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How 3 Lines Can Turn You Into a Merchandising Pro

Anyone can create great window displays.

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At left, a basic pyramid of dog food bags. Note the additional bags serving as risers. At right, black and white is always impactful and says “fashion.” A scratching post makes a great framework for displaying product.

This story was originally published in the January 2018 edition of PETS+.

IT DOESN’T TAKE a professional visual person to do great window and in-store displays. The reality is, anyone can do it. Visual people all follow the same guidelines, which is how they’re able to do great displays in very little time. You can make professional level displays yourself, if you just learn some of the basic rules.

With the exception of apparel, all merchandise visual is based on the “pyramid concept.” Pyramids are used in windows, on tables and valances.

Arrange three pieces of product in a tiered configuration, with each item at a different level. This is your pyramid; a tall central element with a two of three shorter items around it. The buildup has height and brings the display closer to eye level. This is just the start, as you’ll add additional items later to fill out the display. But it’s always the pyramid configuration you’re going for.

A display needs to read from a distance. Itsy-bitsy items create clutter, and aren’t visually compelling. They can be used however, if they are used in quantity — multiples create a larger visual presence. You can also use risers to increase the height of a product. Simple risers are available from retail supply companies. You can also use common items to serve the same purpose. Crates and baskets are good choices, as are wrapped boxes. But keep it simple. You want the risers to be neutral, and not fighting for attention themselves.

Add two or three items to the original three. These will fill out the display. The fewer items you have, the more impactful the message will be. The key here is focus: Don’t add anything that isn’t right on message.

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It’s OK to leave empty space on a display table or in a window. Empty space is not wasted space; it’s a frame for your display. It also makes the product and store look organized and clean.

Always keep in mind that a display needs to tell a story. The idea or concept is what makes impact. Cleverly combining various items also promotes add-on purchases.

Here are some concepts for displays:

Valentine’s Day. This can be set up right after the new year. Although it seems early, Valentine’s is really about love, and not a specific day. Suspend cut-out hearts above your display. But you want to keep it simple and use three to five hearts maximum.

Think Pink. Pull together pink items from different departments; collars, beds, and apparel. Use watering cans as props. Make this your spring statement.

Senior Pets. Combine products for older animals like special foods, supplements and comfy beds. Perhaps a bed full of supplements!

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“Cats and fish” or “dogs and cats.” Pick up some plush animals from the local toy store to clearly define the characters involved. What about a plush cat looking into an aquarium?

Winter. A great way to sell coats and sweaters is to combine them with artificial snow, and maybe a little prop pine tree.

An impactful display is as much about marketing as merchandising. It’s about lifestyle, and a place to make product shine, whether it’s seasonal items, or new arrivals. And it’s a dramatic way to communicate with your customers. Make each visit to your store fresh and exciting.

Tom Crossman has designed entertainment centers and retail stores for FAO Schwarz, Dollywood and Toys ‘R’ Us. He was a featured speaker at Global Pet Expo in 2018. His work can be seen at tomcrossman.com, and he can be reached at tom@tomcrossman.com.

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Pet Sustainability Coalition

Pet Sustainability Coalition Presents: Critical Sustainability Strategies for Retailers

This webinar, held on November 7, 2019, is the second in a series from PSC discussing how retailers can establish sustainable practices in their business. Moderated by PSC’s Andrea Czobor, the webinar unveils data behind the increasing consumer demand for sustainable products, what retailers have to gain from connecting with these purpose driven consumers, and a new PSC program that makes finding these products easier for retailers.

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Shawna Schuh

True Leaders Learn the Skills of Telling, Selling and Asking

Beware the overshare.

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IN AN INTERVIEW FOR a new team member, we sat down and began some preliminary chit-chat.

Admittedly, I am a curious sort; I ask more questions than most. It’s my job, after all, as a leadership coach, so when I began by asking, “Tell me a little about yourself.” I did not expect to hear what I did: The interviewee went on to share and to overshare. We found out about her marriage history, abuse, blended families, a home lost by the recession and what was wrong with her last employer.

