April 1, 2016

Standing and walking all day in a pet store can certainly lead to retailer foot fatigue. But just imagine wrapping your bare feet around the same type of perch for 24 hours a day—that would be both painful and monotonous. Now ask yourself: How many different varieties of perches do you stock as well as use in your live cage displays? If you can count the number using less than a few toes, you owe it to your customers—and to the birds you sell—to expand your perch offerings.

The good news is that the modern perch won’t leave you in the lurch. There are more new products offered in eye-catching shapes, hues and beneficial materials than ever before. The bad news is that you’re probably going to have to promote this segment heavier than you anticipated, as many shoppers don’t give much thought to upgrading the simplistic sticks that come standard with their pet’s cage.

Yesterday’s boring (and foot-unfriendly) wood dowel perches are taking a back seat to modern perch products, which now are grouped into several main categories: sisal and cotton rope perches, some of which bend and provide softer surfaces and different sizes and shapes; natural wood perches derived from species like Java and manzanita; toy perches, such as wooden/rope ladders and perch swings; therapeutic perches that assist in trimming a bird’s beak and nails; and specialty perches, including window or shower types that can be suctioned to glass or tile.

Melanie K. Allen, avian product specialist with Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp. in Mansfield, Mass., said retailers should encourage pet owners to equip their cages with at least three different kinds of perches in an effort to provide safety, security and comfort to avian companions.

“One type should be perches from natural tree branches, meaning safe woods with no pesticides or chemical residuals,” Allen said. “Another should be perches with rope-type surfaces for comfort and to prevent pododermatitis (bumblefoot). The third are utility-type perches, such as a grooming perch.”

Bari Jasper, manager for Paterson Bird Store in Totowa, N.J., is partial to concrete perches.

“They’re popular in our store because they’re often best for keeping the nails trimmed and beaks sharpened. Concrete perches are more expensive than typical dowel perches, but consumers seem to be moving away from those,” Jasper said. “They also realize that birds’ feet need exercise, which is why grapewood and manzanita perches are also in demand—they provide a more natural feel for the bird.”

Branching Out

Manufacturers continue to invigorate this space with fun designs. Two newer examples include the Comfy Clam Flat Mineral Perch by Polly’s Pet Products, made from calcium sulfate and kelp and resembling a green or pink pastel-colored wide seashell that can be installed vertically or horizontally; and Prevue Pet Products’ Calypso Creations Hide and Seek Foraging Perch, a sturdy and eco-friendly bamboo perch that can be filled with treats, nesting materials or shreddable fibers and which boasts a tapered diameter to promote foot health. Kaytee offers a similar product: the Forage-N-Play Perch.

Twistable and customizable perches continue to capture consumer attention. Cases in point:

Shelf-style platform perches that mount in corners or cage sides are plentiful nowadays, too. Examples include A&E Cage Co.’s Corner Rest Shelf (shaped like a pie wedge), the horseshoe-shaped hardwood Skywalk by Oliver’s Garden Bird Toys, and Prevue Pet Products’ portable Patio Perches & Sun Decks.

Natural rope perches provide needed exercise-stimulating opportunities for birds. Hagen’s Living World Rustic Treasures Swinging Perch features self-sustaining abaca rope that is easy to grip, allowing birds to exercise feet and leg muscles while balancing on a perch that swings.

Get a Wing Up
To ramp up sales of perches and other afterthought bird accessories, consider providing new and existing bird owner customers with a checklist of products needed, Allen suggested.

“Also, all cages in your store should have a variety of perches in them,” Allen said. “This makes it a bit easier for customers to see how the perch is used and for a sales staff associate to reference a particular product when assisting a customer.”

Jasper said that while today’s shopper is better educated when it comes to staple products like bird food, they’re not necessarily up on the latest bird perch offerings and materials. This presents an important opportunity for retailers to educate patrons about the pros and cons of different perch products and suggest the right choice for the customer’s owned species.

“We hang our perches up versus putting them in bins,” Jasper said. “When hung up and displayed, customers can better see all the features of the product, like the natural nubs and textures, and it’s easier for us to explain the benefits of the product than digging through a pile.”

She uses a pegboard to hang and display her perches for sale and increase visibility and product differentiation.

But bird owners can’t be educated if your staff lacks the same know-how. Be sure to teach your crew the difference between perches and their various benefits, which products to recommend and how to properly place perches in cages.

“For example, the most common perch placed incorrectly is a grooming perch, sometimes used as the only perch or the highest one in the cage,” Allen said. “At night, birds instinctively roost at the highest level available, but a grooming perch’s surface is too rough for a bird to sit on for great lengths of time. Staff should know that the ideal spot for a grooming or utility perch is near the door, so that when the bird exits his cage to either climb out or step up onto a person’s hand, his toe nails will graze that perch.”

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