in the fall because of how much interest has been shown.”

Photos from NYC Re-Tails & Sales Expo

Phillips Acquires Wolverton

Phillips Pet Food & Supplies acquired Wolverton, effective Feb. 21, according to a letter released by the Pennsylvania-based distributor.

“Wolverton has been known as one of the premier distributors in the Mid-West and we are thrilled to incorporate their longstanding market presence and talented organization into the Phillips family,” the letter said.

The Wolverton ownership and and management team, Jerry Parks, Perry Parks and Dave Rinckey will continue to lead the Wolverton facility.

“We are Phillips respect their leadership and years of industry knowledge and look forward to offering you a best-in-class distribution network,” the letter signed by Blaine Phillips, Jerry Parks, Perry Parks and David Rinckey said.





Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

The 138th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show took place at Madison Square Garden Feb. 10-11, where Sky, a Wire Fox Terrier captured the Best in Show title.

But, before that there were many other dogs both in the ring and behind the scenes that captured the hearts of judges and spectators.

Here is a look at some of them.



Premium Dog Treats

We recently sat down with David Caras, senior vice president of sales at Darford, to talk about the company’s philosophy and outlook.

Q: Tell us a little about Darford.
Caras: Since 1987, dog lovers have trusted Darford to provide tail-wagging goodness in treats for dogs of all shapes and size with discriminating tastes. Darford treats are baked in our own ovens using natural ingredients carefully selected from suppliers in the United States and Canada; all of our ingredients are sourced in North America.
We have passionate, dedicated Darford team members in Vernon, British Columbia, home of our corporate offices and one of our baking and packaging facilities,  and in Milan, Mo., our U.S. facility, which opened in 2013. Both of our manufacturing facilities are certified organic, with quality being our number one priority.  Baking premium, all natural, highly palatable dog treats is what we are all about.
We are constantly striving to improve our products and messaging, as well as create better ways for our distributor and retailer partners to merchandise Darford treats.

Q: What is a typical day like for you?
Caras: My main responsibility is managing sales in the United States and Canada, working closely with all of our key customers, our outside sales teams and customer support team. I am also involved in new product and packaging development, as well as marketing programs. I am not sure I truly have a typical day, but I can say that my days are always full and very exciting.

Q: The company’s core principles are passion, quality & trust. How does that factor into the products your company makes?
Caras: The pet industry is a passion-driven industry, and Darford has passionately been making pet treats for 27 years. However, passion is not enough, quality is paramount and is definitely number one on our priority list. All ingredients are tested by our in-house QC team as soon as they arrive at our facility. The treats are then tested after being manufactured and then tested again by an independent QC company before being released to our customers.
This is a long process and adds to our lead times; however quality is not something we will compromise. We believe this is why our customers and pet parents trust Darford, and have stood behind our brand since 1987.

Q: We know you likely can’t tell us specifics, but what are some of the new products you are working on?
Caras: We know 2014 will be an exciting year for Darford as we’ll be introducing several new products, new formulas, packaging improvements and display options at Global Pet Expo. Our top selling product families will include new shapes, new flavors and new sizes.
There will be something new added to all of our treat families; Mega Bones, Grain Free and Naturals; in packaged treats and bulk. I guess I can mention one of our new treats as they were launched in January: “Breakfast Bagels” in two sizes, small and medium, and in two flavors, Bacon & Cheese and Bacon N’ Eggs.  There could very well be one or two more new product introductions later this year, possibly in late summer or early fall.

Q: What do you enjoy most about working at Darford?
Caras: What I like best about working at Darford is our company’s dedication to quality, and that we control our own destiny; we make our own products. If we want to change a shape or adjust a formula because we feel it will improve the quality or palatability, we can do that easily. We take a great pride in what we make, and have implemented the highest quality control standards. We make premium dog treats, making dogs happy all over the world–what could be better than that?


Looking Ahead to Global Pet Expo 2014

As we prepare to celebrate the 10th Annual Global Pet Expo in Orlando, March 12-14, 2014, it has been interesting to reflect on the show’s growth and its ever-growing importance as the first industry trade show of the year.