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She was talking too much for us to ask additional questions.

According to her resume, she had the skills we needed, but we decided we wouldn’t hire her because of her oversharing habit.

Oversharing lost her the job. Over-sharing can lose you customers, too.

What is a leader to do? Well, first, be sure you aren’t the one who overshares.

My coaching clients learn early that most leaders do three things often.

1. They tell. Usually, leaders are telling their team how to do things, what the vision is, how to handle customers. Leaders tell and tell and tell. They do this because they are the ones in the know. They are making the decisions, and to be good communicators, they tell their teams.

2. They sell. This is one most leaders don’t realize they are doing, but they do it all the time. After all, you want your team bought into your vision, and you want people to get excited. Leaders are the most knowledgeable about the product or business, and most started by selling so they sell.

When you are telling and selling, sometimes you forget and overshare. Leaders get zealous about things and sometimes that leads to oversharing.
What can you do to stop yourself from the overshare? What would have helped the interviewee land the job?

3. They ask. Leaders learn to be expert askers. When you ask questions, many wonderful things happen: The people you ask questions feel valued — like their opinion matters. You learn something. And you allow others to talk, which means you aren’t talking or oversharing.

To become an expert asker, all you need do is, of course, ask questions. This is a simple concept like dieting, and, like dieting, usually not easy.

Here are two questions most any leader or anyone will benefit from asking:

What is it you want?

This question helps the other person define their goals. For customers, it helps you help them. Note: Be prepared for some silence, a lot of people really don’t know what they want. If they are quiet, simply smile and ask them something else like, “What makes you happiest?”

What can I do for you?

This question gets to the core of need. It also shows them that you are focused on them. That’s the beauty of questions: They are outward focused, and when you are outward focused, it helps you be the kind of leader, teammate, partner, a parent that others want to be around.

If nothing else, please think before you overshare!

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Create an Empowering Relationship Between Your Business and Your Life

Avoid burnout!

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IN THE FIRST few years running my own pet business, I made mistakes that drained me physically and emotionally and almost caused me to walk away. Instead of quitting, I made major changes to my business that have given me a life I could have only dreamed of years ago. As a pet business coach, I encourage business owners through the same mistakes with the following strategies:

Burnout Mistake: Doing All the Work Yourself

Before I transformed my business, I was working 12-hour days and still felt like I couldn’t take a day off without everything falling apart. Along the same lines, I have coaching clients tell me they have hired staff members, but spend more time dealing with staff drama than anything else.

Solution: Hire staff members you trust and are excited to introduce to your clients. After an appropriate amount of training, set your staff free to do their jobs. If you don’t think someone you are interviewing will be trustworthy to work alone, don’t hire them.

Burnout Mistake: Drowning in Administration Details

When I was starting out in business, I enjoyed the phone calls and emails. As my business becomes more successful, however, returning phone calls and emails becomes one of the most stressful and time-consuming business tasks.

Solution: If you are regularly overwhelmed by client calls and emails, hire an office assistant to help with work that doesn’t require your personal attention. Then, establish boundaries for the work you do — and stick to them. For example, don’t answer your phone after office hours and only give your personal number to your office assistant. Let your assistant act as a boundary between you and your staff and clients, giving your personal life some breathing room.

Burnout Mistake: Letting Difficult Clients Run the Show

When I was running my own pet business, I noticed that around 5 percent of my clients were incredibly difficult to work with. Even though they were a small portion of my client base, I was devoting a large percentage of my time and energy to dealing with their needs and complaints.

Solution: Be understanding but firm with difficult clients. Don’t let them pay or cancel late without a penalty. The same goes for last-minute bookings — always charge a last-minute fee. The first year I charged for last-minute reservations, I earned over $5,000 that year just in last-minute fees! We teach others how to treat us by how we respond. Your clients will either change the way they treat you or take their business elsewhere. Regardless of which they choose, you’ll have more time and energy!

