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February 27, 2015

Like the floor you’re standing on, it’s easy to overlook—and underestimate—the most common surface a bird’s feet touches. And without smart merchandising encouragement from proactive pet store owners, it’s likewise easy for customers to pay little mind to perches.

The days of the mundane horizontal dowel perch are long gone; today’s modern perches can add color, texture and stimulation to a bird’s environment, prevent foot problems and add relevance and interest to the not-so-sexy accessory category.

“Nowadays, there is better education and information available to and for bird owners who are primarily looking for ways to keep their birds healthy,” said Brittany Green, assistant product manager with Petmate. “And promoting leg and foot health is a top concern.”
From Stick Figures to Three-Dimensional Merchandise

In response, manufacturers in recent years have produced an increasing assortment of perch products, as well as new categories in this space, including:

Natural wood perches wrought from species like manzanita and Java.

Sisal and cotton rope perches, many of which are bendable and offer softer surfaces and different sizes and shapes.

Therapeutic perches that aid in trimming a bird’s nails and beak.

Toy perches, among them perch swings and wooden/rope ladders.

Specialty perches, such as shower perches that can be affixed on a shower wall for clean, wet fun.

The newest category of them all is the portable perch, created exclusively by Caitec. The recently released Percher, shaped like a cone, provides an innovative means to interact with avian friends while also avoiding bites and droppings. Easily assembled and reconfigured as either a hand-held device or a free-standing perch that can rest on a table, The Percher allows owners to train new birds without pain or mess.

“It provides six different configurations and is very convenient, especially for owners who are going through that transitional period when they’re trying to tame and calm a bird they’ve just acquired,” said Terry Gao, president of Caitec Corporation.

Scratching the Surface of Possibilities

Perches lined with different textures and alternating in shape and thickness continue to remain popular. One good example is Petmate’s Insight Sand Perch, ideal for cockatiels, parakeets and similarly sized birds. It features varying diameters across the length of the perch that help exercise foot muscles, and it has a sandy coating that assists in safely wearing down nails.

Claudia Hunka, owner of Your Basic Bird in Berkeley, Calif., cited the Beach Branch by Prevue Pacific Perch as another example of a curiously textured but not-too-rough perch that is loved by birds and owners alike. This 7-inch-long item, boasting uneven surfaces and thicknesses, helps manicure nails and beaks via digestible ground calcium and real seashells.

“The only disadvantage to perches like these is that they can feel cold to the bird in colder climates, so it’s important to advise customers about this,” said Hunka, whose biggest perch sellers are the natural manzanita and Java wood perches she stocks in oversized buckets.

Exotic birds that get cold feet can benefit from a tried-and-true heated product like K & H’s Thermo-Perch, which plugs into an electrical outlet and offers thermostatically controlled safe and therapeutic warmth to help keep the animal’s body temperature between 104 and 106 degrees Fahrenheit. The bird simply picks the spot on the stick that offers the warmth it needs.

Hunka said it’s crucial for retailers, especially bird specialty stores, to carry a healthy selection of perch products that cater to increased consumer demand for diversity today.

“Offer them lots of variety,” said Hunka. “Also, consider stocking some of these products behind the front counter to catch the eye at checkout and get the shopper’s attention better.”

Green recommends cross-merchandising perches with cages and other essential bird products.

“Keep perches top of mind to the consumer so they are more enticed to make an add-on purchase,” she said. “Install perches and accessories in the empty cages you assemble, as well as the live bird cages you have, to give the consumer a visual representation of how these products will look and function in their homes.”

Finally, retailers should educate customers on proper selection and placement of perches inside a cage as overcrowding the cage with too many perches, especially perches of the same material, can be detrimental. The animal should always be able to extend his wings without being obstructed by a perch. Additionally, stress the importance of stocking the cage with perches of varying textures and widths to promote healthy feet.

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