In 2013, the show broke all previous attendance records with 964 exhibitors, up from 630 in 2005, and 5,325 qualified buyers compared to 4,365 at the first Global Pet Expo. The growing international influence of this event is impressive with more than 18 percent of exhibitors being from outside the U.S. and buyers representing 72 countries.

Global Pet Expo is the place to see more new product launches than at any other show, and as we continue to attract more exhibitors and buyers, we also continue to expand our offerings.

With an expanded show floor in 2014, attendees will have the opportunity to see more of the latest innovations that in many cases will be making their debut at this show. We are expecting an increased number of exhibitors and that means more new products.

As a result, the popular New Products Showcase will be larger than ever, displaying more than 800 ground-breaking pet products. This is where we offer an exclusive glimpse of the fresh products entering the market. Buyers are invited to judge the year’s best new pet products, and the Best in Show will be presented at the 4th Annual New Products Showcase Awards Presentation on March 13.

We have also dedicated more space to our other special sections as they have consistently sold out for the past several years. These sections are the perfect way for you to connect with the specialty products that customers crave. The “Natural Pet” along with “The Boutique” and “Everything Aquatic” sections will feature more booths than in year’s past, and the “What’s New!” section will now be home to more than 150 exhibitors introducing themselves and their products to the pet industry.

And, there’s even more exciting news for the 2014 show. We are proud to announce Kathy Ireland of kathy ireland Worldwide, will be speaking at the 3rd annual APPA Professional Women’s Network Breakfast on Friday morning at the show. Ireland will be sharing her experiences that have made her an influential entrepreneur, and CEO of a hugely successful brand.

For more great business-building tips, check out the 2014 Global Pet Expo Speaker Series. This year’s lineup will feature experts who know the challenges you face, and can help you reap the rewards of implementing new ideas and tactics. And new this year, will be 15-minute mini sessions modeled after the famous “TED Talks.” They will be offered four times daily and will give you actionable advice that can improve your business.

And, while you are marking your calendars for all of the exciting events taking place at Global Pet Expo 2014, be sure to include the premier networking event of the year set for Wednesday evening. Our popular Networking Reception is the place to socialize with people you might never have another opportunity to meet. With the pet industry’s extraordinary growth, you’re sure to come across some new faces and familiar ones as well.

Above all, register to attend Global Pet Expo today. It truly is too big to miss.

Information about Global Pet Expo:

Presented by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) and the Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA), Global Pet Expo is open to exhibiting manufacturers, qualified buyers and media from around the world, and features the latest and greatest in pet product innovations-including more U.S. products under one roof than at any other show. For more information on the Global Pet Expo visit  www.globalpetexpo.org,  buyers@globalpetexpo.org or call 203-532-0000.

– Andrew Darmohraj

A Look Back At: The Ritzow Bros. – All-Glass Aquarium

There was a time when you walked into any pet store you would see a stack of 25, or more, 10 gallon aquariums or aquarium kits for sale. This stack of low priced starter kits helped create new aquarium hobbyists. Many of these hobbyists came back to buy larger sizes or multiple aquariums. This simple strategy drove growth in the aquarium hobby more than almost any other.

There was also a time when every aquarium had a stainless steel frame, because it wouldn’t rust, a slate bottom and was held together by a black non-toxic tar within the frame. Then, came the invention of silicone sealant by GE.

The Ritzow bros. in the Milwaukee area, avid aquarium hobbyists, saw the potential of gluing five pieces of glass together with silicone sealant and started making all glass aquariums using extruded plastic as frames to cover up the exposed glass edges. After a couple of years they also saw the need to improve and increase the production of glass aquariums and were one of the first to use one piece molded plastic frames. This simple, but expensive innovation, brought production from a few hundred units a day to well over a thousand. This was revolutionary because it brought down the cost significantly.

