March 14, 2017

The internet is a dominant sales platform. For a brick-and-mortar retailer, that means one needs to be as knowledgeable as possible about what you’re selling and why customers visit your store. If all you’re doing is selling merchandise, your business will not survive; what you have to sell is your expertise, providing credible advice that will help customers succeed.

Pricing your products according to market value and being a professional in your field will tip the balance in your favor when dealing one-on-one with a customer. No matter how easy a website is to navigate, its customer service is limited to remote contact. Even in this high-tech retail environment, personal interaction will give you an edge.

When deciding on the products to stock and prices to charge, be aware that there are five important categories of products that you should consider. If you divide your inventory into these categories and order accordingly, you’re bound to increase your sales and keep your customers satisfied at the same time.

“Demand items” are products that customers ask for regularly. These products include consumables like pet food or supplements. Demand items are often price-sensitive and may not yield full margins, but they do draw customers into your store where you can offer other more profitable products or services. Secure a main and secondary supplier for demand items to ensure they’re always in stock. Running out of a demand item can cost you customers if they feel they need a necessity item and are forced to go elsewhere to find it.

“Unique items” are products that are not substitutable. You can realize better margins on unique products because they are not as price-sensitive. These products include replacement parts, pet clothing, specialized animal training items and such custom-made products as specialty aquariums, cat furniture and dog houses.

“Completer items” are products that are required to complete a project or make other products work. Without these items, other items may not sell. These products could include accessories for bird or dog cages, replacement parts for equipment, cartridges for aquarium filters, etc. Completer items are what set you apart from big-box stores that only stock high-volume items. Completer items may not move as fast as other merchandise but can be the difference between customer satisfaction and disappointment.

“Profit items” are products that have an established price. They can be minimum advertised pricing (MAP)-protected by the manufacturer or have an established price that the consumer expects to pay. MAP protected items are a growing category that some manufacturers enforce because they want to continue to see a healthy retail showroom for their products. Retailers should consider gravitating toward manufacturers who support MAP protection whenever possible.

“Seasonal items” are products that sell at certain times of the year. Examples of these are flea-and-tick items, holiday products and winter clothing. If you don’t have them in stock at the right time, you can’t sell them. It’s true that seasonal items have a time sensitive value—once the season or event has passed, the product value is greatly reduced. Some suppliers will guarantee the sale for customers with good track records and will take back unsold seasonal inventories, which allows the retailer to reinvest in new inventory rather than sit on seasonal products until the next year.

Not all products and brands can be priced the same—not if you want to survive in the ever-changing pet industry marketplace. Try categorizing your pricing formulas and see how it works for you. Consumers only want to spend a portion of their ready cash and will go elsewhere if they can’t find it in your store. Profit is relative—you can mark it up, but can you sell it?

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