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Going Beyond The Traditional Holidays

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Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

When retailers think about selling holiday products, or promoting products for different holidays, these are the three most think of. The problem is, retailers are only hurting themselves with this thought.

The truth is, that for the most part, there is at least one holiday, or event, happening every month that retailers can use as a way to raise sales.

Even if retailers don’t want to promote a product or set of products, holidays also lend themselves to event opportunities, and gives them a great reason to educate your customers and provide excellent customer service.

A perfect example is Halloween. According to Market Watch by the Wall Street Journal, in 2010 people spent $220 million on pet costumes, two years later in 2012, sales increased 68 percent to $370 million on pet costumes.

Rubie’s is the world’s largest designer, manufacturer and distributor of Halloween costumes and accessories. Erin Breig, top dog at Rubie’s, said they sell products year-round, for every holiday.

“We have found people saying we need this for Mardi Gras, we need this for St. Patrick’s day, and what we realized was they were looking for was more,” Breig said. “What we looked at doing and what we are working on for next year for our new catalog, is for the other holiday’s that are lesser, but there is a lot of dressing up going on for them, such as St. Patrick’s day and Mardi Gras, they really lend themselves to accessories for people and dogs, so that’s why we are coming out with wigs and hats and bandanas; that is either in St. Patrick’s Day colors, Mardi Gras colors and birthday themes. We even started looking at Easter because we thought bunny ears would be really cute. It just doesn’t stop; I think people like to dress up for holidays.”

Breig said their customers are primarily focused on Halloween, followed by Christmas, but retailers should take advantage of the fact that people love to dress up when they celebrate.

New Year’s, St. Patrick’s Day, Mardi Gras, Cinco De Mayo, Easter, birthdays and patriotic holidays, like 4th of July, all lend to more sales in the dress up category. Also, costumes and accessories add to the fun factor and make way for great photo opportunities.

Events, Information and Safety

Penny DiLoreto, ABCDT, CPDT-KA, CTDI K9 Dog Park Owner and Head Trainer, started K9 Dog Park, of Escondido, Calif., in 2005, after being a dog breeder for over 20 years. According to DiLorento and her husband Dave, today’s retailers in the pet industry seem to do a good job of marketing seasonal or holiday products such as Halloween costumes, Christmas apparel, toys and such.

However many retailers tend to fall short in the area of informing their buyers of common holiday mistakes and dangers.

Together the DiLoretos came up with not only different products to sell during holiday’s throughout the year, but also different events or education services retailers can help provide.

“Around New Years, there is kind of a health kick going on, we try to emphasize healthy pet time as well,” David DiLoreto said. “What’s in the dog food you are feeding your pet? We focus on healthy pet foods, treats and even in some cases diets for pets.

“Valentine’s Day is always a big event for us. We have an event and dress everything up at the facility with reds and whites, just the kind of Valentine’s type of colors.”

Because a lot of pet owners are currently dressing up their pets, pet photography at their store has become a popular thing.

“We bring in photographers because people will want to dress their dogs up,” David DiLoreto said. “So we bring in pet photography. We do some specials on grooming during that time. The ladies like to get dolled up and they also like to get their animals dolled up.

“We also do some training at that point in time. What are dangerous types of things? People get chocolates; they can be very dangerous for animals. Also, if people make their own treats and if they are not careful.”

Some other suggestions by the DiLoretos were to do pet photography for St. Patrick’s Day and Easter.

For Earth Day in April, they teach customers about responsible dog ownership and owner responsibilities, such as picking up after your dog, training against barking.

As the weather gets warmer and Independence Day approaches, retailers should focus on noise concerns, and promote products like Rescue Remedy and Thunder Jacket. Also, apparel such as flag kerchiefs, collars and leashes.

In August, retailers should highlight the end of summer sales to clear out any summer related merchandise like lifejackets.

In November for Veterans Day the couple suggest hosting specialty training, such as service dog or therapy dog training, and to sponsor military events with discounts to the military personnel and donate a percentage of sales to veterans.

But, not everyone thinks holiday selling is as easy as some make it out to be.

Alex Zhardanovsky and Joe Speiser, co-founders of PetFlow said selling for the holidays is actually quite difficult in the pet industry because pets don’t care what holiday it is.

One key factor to success in taking advantage of them, is to be very specific in the way retailers send out their marketing materials and make sure it’s appealing to the pet owner.

“One of the most important factors in marketing any type of promotion is to lead the customer to the actual products being promoted, or the actual promotion,” Zhardanovsky said. “Many times, you see an email from a retailer, and when you click it, you are simply led to their homepage. The link should point to a page specifically designed for the promotion being marketed.”

Current and Future Products

Merrick Pet Care has a long heritage in bringing pets and their owner’s limited-time seasonal offerings across a range of holidays and seasons.

“We have offered seasonal can food items for dogs around Valentine’s Day, Love Potion #9, football season, Gameday Tailgate and everything in between,” Mark Sapir, vice president of marketing for Merrick, said. “Our Merrick Holiday Sausage treat box has been a huge hit as it mirrors the beef and cheese boxes that have been popular for people for the winter holidays for years.

“The seasonal items have been so popular we are engaging with consumers and retailers as part of our process with helping to develop recipes and names through contests.”

Merrick continuously sells out of their seasonal items and is even rotating back through some of the most popular and pet-preferred top sellers.

“The idea behind Merrick’s seasonal offerings was taken from what was happening in other human food categories like microbrews, coffee, etc.,” Sapir said. “We know our pets want what we want and providing them great tasting, highly nutritious, options at the right time, makes a ton of sense. Having a bit of fun celebrating during the holidays and seasons clearly resonates with pet parents. We think it allows us to surprise and delight our ultimate consumers.”

Cynthia Jenkins, founder of Temple of Dog, started the company while preparing for the first day of catholic school for her sons. The “blessing of the animals” was the first event.

“Unsure how to prepare, I jokingly designed a t-shirt that said, ‘I (paw) Jesus’ for our dog to wear,” Jenkins said. “But that day an idea was born, people’s love for their dogs and personal dogmas are not only recession-proof, but lend themselves to the perfect canvas for something light-hearted and positive to celebrate every day.”

The company launched with dog shirts that had sayings representing Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Mormonism.

“Demand has been overwhelming,” Jenkins said. “We are now expanding into bowls, leashes and cards.”

Cloud Star started in 1999, and every year it releases a holiday product for dogs.

“They have been such a hit and become such a popular product that we added two new items to our Holiday lineup for 2013,” Jen Melton, president and co-founder of Cloud Star, said. “This year, with new festive packaging designs, we now have Holiday Buddy Biscuits Gingerbread Flavor. Holiday Buddy Biscuits are not only a delicious dog treat, but all their natural ingredients make them a healthy choice for the conscious consumer who wants the best gift for their pet.”

Another suggestion Melton said was to do themed photo booths in the store.

“With a little bit of organization, a couple easy props and a fun homemade backdrop, any holiday can have its own themed pet picture station in your store in a compact footprint,” Melton said. “Pet parents can use their own camera or camera phone for some quick fun, or the retailer might offer to snap a digital picture and email it to the pet parent, along with a coupon to come back. Investing just a bit of time here will yield a lot of excitement.”

Look Around You

Another good way to cash in on non-traditional holiday is to look at what your community is interested in and take advantage of it.

This can be especially profitable when it comes to sports, and not just during the big games like Super Bowl, the World Series and March Madness. If your store is in, or near a college town, carry a few items like leashes and collars that have the local team’s logo on them.

Then, run sales and promotions, to coincide with the start of the big sports seasons like football and basketball.

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