When I first started selling glass 10 gallon tanks in 1973 the distributor cost was $7.95 each. With the one piece frame that cost went down to $4.95. In the 1980s retailers were selling starter 10 gallon tanks for $4.99 as loss leaders and we couldn’t make enough of them.

I always felt that Jerry and Roger Ritzow deserved an industry award and recognition for almost single handedly growing the tropical fish hobby for over 30 years by being the leading supplier of low cost starter kits to encourage new hobbyists. Without these low cost glass boxes, we wouldn’t have sold air pumps, power filters, heaters, plants, gravel, fish, reptiles or small animals.

The Ritzow Bros. were brilliant engineers and marketers because they had a vision and developed many innovations that turned the fish aquarium into a piece of furniture that you would be proud to have in your living room instead of the garage. Their innovations included one piece plastic frames in sizes up to 220 gallon, state of the art full hoods with incandescent and fluorescent lighting, knock down wood aquarium stands, solid wood cabinets and canopies, bow front aquariums and stands in many sizes and mini-bow desktop aquariums. They started out with black frames only, then walnut wood grain finishes and ultimately introduced the revolution into oak trimmed aquariums.

With their expertise they turned a small aquarium company into the largest aquarium manufacturer in the world. They invested in technology and facilities that improved manufacturing at all levels, and year after year they continued to introduce new products that helped drive growth in the entire aquatics industry.

What impressed me most about the Ritzow Bros is the way they did business and the relationships they had with family, friends, customers and employees. In the early years, they had cash flow problems, as did all of their competitors, and had to tighten up liberal receivable and shipping policies. All of their customers rallied behind them. The Ritzow’s supported all community groups and local projects as well as the WPA, APA, PIJAC, Pet Industry Trust and many aquarium groups and societies. They are and were true gentleman and made doing business with them a pleasure.

The growth of the aquarium industry may have grown without their vision, but I doubt it would have grown as large or as fast, or would have been as much fun. Ask anyone who knows Jerry or Roger, or worked with them professionally and I’m sure you will hear how loyal, supportive and generous they were their entire career. Any dealer who stopped by to visit their booth at any trade show will remember the warm welcome they received as well as the giant cashews in the snack bowl!

In 2000 The “All Glass Aquarium” (the best possible description of the item they sold) Company was acquired by Central Garden and Pet. The brand disappeared because it was re-named. The aquarium segment of the pet industry saw a downturn. Kids today spend more time on their smart phones rather than keeping an aquarium. The stack of 25 aquarium kits has disappeared. For those of us who love tropical fish we still feel kids and parents alike would enjoy our hobby if we encouraged them with a new All Glass Aquarium.

The Ritzow Bros. are retired and doing well and still love the business. They’ve seen many changes and like me, they remember the glory days of fish keeping. We had many other friends who played important roles in the pet industry, but few had the impact or left the footprint of the Ritzow bros. Thank you Jerry and Roger for helping the tropical fish industry in becoming an important part of the pet industry.

– Phillip M. Cooper

Understanding Natural Medicine for Pets

The pet care industry has seen tremendous growth in the markets of natural and alternative medicine.

Just as alternative veterinary care increases, retailers can expect a surge in over-the-counter solutions. While most over the counter solutions are very effective in preventing and solving minor problems, it will still be important for retailers to encourage customers to consult with a professional. In order to do this, retailers should have a basic understanding of the various modalities.

East Meets West

Western medicine and Eastern medicine have always been at odds. While Western medicine tends to be largely “reactive,” Eastern medicine is focused on being “proactive” in order to stop issues early.  For this reason, it may be tempting to view traditional and holistic treatments as rivals, but they are actually quite complementary.  A holistic approach allows practitioners to focus on supporting overall health rather than treating a disease.

“I’m seeing more of an acceptance of allowing traditional doctors like myself to recommend a more holistic approach to medicine,” Dr. Jeff Werber, owner of Century Veterinary Group, said. “New certification programs in chiropractic medicine and laser modalities are becoming very popular.”

