BY: Amy Castro
The holidays are over and, for some, the winter blues have set in. At this time of year, many of your customers don’t want to venture out in the cold unless they must. Therefore, you need to give them a reason to leave home and shop in person.
Coupons and Discounts
Even though you probably ran holiday specials, now’s not the time to stop. Customers are feeling the pain of holiday overspending, so use this to your advantage by lowering the price of “necessities” they’ll buy in January and February. The Pet Business Professor John Gibbons, says retailers should focus on products that make being a pet parent easier and improve the quality of life for both people and pets.
“During winter months, many pets spend more time indoors,” Gibbons said. “With increased indoor time, pets need to be kept occupied. Toys, especially chew toys can move from being a priority to being a necessity.”
When pet parents do venture out with their pets, it’s likely going to be cold and wet or snowy. Megan Trombley, store manager of Urban Tails Pet Supplies in Minneapolis, said in 2018 that her store didn’t see a slowdown until February or March because people were still coming in and buying coats and boots for their dogs.
She also said her store continues to offer sales on seasonal items, in-store only specials and events to keep people coming in. Others have found success offering coupons that are only good for January or February.
Finally, the post-holiday months are a great time to check your inventory for items that didn’t sell well over the holidays and discount them. For those items that are already on sale and still aren’t selling, consider creating a “clearance” section in each aisle.
BOGO and Bundling
According to spending surveys done by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics and Census Bureau, in any given week 28.4 million U.S. households spend money on their pets and 23.1 million spend money on pet food and treats.
“The second fact concerning food is key,” Gibbons noted. “No matter how many ‘presents’ customers bought their pet for Christmas, they will be back in the store within four weeks to buy food. With the move to super premium foods, this interval is edging closer to three weeks.”
This regular need may cause customers to think about shopping online to avoid frequent trips to the store. Therefore, give them an incentive to buy more products now to save a trip next month. One option is to offer BOGO (Buy One Get One) on necessities.
For example, offering a bag of dog food or cat litter for the regular price and a discount on a second identical item. Bundling items also encourages customers to buy more now and save a trip. A “Winter Warmer” bundle with a coat, boots and heated blanket not only sets you up to sell more products, but is also a convenience for your customers. For those who got a new pet for the holidays, you could create a kitten or puppy starter bundle that includes appropriate food, bowls, brushes and other necessities for a new pet owner.
If you or your team is creative, get brainstorming on bundling options. Just yesterday in a local store I saw a “Takeout Sushi,” bundle with a fish-shaped bowl, fish-flavored treats and a fish-shaped toy all packaged up in a big takeout box.
New Year’s Resolutions
Every year “getting healthy” and “getting organized” top the list of New Year’s resolutions. With this in mind, you can help your customers achieve their goals and get them into your store in the process.
To help customers and their pets get fit, you could create a “Fit You, Fit Pet” display with dog walking and dog exercise products. With many pet-human fitness classes and groups cropping up around the country, consider starting a class in your store if you have the space. If you don’t, you can facilitate opportunities for your customers to gather by creating a dog walking group.
All you need to do to get started is to provide a sign-up system and of course, route options that begin and end at your store. To achieve your customers’ “get organized” resolutions, create a “Clear the Clutter” promotion whereby customers can bring in gently used pet toys, supplies and clothing they no longer need that you’ll then donate to a local shelter or rescue. For those who donate, you can offer a discount or coupon for something else they do need.
Once the holiday decorations have been packed away, your business might be looking a little dull heading into January. If a retail space isn’t attractive or eye-catching, customers will be less likely to buy. If you haven’t already done so, do some homework on visual merchandising and retail displays.
Regardless of whether your space is big or small, you need to make the most of it. Start by assessing how your space is used, your signage, displays, entrance and view from the curb and look for opportunities to change things up. Think along the lines of clean, logically organized, clutter-free, simple and eye catching.
Since food is often the main item people are looking for in your store and if you’re smart, you’re putting it in the back of your store.
“Customers must walk past a number of floor displays and endcaps to reach their goal,” Gibbons said. “Make sure they are full, well merchandised and relevant.”
All your ideas for keeping customers coming in during winter months will only work if your customers know about them. If you haven’t previously had an active social media marketing program, now is a great time to get posting. The odds are, many of your customers are on Facebook. If you have a younger demographic, Twitter or Instagram might be the way to go. Shoot for a goal of three to four posts per week to keep your business “front of mind” for your customers.
If social media isn’t your thing, consider giving the responsibility to one of your staff members who is social media savvy. Additionally, be sure your customers know where to find you on social media. Have your information posted in your store and on flyers or receipts. Then, encourage people to follow you by offering incentives and specials to social media followers.
Finally, when you post, remember that no one likes to follow a business that’s all about selling. People want content that is fun, helpful and informational, too. Therefore, try to follow the 80/20 rule for selling-related posts.
For every 10 articles you post, only two should be an “ask” or push for business. The others should be fun or informative pet-related posts designed to bring in new followers.