They may be minuscule compared to the majestic size of a large hookbill, but what they lack in size, they more than make up for in value. That’s because finches and canaries serve as great low maintenance pets that can add color, cheerful chirping and melodic mirth to any home.
And that’s music to the ears of a smart merchant, who, with the right retail strategies, can capitalize on the compact form and unique characteristics of these softbills to woo customers.
“Pet owners buy smaller birds like canaries and finches to not only bring beauty into their lives, but also to add to the design of their homes. And the melodic song of a canary and some finches also adds to the ambience of the room in contrast to a bigger, louder bird,” said Jason Savitt, president of Prevue Pet Products in Chicago.
A Bird in the Hand
Mark Roth, owner of Bird Fever, a pet bird store in Indianapolis, is such a firm believer in finches and canaries (technically, the latter are finches, too) that he carries up to 200 for sale on any given day, with prices ranging from $5 to $150 each.
“They’re not my biggest sellers, but it’s important to have canaries and finches because they are great starter birds at a very low price point. Plus, they cater to a number of different pet owners,” Roth said. “For example, my finch buyers tend to be older— sometimes single or married without children. These kinds of folks often like tropical fish but want more of an interactive pet.”
Roth’s canary buyers, on the other hand, “tend to be single and older women who prefer a male canary that sings. Our three busiest times of the year for canary sales are Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.”
Susanne Cochran, owner of Avalon Aviary Bird Store in Loveland, Colorado, says that, although finches and canaries require a sizable flight cage in which to spread their wings, their small size and less-noisy bird attributes make them ideal for many a pet owner.
“These include apartment dwellers, busy urban professionals and older buyers seeking a companion,” Cochran said. “If your store is in a market that serves these types of customers, it makes sense to offer finches and canaries and related supplies. These owners tend to be very loyal and provide good repeat business.”
Roth’s pricier finches include custom-bred color mutations and “rainbow” Gouldians, which retail for $100 and up and provide a nice profit margin. But plenty of patrons also opt for lower-cost zebra or society finches, which are less colorful but reliably social and are recommended to be sold in pairs. Canaries, meanwhile, are typically sold solo because they’re more territorial.
The best sources for these birds are local trustworthy breeders, according to experts.
“We mainly deal with area hobbyists. Over the years, I’ve gotten people interested in breeding and raising finches, and then I buy the birds back from them,” Roth stated. “The more people I can partner with, the better selection I can provide to shoppers.”
Clinch the Finch Deal
Creating a finch-friendly environment in your store can encourage customers to get started in the birding hobby, notes Savitt, who recommends offering bundled starter kit deals and discounts to entice beginners.
“Plus, these beautiful and colorful singers will add ambience to your store, showcasing how the birds will fit in any home,” Savitt added.
Cochran is careful to keep male canaries grouped together in one large cage for easy identification. Society finches are housed in a separate jumbo habitat. The key to making these birds happy and bolstering sales, she says, is to showcase the latest products in the cages and point out these goods to your clientele.
“I make sure there are plenty of swings, natural perches and toys all around the cage,” said Cochran, who also owns TLC Bird Toys, which specializes in using natural materials in its products. “Finches and canaries love to preen, pull on and interact with a variety of toys beyond the typical hard plastic ones. I particularly like the products made by Planet Pleasures and Super Bird Creations, including its Curly Gurly and Polly Preener toys, with its natural vines, brightly colored paper shred, and colorful stretchy spiral cut straws.”
Jason Bohannon, sales manager for Cleveland, Georgia-based Sweet Feet & Beak—maker of a number of bird accessories—also suggests choosing items featuring more natural materials.
“Our line of Pizza Party toys have been really popular with the finch crowd, as its shredded craft tissue paper makes a great natural nesting material for the birds,” Bohannon said.
Food and Shelter
As far as edibles go, it’s wise to stock an assortment of daily diet brands.
“We carry Vitakraft Sunseed Vita Prima Sunscription Canary and Finch Formula, Quiko Classic Egg Food, and finch and canary diets by Abba,” Roth said.
Other worthy names in this arena include Volkman’s Avian Science Super Finch mix and Canary Seed diet; Kaytee Forti-Diet Pro Health Canary and Finch Food; and Brown’s Tropical Carnival ZOO-VITAL Canary and Finch advanced extruded daily diet.
Likewise, providing a plethora of enclosure SKUs is a good idea. Cochran says she stocks cages from such manufacturers as YML, King’s Cages and Prevue Pet Products. In addition, MidWest Homes for Pets is known for its Loro line of flight bird cages, featuring interlocking panels for quick assembly, a removable roof with a top grate, and bird-proof locking latches. Another company, A&E Cage Company, makes a House Top birdcage that’s considered perfect for finches and canaries, boasting a white base, green roof and green stand. And Living World’s Royal Bird Cage showcases an eye-catching rounded design and colorful accessories.
“Avoid selling cages that are not an appropriate fit for the bird. It’s not about the size of the cage; it’s about the wire spacing, which is crucial for the safety of finches and canaries,” said Savitt, who recommends 3/8-inch wire spacing for finches and 1/2-inch wire spacing for canaries.