Dr. Lisa S. Newman, N.D., Ph.D. founded Azmira Holistic Animal Care in 1982, and has become well known for resolving health problems in pets that modern medicine could not cure. Utilizing proprietary blends of herbal extracts, she has created a line of products directed towards resolving specific problems in pets and offers a line of supplements.

“Even with the best quality, balanced diet, nutritional supplementation is necessary to provide many nutrients now missing from our food chain,” she said.

Other natural supplements are joining the marketplace, including the new award-winning, all-natural line of canine liquid vitamins LICK’s liquid vitamin drink supplement, which boasts a 98 percent absorbency rate. The supplements are available in three forms, Zen for calming pets, Joint & Heart for maintenance and Athlete for active dogs.

Zuke’s line of Hip Action treats offers over 300 mg of Glucosamine and 50 mg of Chondroitin in easy-to-feed treats that pets love. Zuke’s treats also include other herbs, such as rosemary, to support whole food antioxidants.

Healthy Dogma is another example of a company focused on natural health. Peaceful Pooch, a nutritional additive, uses kelp, melatonin, flaxmeal and passion flower to help a dog to relax without the problems of traditional medications.

Holistic Medicine

Holistic medicine is, in effect, taking a complete view of the patient before treating. This view may include things like the environment, behavioral patterns, genetics, levels of stress, and even the relationship between pet and owner, which is then used to develop a protocol with which to treat a pet.

When a holistic veterinarian sees a pet, they not only examines the physical aspect, but they looks at the pet’s complete history, including nutrition, emotional stressors, environment and behavioral history.

Holistic practitioners are primarily interested in the “why” is symptoms are presenting in order to cure the problem. Once they have a good idea of the problem, they will utilize the least invasive, most efficacious path to resolving the problem. These solutions may include a combination of therapies.

For example, a patient may require surgery and drug therapy from conventional medicine, but could also include a change in diet, chiropractic or laser treatment, acupuncture, and/or homeopathy. By focusing on the entire picture, and utilizing a wide range of therapies that are both supportive and reactive, veterinarians can treat both acute and chronic problems far more effectively.


According to the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, “holistic (or Integrative) veterinary medicine is the examination and diagnosis of an animal, considering all aspects of the animal’s life and employing all of the practitioner’s senses, as well as the combination of conventional and alternative (or complementary) modalities of treatment.”

The premise behind homeopathy is that “like treats like.”  Developed in Germany nearly two centuries ago, homeopathic practitioners analyze their animal patients as individuals, and then utilize custom-developed treatments to bring the body into balance. Herbal and plant-based remedies are administered in tiny doses over a course of time.

For example, a substance that causes harm in a large dose may actually be helpful in a small dose. Homeopathic medicines are most often referred to as remedies and these remedies are created by specialists who use a careful process of dilution and succession.

Natural remedies, such as Bach Rescue Remedy, utilize a proprietary blend of herbs to help offset anxiety in pets. The original Bach Flower Remedies has been used on humans and animals for more than 80 years.

Patience is a virtue

“Natural may take a little longer, but it completely eliminates the source of the problem,” Dr. Adelia Ritchie, founder of DERMagic, said. “Corticosteroids reduce itching by reducing inflammation, but can do nothing about the underlying cause of the itch and can negatively affect nearly every organ in the body. DERMagic is safe, free from corticosteroids and is immediately effective at relieving itch, fighting fungal and bacterial infestations and promoting healing of affected areas.”

Thanks to organizations like the American Holistic Veterinary Medicine Association, traditional treatments are now becoming mainstream.  As pet owners realize the dividends of natural medicine, reatilers can anticipate many more veterinarians to embrace traditional medicine and greater innovation in pet foods, natural remedies and more innovation throughout the industry.

Quiet Tea from The Honest Kitchen is another example of innovation in action.

Making Small Pets Feel at Home

Increasingly, people look at their pets as part of the family. And this feeling of connectedness has extended beyond cats and dogs to include small pets as well – gerbils, hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets and the like.

