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July 27, 2016

Word is out: cats are the official pet of the millennial generation and it’s becoming apparent that retailers need to start planning unique services they can offer to these feline fanciers.

Pet services, such as full-service grooming, dental care, boarding, training and day camps, are the fastest-growing product segment for the industry over the last five years.

According to a recent report from IBISWorld, “the emerging trend of pet parents has bolstered demand for price premium pet products and services.”

“Because pets are treated as family members, pet owners frequently lavish them with all-natural and organic pet foods and treats, in addition to high-end services,” the report reads. “As the economy continues its upward trajectory and consumers have more discretionary income, revenue from premium products and services is projected to increase.”

That’s all fine for dogs, but how do our traditionally shy cats find their place in the pet store? It turns out that there is plenty of room for our feline friends in the service industry and those who are the first to embrace this new trend will benefit the most.

Specialty Services
From in-store cafes that serve raw organic meat meals to acupuncture clinics, specialty services are where it’s at for cat owners.
Pussy & Pooch call themselves an urban oasis for pets and their people, offering a signature in-store pet cafe for modern pets. A daily selection of raw meat meals, simmered stews and meaty bones are prepared fresh to order, in addition to gourmet treats, snacks and specially designed drinks. Custom divider seating for up to three cats at once help facilitate a safe environment.

As cats move from roaming the yard to exploring cushy catios and homes designed specifically to meet their individualized needs, there is more need than ever for in-store design services.

Thanks to cat-centric designers like Kate Benjamin of Hauspanther working with feline behaviorists like Jackson Galaxy, environmental enrichment (referred to as “catification” by the pair) is going mainstream with more consumers seeking out feline-friendly designs they can easily integrate into their homes.

Retailers have a unique opportunity to implement these products into store design to demonstrate unique ways to help pet owners maximize their home environment. Innovate by offering in-store design services or virtual workshops and webinars. This will translate into an opportunity for the sale of unique products from smaller manufacturers, giving the smaller retail stores a leg up in this segment.

Social media will continue to be the key to driving traffic into stores. The millennial generation is one of the most informed, and with easy access to internet and online data, it’s important to give them a reason to come into your brick and mortar store.
This can be accomplished by encouraging nutritionists to visit and offer in-store classes, training seminars, and even having a room designed specifically for feline agility courses, play areas, or even adoption centers where cat owners can try out new toys and products.

Be sure to consider loyalty programs and take advantage of the ability to offer food and treat samples from distributors.

Grooming As a Mainstay
There will always be room for full-service grooming services. However, as most cats are notoriously shy of water, there should be plenty of options available for calming cats, as well as providing stress-free environments.

For example, Petsmart now offers grooming services for cats that include aromatherapy to help keep cats calm during and after services. The package includes avocado, sunflower and lavender oils and lemongrass extract, which help soften the skin and relieve dryness.

Offering nail trims and nail caps application not only help encourage proper care, but can help educate cat owners that declawing procedures are cruel and unnecessary.

Cat Cafes
For the cat-centric store, there are plenty of opportunities in the cat cafe market. The industry is experiencing extraordinary growth worldwide.

Cat Town Cafe in Oakland, California, was the first to open in the U.S. in late 2013. Since that time, dozens of other cat cafes have begun operation across the U.S., from California to New York.

Fan favorites include Meow Parlour in New York City, where cat loving patrons can rent time to relax with dozens of free-roaming cats or just have a bite to eat in the Meow Parlour Patisserie with a furry friend.

Koneko cat cafe is another great locale, offering Asian-style refreshments in a relaxing bar devoted to those who enjoy watching cats but not necessarily interacting. Large windows allow patrons to enjoy a glass of sake while watching cats play. For the adventurous, enter the two-story cat condo and interact with lucky rescue cats who lounge around both indoors and on their outdoor patio. If you happen to make a special connection with one or more, the cats are all adoptable.

The cat cafe concept is quickly being applied to other species, with dog adoption cafes opening as well. In Japan, the founders of the cat cafe concept continue to innovate and now patrons can find dog, owl, turtle, reptile and even falcon cafes across the country.

Focusing on the Cat Owner
Services don’t have to be the only thing you offer, but specific events for cat lovers are something you should add to your calendar. These include cat-centric book signings with local celebrities and authors. Design services can be easily offered in workshops or in the customer’s own home, by partnering with cat-centric designers.

Health screenings, vaccination days, and services focused on specific “holidays” (such as “National Dental Week” or “Hairball Awareness Day”) are easy to support and can draw into your store people who normally wouldn’t be there.

Other events that stores should look into include CPR certification courses, behavioral consultations, cat yoga classes and more. The only limit to what your store can offer is your imagination.

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