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April 30, 2015

Curvy, Compact and Colorful

Consider recent innovative entries in the cage category that are capturing the attention of consumers and retailers alike. For example, BioBubble Pets won a Best in Show award at last year’s SuperZoo national trade show for its customizable small animal habitat, which provides a creative alternative to square glass and wire. This clever new product, called the BioBubble Terra, sports a circular unibody base that anchors a clear acrylic enclosure onto which stackable accessories can be added vertically—such as a BioBubble Bungalow, fitted with a deck, washable hammock and exercise ladder, all ideal for hamsters, gerbils and other small critters.

Lightweight portability has also been added to the mix in recent years, thanks to products like the Small Pals Pen by Hagen’s Living World. While it’s more fitting for wee pets like mice, and as a holding area more than a full-time cage, this pen features a solid molded structure that offers ample ventilation, a secure snap-locking lid with breakaway hinges and rounded edges for quick cleaning, and a built-in hole for easy air tubing.

A wider array of colorful and playful designs abound in 2015 as well, as evidenced by items like JW Pet Company’s PetVille Habitats, available in six configurations. One of them, the Roll-A-Coaster, looks and functions like a pet amusement park—complete with a second-story loft, petting pod, dwarf hamster tube attachments and a spinning wheel that rolls along a track, which enables gerbils, hamsters and mice to quietly glide to and fro atop the cage in two directions. Another example is Kaytee’s Barn Habitat—also celebrated at SuperZoo 2014—which showcases a farm-themed, red-and-green appearance and a functional silo that holds and dispenses timothy hay.

Building a Better Mouse Pad

Additionally, many cages today boast attributes that are more “improved” than “new,” including welded bar designs, industrial strength screw-in casters for easy moving and veterinarian-approved, nontoxic, powder-coated finishes that resist chewing.

“Our customer base that sells and promotes rabbits, guinea pigs and hedgehogs is moving away from all-indoor wire caging, the old standard of wire caging, which is not as aesthetically pleasing or as easy to maintain as the newer plastic bases that are 4 to 8 inches tall and allow for a totally washable surface,” said John Lance, owner of A&E Cage Company, LLC. “The portion of our customer base promoting the more exotic species, such as chinchillas, sugar gliders and prairie dogs, are trending to the powder-coated all-metal cage construction, which is better suited to deal with the constant chewing that is typical of these species.”

Two things never go out of style when it comes to cages: space and value, which continue to be the focus of pet store patrons, according to Brad Forgette, executive vice president with Marchioro USA, makers of various cages and accessories for hamsters, mice, cavies, rabbits and other small mammals.

“Consumers seem to be looking for larger habitats that provide more bang for the buck,” said Forgette. “Today’s trend is more about open space and functional habitats.”

Linda Cope, global marketing manager for Marshall Pet Products said pet owners nowadays are also increasingly furnishing their small animal enclosures with more accessories and toys to enhance stimulation and social interaction. Case in point: Marshall’s new Bear Rug, which includes six openings to tunnel in and out of, as well as a place to sleep.

“Adding accessories to your habitat displays is a good way to promote the products you’re selling,” Cope recommends. “Combining certain themed accessories, like our Pirate Hat hideaway and hanging Pirate Ship for ferrets, can also increase sales since pet owners like to accessorize their pets’ habitats with a theme.”

Furr-ific Merchandising

While a greater variety of small animal habitats is available in 2015 than ever before, that doesn’t mean customers will necessarily be eager to buy.

“It’s not easier to sell these products today because space for this category is declining at all pet stores, making it harder to merchandise,” said Forgette. “Consumers are looking at packaging and retail clerks for the answers.”

Forgette’s advice for the best sales success?

“Don’t carry what every store in every channel is selling. Look to offer originality and unique products,” he said.
Lance said showcasing cage display models and using appropriate caging for species for sale within the store is the best marketing practice for selling cages.

“The days of looking at a cleverly designed box are in the past. Customers want to be able to touch, see and feel the quality of a product before they purchase it,” said Lance. “Also, at a time when customers have the ability to purchase online, having an educated staff at the local store is still very successful.”

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