And partly because of that, consumers are looking for much more when it comes to finding a home for their pet. Rather than just a functional cage that will contain their pet and keep them safe, people are looking for a home for their pet that will be spacious, comfortable, fun, safe, and often something that will look as nice among their own furniture.

With that in mind, manufacturers have some new offerings in both cages and bedding to help meet consumers’ increasingly sophisticated tastes and high standards for their pets. It also provides a great opportunity for sales, as about 18 percent of small pet owners replace the cage once a year, according to the 2013-2014 Pet Owners Survey by American Pet Products Association.
Whether they’re upgrading from a starter cage to a more extensive habitat, or they’re just in the market for something that looks clean and fresh, cages are not a stagnant category.

Looking Good

To help meet the growing needs of consumers, Marchioro is expanding its line of cages this year to include some new sizes, including a cage that is 16-by-16 and either 12 or 40 inches high, depending on the height the consumer wants. They will also have a cage that is 20-by-20-by-57.

“This one is unique to the industry, with its small footprint and expansive height,” Brad Forgette, executive vice president of Marchioro, said.

The additional height provides plenty of room for ramps, tubes and other accessories, to keep them interested and active.

“It gives owners more enjoyment to see their pets having fun,” Forgette said, adding these cages will be in the same simple yet elegant design of other Marchioro cages. “We try to appeal to a wider audience, creating cages that will attract adults of all ages in addition to children. We aim to provide a habitat a 20-something person wouldn’t be ashamed to have sitting on their living room table.”

In addition to ramps and exercise wheels, the Marchioro cages are equipped with ventilated tubes, so waste can drip out and gases can escape.

“Just like humans, our pets are healthier when they’re active,” Forgette said. “We have ventilation in our tubes to ensure that the animals aren’t breathing in harmful gases when they’re exercising and having fun.”

Another elegant yet functional habitat comes from BioBubble Pets. These totally clear, conical-shaped homes can be expanded upward and customized to fit each person’s preferences. Created by aquarium designer Al Venezia, the BioBubble products have a look that leans toward the aquatic world, but with a versatility that suits small pets just as well.

Pet owners can choose to purchase a standard BioBubble Premium, which is a base and a top, or they can add to it with risers that come in mesh, clear and cage varieties. In between the risers you can add a screen to separate the levels, or a bungalow deck, which provides a place for small pets to sleep and eat.

BioBubble just recently introduced a new Terrarium riser that is twice as wide as its original risers and 15 inches tall. It will stack with the premium base as well as the Terra base and features interchangeable viewing panels in either clear or mesh. This new riser allows for larger animals, including guinea pigs and small rabbits.

A unique feature of the BioBubble habitats is the CarbonFresh pad that can be placed in the bottom of the bedding tray.

“One of our priorities is to help pet owners keep their cages clean and fresh,” Kari Simigran, communications manager of BioBubble Pets, said. “We have created a pad infused with a special activated carbon that helps neutralize odors and keeps everything smelling good longer.”

Comfortable Bedding

It’s not just the outside of the cage that matters to consumers. Finding bedding that keeps pets comfortable is also a priority, and next to food, bedding is one of the most purchased items of small pet owners.

“There are two things people are looking for when making purchases of bedding,” Lisa Kniceley, trade sales specialist for Vitakraft, said. “They want items made or grown in the United States, and they want something that is environmentally friendly.”

Biodegradability and sustainability are two big selling points in bedding since the product is used in such large amounts. Both Vitakraft and Oxbow have products that appeal to a consumers’ eco-conscious while providing a healthy environment for the pet.

Vitakraft has its Sunseed Fresh World Bedding made in the United States from recycled paper. Baking soda helps increase absorbency and odor control. When paired with the new Super-Absorbent Cage liners introduced in 2013, clean-up is easy. The cage liners wick away moisture to help keep bedding dry, and once the bedding is soiled, the liner can be folded up and the entire mess thrown away.

