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December 12, 2016

Busy consumers are constantly on the lookout for dummy-proof pets that are relatively inexpensive. That’s where softbills like finches and canaries fit a nice niche. Crested, red factor and bright yellow canaries as well as zebra, society and Gouldian finches and their family are low maintenance, colorful and compact. Depending on the species, they also are capable of breaking out into beautiful song.

Hence, they can make great companions for first-time and on-the-go owners and great options for your pet store—whether you choose to carry a live canary/finch inventory or just the products tailored for them.

“Finches and canaries are picking up momentum as perfect pet birds for more folks simply because they fill the home with very pleasant songs and are relatively easy to care for,” said Melanie K. Allen, avian product specialist with Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp. in Mansfield, Massachusetts. “This is especially good for folks who have busy lives, yet want to share their homes with a pet bird.”

Tim Norsen, national sales manager for Bowling Green, Ohio-headquartered Vitakraft Sun Seed, Inc., adds that, unlike many parrot species, the availability of canaries and finches remains strong.

“These species and varieties provide a very affordable way for the consumer to enter the bird hobby,” Norsen said. “While the level of physical interaction is very low with these birds, they are very enjoyable and rewarding pet birds.”

Keep it Calm
Allen says that finches, especially Gouldians, can stress easily, so it’s important to maintain a Yellow canary on its perchzen-like, peaceful ambience in live cages and the surrounding department within your store.

“They do well with as close to a natural environment as possible,” Allen said.

“The days of putting a dozen finches or canaries in a large, empty square cage are gone,” said Gerry Brostek, chief operating officer for Hauppauge, New York-based Penn-Plax. “Greater consumer response is generated by cages that include not just the livestock, but also the toys, mirrors, ladders, swings and bells that you are trying to sell.”

Brostek’s golden rule for retailers? He says it’s to make sure you keep the cages clean and that your birds look healthy.

“This may seem obvious, but we still see stores that skimp on cleaning and which display birds in dusty, dirty cages—which does not encourage the consumer to purchase,” he said.

Enclosures and Edibles
When it comes to cages, it’s important to stock a variety of avian habitats from which shoppers can choose and which are appropriately sized for canaries and finches. Popular wares in this sub-category include the Avian Adventures Nina Birdcage by MidWest Homes for Pets, which includes innovative interlocking panels that enable quick and easy no-tools assembly, interchangeable slide out pans, bird-proof locking latches and either a dometop or playtop; Preview Pet Products’ new Crown Top Cage and Stand, which features a large-hinged front access door, removable bottom grill and pull-out debris tray, and integrated floor stand; and A&E Cage Co.’s Economy Finch Cage with a white ornate top, equipped with slide-up front door and feeder doors, two plastic feeding stations, and a non-toxic durable and safe powder-coated finish.

The most important merchandise in this space is the edible kind.

“Historically, diets for softbills have been extremely simple, sometimes only containing a small variety of seeds and grains and often without effective methods of vitamin and mineral fortification,” Norsen said. “Happily, this trend has changed and many of the diets available today contain a wide variety of seeds, fortified pellets, fruits, vegetables and additional insects providing a high level of nutrition.”

Case in point: Vitakraft’s Vita Prima Canary & Finch Formula, a nutritionally fortified diet with Omega 3s, vitamins A, D and E, probiotics, calcium and no artificial preservatives. Other brands that boast healthy and natural ingredients include eCOTRITION’s Essential Blend for Canaries & Finches, fortified with vitamins, minerals, probiotics, fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts; Kaytee’s Forti-Diet Pro Songbird: Canary & Finch, nutritionally formulated to provide singing birds what they need to make beautiful music; Lafeber’s Premium Daily Diet for Canaries or for Finches—both of which are naturally preserved and flavored, balanced with Omega 3 and 6 and free of artificial food colors and dyes; Goldenfeast’s Premium Canary Food Australian Blend, complete with a tasty blend of fruits, herbs, spices, bee pollen, probiotics, hemp seeds and vegetables; and F.M. Brown’s Sons Tropical Carnival Canary & Finch Food, filled with papaya, peanuts and canary and millet seed.

It’s also smart to bolster your canary and finch offerings with a wide array of cage accessories, including mirrors, perches, food and water dishes, toys, treats and multivitamin formulas. One new product in that last domain is Kordon’s Oasis Vita E-Z Mist for Small Birds, which sprays directly onto food items, including seed or pelleted diets, and boosts the nutrition levels of fresh fruits and veggies.

Boosting Bird Sales
When it comes to marketing and merchandising these products to ensure a healthy bird and happy bird owners, it’s of vital importance to carefully consider ideal placement.

“I would recommend displaying any related products next to the live finches and canaries you sell and using some of these products in-store, showing your customers that the birds love them,” said Stephanie Carbaugh, marketing and design assistant for F.M. Brown’s Sons, Inc. in Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania.

“Cross-merchandising with feed, toys and accessories serves as a silent salesman while saving space,” said Tara Whitehead, director of marketing and communications for MidWest Homes for Pets in Muncie, Indiana. “It also allows the customer to interact with the product and view its features and attributes.”

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