Burnout Mistake: Caring More for Others Than Yourself

Starting and running a business takes large amounts of energy and passion, and most pet care providers are caretakers by nature. This combination leads many pet care business owners to give their passion and creativity to their business, but at the expense of their own health and relationships.

Solution: Value your health and future by giving yourself even a few minutes each day for self care. Knowing that you should make yourself a priority is simple (and obvious to most business owners), but making it happen is not always easy and takes commitment. Disconnecting from screens and going to bed on time, budgeting money and time for nutritious meals, and getting yourself out the door for exercise can be difficult adjustments at first. The payoff in energy and health will be worth the effort.

If your business isn’t working for you in its current state, you may find that it isn’t really working at all. Make the changes you need to establish more balance and peace in your business, and that will have a ripple effect in your personal life.

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CBD ABCs: Know the Differences Between Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum and Isolate

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CANNABIDIOL (CBD) PRODUCTS REPRESENT a rapidly growing category of pet products, and retailers are on the front lines when it comes to educating their customers on the benefits, usage and expected results. As the category matures, pet owners are becoming more sophisticated in their understanding of these products and the vast range of options. One area where many questions arise has to do with the difference between products labeled as “full spectrum” versus “broad spectrum” CBD, or “CBD isolate.”

To guide your choices and meet customer needs for education, here’s what you need to know when it comes to the different varieties available.

“Full” versus “Broad” Spectrum — What’s the Difference?

When it comes to the “full” versus “broad” spectrum labels, it’s all about what ends up in the final product.

The “spectrum” refers to a product’s range of included cannabinoids, which are compounds extracted from the cannabis plant. These include cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and more than 100 other naturally occurring compounds. In particular, THC is the compound known for its psychoactive high that many associate with recreational marijuana. CBD, on the other hand, does not produce a psychoactive effect.

To create a CBD product, cannabinoids are extracted from the cannabis plant, and the product is refined until it contains only the specific compounds desired. In full-spectrum products, this includes all compounds found naturally occurring in the plant, including CBD, terpenes, essential oils, and other cannabinoids — including, notably, THC. Broad-spectrum products contain a similarly wide range of cannabinoids, with one important exception: They contain no THC.

What About Isolate?

Isolate takes the refinement process even further, distilling the product to the purest form of CBD. That means removing all non-CBD compounds found in the plant, including THC, terpenes, flavonoids, plant parts and other cannabinoids.

But Wait — Is the THC in Full-Spectrum Products Legal?

It is. Under the 2018 Farm Bill, which made CBD purchase legal at a federal level, full-spectrum products are legal if they contain less than 0.3 percent THC.

OK, So Which Product Is Better?

As you might imagine, there’s no simple answer to this question. It all depends on a given pet’s needs and the pet owner’s preferences. While it was once thought that isolate represented the most potent form of CBD treatment, a 2015 study debunked this perception when it found that full-spectrum CBD provided higher relief effects within the body. However, pet owners who are most interested in a concentrated dose of CBD, or who fear their pet might be intolerant of other cannabinoids, might still prefer the pure nature of a CBD isolate.

However, there are reasons to direct pet owners to full-spectrum and broad-spectrum products over isolate. Certain studies show that the blend of multiple cannabinoids produce what is known as the “entourage effect,” which refers to the way in which cannabinoids magnify the effects of one another when combined. Both full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD products produce this beneficial effect, leaving the question of THC as the main discerning factor between the two.

Full-spectrum products that adhere to the legally required limit of less than 0.3 percent THC should not produce a psychoactive effect within pets. However, some owners are wary of administering any amount of THC to their pets — and there is some basis for this concern.

Simply put, the production process used by some CBD suppliers isn’t precise enough to ensure THC concentrations within full-spectrum products remain uniformly and consistently below through the 0.3 percent legal threshold. Until quality control in this realm improves, sticking with broad-spectrum products is the best way to alleviate concerns that a CBD product might inadvertently get a pet high.

Ultimately, as with so many categories of product, the best results will be seen when a retailer discusses the individual needs of a pet with its owner and recommends the appropriate product.

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