Oxbow Animal Health has also introduced bedding for the environmentally conscious consumer. Eco-Straw is an all-natural wheat straw bedding that can hold up to 300 percent of its weight in moisture, as well as being flushable, compostable and naturally mold resistant.

“Our decision to add a bedding to our product line was driven by our commitment to helping meet the basic needs of pets in the healthiest ways possible,” Melissa Ross, marketing operations manager of Oxbow Animal Health, said.

Another company making great strides in this area is Absorption Corp. Their colorful CareFRESH bedding bits are blended with low-dust pellets and create for a super adsorbent litter, while their line of bedding products contain odor control to help keep a pet’s habitat smelling fresh.

Their premium soft bedding is also made from wood pulp, a natural and sustainable resource, and is 100 percent biodegradable and compostable.

Set It Up

The best way to sell more cages is to have them out. Use them for the small pets in the store, or set up a display with a few different options. Of course, there isn’t the space to have them all out and assembled for customers to take home, so Marchioro has answered retailers request for a smaller footprint on the shelf with its new line of cages.

“We have new packaging that takes up less space, making it more profitable for retailers because they will be able to have more inventory there to sell,” Forgette said.

The boxes will have a lifestyle picture of each cage so customers will be able to visualize the product without it being set up.

Most importantly, have a variety of products available. Not only are pet owners looking to keep their small animals active and healthy, they also want cages that fit in with their own style, and of course, every person’s style is different.

Going All Natural

People are becoming smarter and educating themselves and are making better choices regarding their health than they have in the past. This includes eliminating product ingredients that are controversial, or considered “overly processed” in foods, shampoos, cosmetics and cleaners.

As a result, all natural products are finding a niche in the dog care industry and all natural shampoos and grooming products are becoming very popular.

Nootie is one of the many companies that make an all natural shampoo line. A family run business, Nootie specializes in all natural grooming products in scents that are sure to appeal to the consumer: Warm Sugar Cookie, Japanese Cherry Blossom and Sweet Pea and Vanilla and Cucumber Melon are just a few. Their shampoos and spritzs are made with naturally derived ingredients. Aloe and oatmeal, essential fatty acids, rosemary and jojoba oil are included to treat pet’s skin and coat and make them smell good and remain healthy as well. Nootie also makes an Argan Oil shampoo and spritz designed to keep pets coats in top condition.

Another manufacturer in the natural product marketplace is Burt’s Bees, who has a line directed at pets called Burt’s Bees Natural Pet Care Products. These include a full line of specialty shampoos, including a tearless shampoo with buttermilk and a hotspot shampoo with apple cider vinegar and aloe vera. The line also includes an ear cleaner made with peppermint and witch hazel and several sprays to sooth itchy or irritated skin.

Burt’s Bees Natural Pet Care Products are pH balanced for pets and contain no parabens, phtalates, petrochemicals or sulfates.

Natural Defense

Many consumers turn to natural grooming products when it comes to getting rid of, or preventing fleas.

Natural Chemistry’s DeFlea products are used by groomers and owners alike to safely and naturally kill fleas on contact, and does not contain pyrethrins or permethrins.

Their DeFlea Shampoo for Cats is a patented combination of  ingredients that work in tandem with one another to “soften” the waxy exoskeleton of fleas, ticks and mites. The company’s Natural Flea Shampoo and Spray contains natural botanical ingredients that work synergistically with one another to provide effective, natural, and safe flea protection. The natural botanical formula has been proven to provide residual killing and repelling up to 7 days.

Ark Natural’s has a line of Neem products that also naturally combat the flea issue. Their Neem “Protect” Shampoo is natural, safe and eco-friendly. Botanicals gently shampoo dirt, oil and sebum from pet’s coats. It is non-drying and low-sudsing.

Slather Up

Planet Dog created a line of grooming products that fit their company’s.

They have created a line of shampoos that include an All Natural Deodorizing Shampoo, All Natural Oatmeal and Aloe Shampoo and All Natural Healing Shampoo. All shampoos are made with a coconut shampoo base and specialized ingredients to address specific skin or coat issues.

