PetAge_Cover_Oct14
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A Cage That’s All the Rage

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Shakespeare believed that all the world’s a stage on which men and women are merely players. But for pet birds, all the world’s a cage, and retailers play an important part in providing that habitat to owners.

All the more reason for pet store operators to remain abreast of the latest coop configurations on the market.

Raising the Bar

While not much has changed in cage design in recent years – wire, wrought iron and stainless steel continue to be the three main material types offered – tweaks and minor upgrades have come along, particularly in build quality and sturdiness.

“Cage styles have stayed pretty much the same, but the paint jobs on many wrought iron cages have improved, and better escape-proof door latches on cages for bigger breeds have been introduced,” said Brian Van Elsberg, owner of Bird Hut, a Portland, Ore.-based pet store. “These doors used to simply have a little flip-up bar that was easy for smarter birds to open. Now, many are spring-loaded or have some type of screw mechanism that prevents birds from opening the cage door.”

Avian Adventures cages by MidWest Homes for Pets feature such bird-resistant door latches, as well as interlocking panels that allow for quick and easy assembly without tools and durable, easy-to-clean powder coat finishes available in pearl white, platinum and ruby.

Although cage makers like the former offer a decent choice of different colors, habitat hues are not as diverse as they used to be, with fewer blues and greens observed, said Van Elsberg.

“The manufacturers have pretty much narrowed it down to white, black and gray,” he said.

Quick and Easy Solutions

To capitalize on the convenience factor sought by many bird beginners, more cage makers are offering all-in-one kits that bundle a cage with food, dishes and accessories together in a single package.

For example, Hagen’s Living World Parakeet Starter Kit includes a white wire Belvedere-style cage with food and water dishes, seed mix, gravel, cuttlebone and treats.

“It’s easy to snap the cage together, and the necessities included are simplified,” said Melanie Allen, avian product specialist with Rolf C. Hagen Corp. “Starter kits will grab the consumer’s attention when the contents are highly visible. Retailers can easily display the set up with all of the goodies in plain sight so the consumer can actually see the value and convenience a starter kit has to offer.”

A Wide Assortment

Van Elsberg said it’s smart to stock a wide variety of different bird cage brands and styles to accommodate a range of budgets and an assortment of popular breeds, including smaller wire cages, typically spanning in retail price from $30 to $100, for finches, canaries, lovebirds and parakeets; medium-size wrought iron cages, starting around $100, for cockatiels, conures, doves and the like, and large wrought iron and stainless steel enclosures, often priced from $1,000 and up, for macaws, cockatoos and other large parrots.
Stainless steel and wrought iron aren’t just for the big beaks any longer, however.

Prevue Pet Products has recently introduced stainless steel cages for smaller birds, which Director of Marketing Caterina Novotny describes as decorative yet functional and reminiscent of high-end bird homes of the past.

“Another line we recently came out with is our Park Plaza bird homes, which are larger, wrought iron construction cages that have been re-engineered for smaller birds,” Novotny said.

Novotny agrees with Van Elsberg and others that displaying a wide array of enclosures in a retail environment is necessary to excite and inspire consumers.

“People continue to want diversity in the homes they purchase for their birds, and this diversity comes from a variety of areas, including shape, color, material, size and style,” said Novotny.

Having the space required to showcase all these cages continues to be a challenge for many stores, “but remember that consumers like to touch and feel product. We also recommend that retailers periodically refresh their set.”

Tara Whitehead, marketing manager for MidWest Homes for Pets, suggests spiffing up cage displays in stores with tasteful trinkets.

“You can cross-merchandise and dress up the cage by including accessory products like mirrors, toys and perches,” said Whitehead.

Retailers to the Rescue

It’s important for pet store staff to educate shoppers about the right cage size and quality for their particular species as well. Recommending the largest cage they can afford is a good rule of thumb, said Van Elsberg, who adds that it’s crucial that retailers investigate the product carefully, checking for details like smooth welds on the bars, no harmful toxins in the metals or finishes, and proper spacing between bars, before committing to large purchase orders.

“In addition, it’s incumbent on pet stores to persuade consumers to buy their cages from brick-and-mortar stores as opposed to purchasing a product off the Internet that they cannot see, touch and inspect – an online transaction that can easily lead to buyer’s remorse,” said Van Elsberg.

Van Elsberg recommends always selling a finished cage that the retailer should pre-assemble out of the box for the customer.

“Just as nobody wants to have to put together a bike they want to buy for a child, pet owners don’t want to go through the hassle of assembling a bird cage,” said Van Elsberg. “Consumers want a convenient product that’s ready to go.”

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