Pet retailers who want to remain in good standing with bird owner patrons need to give stronger thought to the essential cage fixture that all birds stand on: the prized and practical perch.
That’s because the wearisome wooden dowels and plain plastic poles of yesteryear have been replaced by exciting new materials and designs intended to please the avian foot and provide tactile variety—attributes that consumers increasingly value and seek out. Stocking an array of the latest perch products will cater to these preferences.
Stand and Deliver
“Offering bird parents a variety of perches is key to creating a happy and healthy environment for pet birds,” said Jason Savitt, president of Chicago-headquartered Prevue Pet Products/Prevue Hendrix, founded in 1869. “In nature, birds perch on uneven surfaces and branches of different diameters. This helps birds to exercise their feet and promote foot health. Encouraging bird owners to provide their pet with a variety of surfaces and different size perches helps birds to stay fit and avoid getting bumblefoot.”
Melanie Allen agrees.
“Birds need a variety of perch diameters to maintain healthy muscle tone in their feet and to prevent arthritic or bumblefoot conditions. For this, natural tree branch style of perches are recommended,” said Allen, avian product specialist with The Hagen Group, the Mansfield, Massachusetts-based parent company of the HARI brand, known for its coffee wood branch side mount perches sporting irregular shapes, variable diameters and smooth-but-not-slippery surfaces. “Rope or sisal perches, meanwhile, are recommended for sleeping perches, as they provide secure footing and are easy on the bird’s feet. I like to compare this to us humans that kick off the work shoes at the end of the day and switch to our more comfortable soft slippers.”
Kimble Johnakin, co-owner of Sweet Feet & Beak in Cleveland, Georgia, says the biggest mistake retailers make in this space is stocking only a few perch sizes.
“You need a wide assortment of sizes for different species. You can’t use a small perch for a large hookbill,” said Johnakin, whose company offers four main perch lines in five sizes each: the Thermal Lite Pedicure Perch, the concrete Safety Perch, the Safety Pumice Perch and 100 percent natural manzanita perches.
Au Naturel Options
Savitt notes that today’s perches tend to emphasize what Mother Nature intends.
“Across the board, pet parents are purchasing more natural accessories and toys for their birds. Offering an array of perches inspired by birds’ natural habitats is an easy and inexpensive way to fulfill that market,” Savitt said.
Bill McGrath, consumer product analyst with Baltimore-based Caitec Corporation, the industry’s largest manufacturer of bird toys, says natural materials in vogue right now include manzanita and java/coffee wood branches and cotton and sisal rope.
“Perches offer the opportunity for easy add-on sales with a captive audience who like to refresh their bird’s environment periodically and replace old perches that become worn out,” McGrath said. “Shelf presence in this subcategory is important, which is why it pays to keep a strong inventory of perches.”
John Lance, owner of A&E Cage Company LLC in Burlington, New Jersey, agrees that “natural” is the key concept that perch makers are pushing lately.
“Today’s perches are created to encourage a bird’s natural instincts and have them feel like they are sitting on a branch out in the wilderness,” said Lance, whose company recently introduced a java wood straight perch in 10- and 14-inch lengths.
Clever shapes and attractive hues are helping to prime perch sales, too.
“People like to add in an eye-catching perch to dress up their pet’s home,” Savitt explained. “Birds love surface variety and color, and a cool-looking perch can also double as a design feature.”
Cases in point: Prevue’s Wacky Wood Lima Root perch offers a thick-and-twisty take on the traditional perch design. Additionally, the company’s Beach Walk perch line, made from ground seashells, naturally contains digestible calcium and flaunts soothing colors like lavender.
Some perches today are even being made to be edible; for proof, consider Polly’s Pet Products’ Cinnamon Cone perch, shaped like an ice cream cone.
Perches can also serve playful purposes, as evidenced by products that double as a toy: consider Super Bird Creations’ Spin-a-roo perch, with a chunky block of spinning lollipop sticks on one end; Luffy Pets’ SunGrow Rope Perch and Chew Toy, featuring a coiled spiral design with a jingling bell; JW’s Comfy Perch Cross, with four colorful strands that can be bent and twisted into various shapes; and Prevue’s Calypso Creations bamboo perch filled with colorful paper for foraging fun.
Wet and warm perches are now an option, too. As evidence of the former, Super Bird Creations makes the Fold Away Shower Perch Bird Toy, with suction cups that enable the perch to stick to your shower wall; as proof of the latter, ponder K&H’s Thermo-Perch, a thermostatically controlled perch that, when plugged in, provides warmth to a bird’s feet.
Don’t just expect perches to sell themselves. Draw attention to your set via proven merchandising methods.
“We recommend displaying all the perches together, near other cage accessories and also within various sized cages,” Savitt said. “Creating an environment in the store allows customers to visualize how their bird will interact with different perches and how the perches fit into the cage, and it helps customers envision how the ensemble will look in their home.”
Lance says it’s best to “merchandise perches by size and know which size perch will be beneficial to (the customer’s) bird. Retailers should avoid putting various sized products on the same hooks so that customers can easily identify which product and size they need.”
In addition, be sure your staff is trained to recommend the right sizes and variety of perches to shoppers.
“Also, show off different perches in your display and live animal cages, and include at least three different types of perches in your bundled cage starter kits,” Johnakin recommended.