Just like in human products, pet retailers who carry true all natural products can see their sales increase dramatically because this customer base is growing in leaps and bounds.

By educating yourself and your staff you can assist your customers in choosing the best all natural products for their pets.

Debi Hilley

Small Tools, Big Impact

Have you ever heard the expression, “It’s the little things that count?”  It can be very true of the small tools that groomers use to work their art and magic on dogs and cats.

Many groomers save their tips and pool them toward the purchase of some big, expensive tool that will help them in their daily work, and that can be a very good thing.  At the same time, however, those same groomers will keep aged brushes and combs with bent, abraded teeth around.

Worn, damaged hand tools can scrape and irritate skin and damage coats.  Once a brush or comb begins to show wear, it should be replaced.  Luckily, small hand tools like combs and brushes can often be purchased very inexpensively, and since they are mandatory for the grooming of most every pet, having a good selection on hand is important.  There are many types of these tools to choose from, designed to work on the vast array of coat types that stylists encounter during their daily work.

Groomer Favorites

“Our number one selling brush is the Miracle Coat Slicker,” Alison Franklin, owner of Groomers Mall, said. “Groomers tell me that they like the length of the teeth, and that they are bent at the perfect angle to glide through coats. They have a nice rubberized handle that is comfortable to hold, and they hold up well, even if you use them to brush out wet coats in the tub.”

An informal survey on Facebook grooming groups turned up a large number of groomers who said that their go-to favorite brushes are hands down the Les Poochs line.  Les Poochs slicker style brushes were the first on the market to feature a flexible head.

The price tag they carry is a bit higher than many of the industry standard slicker brushes, but comments like, “You would have to pry my Les Poochs Mat Zapper out of my cold dead hands,” and, “I just tried a Les Poochs brush for the first time.  My grooming life is forever changed” were posted over and over.

The flexible head on this style brush makes brushing coats far easier, and they are ergonomically designed, so are a great choice for groomers who want to preserve their wrists. The line of brushes has been hard to find of late, but they will be available again very soon, and will now be made in the U.S.

“The much anticipated re-release of the world’s top selling  original Les Pooch brush is now only weeks away,” Michel Raviol, CEO of Les Pooch, said. “We apologize for the long wait, however due to recent substandard quality issues from our German vendor we decided to move production to the United States. This transition will ensure top quality and constant supply for our global market. A huge promotional special celebrating the release of the world’s first flexible headed brush will be in effect along with new exciting additions to our brush collection.”

What to Look For

Groomers know that after a pet is well brushed, they must be combed through to insure that no tangles or loose coat remain. When choosing a comb, look for a comfortable fit for your hand.  Pay attention to the length and spacing of the teeth, as well. Combs are not a “one size fits all” tool.

Fine coats require closely spaced teeth, thick, double coats need a longer tooth and wider spacing. Check to make sure the tips are smooth, not sharp, to minimize skin irritation. The finish of a comb is important, too. A smooth finish will not only help the comb to glide through pet hair, it will be kinder to the coat, causing less damage as you work.

“The Aaronco Honeycombs are very popular,” Franklin said about their best-selling combs. “They are made in England, are of great quality, have a wonderful smooth finish and come in a huge variety of sizes.  It’s all about teeth spacing when you buy combs, and groomers can find what they want in this line. They have a square spine and they are very comfortable to hold.  Resco combs, made in the U.S., also have a loyal following, and we sell a lot of the Wahl 8 inch finishing combs.  Some groomers swear by carbon fiber combs. They have a little give to them, and they are wonderful at removing static from coats.”

Les Poochs offers a comb line, as well.

“We can’t keep our combs in stock,” Ravoli said. “They are hand crafted by the same artisans who make our shears in Japan.  This comb has glide through technology and features ultra light yet sturdy 3036 aircraft aluminum.”

It’s the little things in your grooming toolbox that you use most often.  Invest in some new combs and brushes this year and see the difference great hand tools make.


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