But before one starts planning purchase orders for specific trinkets, it’s advised to think of the beak: In other words, understand the natural instincts of birds and how they play and interact within their environment.
“Birds are flock animals and are naturally social; they thrive on interaction between other birds when in the wild,” said Emilye Schmale, corporate communications manager for Petmate, the manufacturer of JW Pet Company bird products. “In captivity, pet birds need objects and toys in their environment that will stimulate them both mentally and physically.”
According to Melanie K. Allen, avian product specialist with Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp., a bird toy should always serve a function—whether it provides a mental challenge, exercise, visual stimulation, chewing or comfort.
“Pet birds are often challenged with obesity due to the rich diets pet owners offer and lack of exercise,” Allen said. “That’s why the most popular with pet owners and birds alike are toys that double up on both physical activity and foraging activity.”
Foraging toys fit the bill so well, in fact, that manufacturers have broadened this subcategory to include three different levels of foraging products: beginner, intermediate and advanced.
An example of the latter is Caitec’s Food Tumbler—a clear, polycarbonate, flower-shaped feeder with a tube (adjustable to increase/decrease foraging difficulty) that a bird spins around to get the treat inside.
It’s no secret that the predominant trend in bird toys continues to be merchandise made from natural, self-sustaining materials that utilize all-natural, organic, non-dyed and renewable materials such as bamboo, coconut shell, rubberwood, sisal rope, banana stem rope, and coffee tree wood.
Hagen’s Living World Nature’s Treasures line includes two attention-grabbing toys comprised of all-natural materials: the Bamboo Foraging Tube, a multi-colored, hand-made product conducive to chewing and foraging (without containing any glue, rubber, latex or toxic chemicals); and the Bungee Play, an interactive perch made from crunchy cotton-covered sisal ropes that are safe to chew.
Muscles and Mirrors
In addition, there’s been a proliferation of toys that encourage enhanced cardio fitness and rugged play. A perfect example of this is Prevue Pet Products’ Naturals Gorilla Bird Toy, a hanging jungle gym that promotes scrappy and playful behavior thanks to natural sisal and banana stem ropes, coconut shells, bamboo and mangrove wood.
Lastly, mirror toys are ideal for entertaining birds by creating a feeling of social interaction, particularly beneficial for birds living solo in the cage. Three JW Activitoy products in this realm are the Double Axis, a double-sided rotating mirror toy; the Hall of Mirrors, featuring differently shaped mirrors positioned to reflect multiple images of the bird; and the Disco Ball, a hanging trinket, fashioned just like the kind pet owners sashay under at nightclubs.
To keep best sellers in place and ensure that customers return and remain engaged, stores need to regularly introduce new items to the mix.
“Place new [bird toy] items in a visible area and promote them so that they have the opportunity to gain traction,” said Caterina Novotny, director of sales and marketing for Prevue Pet Products. “Customers want to find their favorite items, but also enjoy the retail experience of discovering something fresh and new.”
Most importantly, infuse a store’s section with a variety of toys.
“In a 24-inch by 24-inch set we just did for a full-line store, we had a total of 14 toys—large, medium, small and extra small. We covered wood destructible, plastic toys, foraging toys and a medium sized rope toy, too,” said Terry Gao, president of Caitec Corporation. “You need to have what your clients need so that they will come back to your store.”
When merchandising bird toys, or any pet product, it is important to display items in a way that makes them easily categorized and navigable.
For stores that need help in deciding what to carry, planograms (often provided by manufacturers and distributors), indicating where specific retail items should be situated on displays or shelves, can come in handy.
“[Planograms] take the guesswork out of the bird category while still allowing stores complete flexibility to build their section with items that work well with their specific customer base,” Novotny said.
Furthermore, recommend to customers that they trade out toys out periodically to provide interest.
“Suggest to your customers that they keep a ‘toy box’ specifically for toy rotation,” Allen said. “If a toy remains in the cage, it becomes ‘cage furniture’ and ignored after a while. Taking it out and moving it to another place in either the cage or perhaps the play gym creates a new stimulating experience for the [bird].”
Creative retailers should also consider spotlighting a designated “toy of the week” or “toy of the month.”
“By changing up the featured toy and utilizing social media to stay in the customer’s face, this creates interest as well as repeat business,” said Allen.