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Shelf Appeal: 5 Things to Consider When Choosing Products for Your Pet Store

Color and material are just two factors to consider when shopping for your store, to create eye-catching displays and boost sales.

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In my “previous life,” before pet retail, my marketing agency created new designs and rebranding for a wide variety of food and retail products, including a “Hot Donuts Now” sign that’s still in use by a national chain. Today more than ever, it is just as important to a supplier, as it is to a potential retailer, to consider how that product will perform in the store’s display and ultimately in the cash register. Here are some things to consider when evaluating products and packaging for your store’s product line up.

1. Package color

The color of the package makes a difference in how that product performs. It can promote sales or make a connection with a certain kind of customer. A bright color brings the consumer’s eye to the product right away. Look at any grocery store, and the use of red is the number one choice. Some holistic product suppliers prefer to use the natural earth tones to appeal to that market segment. I have found that the color black, while a contrast, can be a turn off to the consumer. The yummiest treat or pet food might not sell if the color does not attract the buyer, and then you have to open bags for samples and work harder to sell it. If you are a small store with limited retail space, the packaging color makes a difference in how quickly you can turn the product.

2. Package design

Whether it’s a box, bag or some form of plastic container, design makes a huge difference. If all your products are on slat wall, does the package have a hole so you can hang it? If you use fixtures and furniture, does the product “stand up” straight? Or do you have to shake and adjust the contents so the gusset sits flat? This is important as you’re planning how a product is displayed in your store.

3. Package materials

In treats, for example, my customers want to “see” the actual product. So, clear packaging or a box with an acetate window works best. Lightweight glossy plastic is fine for a product with a proven high sell-through but can get “cloudy” if it sits. It’s also less durable than other choices. Resealable packages are convenient for the customer but expensive for the packer. Space is limited for many indie pet stores, so consider how large pet food bags or boxes will stack up on your display racks.

4. Typeface & photography

Check to see that the product benefits are clear on the front of the package — this is especially true for any toy, treat, food or pet care product. It’’ a shelf talker in itself, and a good design can reduce the time you have to take to explain the product’s benefits. Make sure the package actually reflects what’s IN the package. Some toys or pet care items need photos or directions to show how they’re used best.

5. Stability

Consider how your supplier will be shipping your product to your store. If they repack and ship in boxes, ask them how they pack it so the corners of the product boxes don’t get bent or damaged. If you’re purchasing bakery items, ask if they pack differently in the hot summer or cold winter months so their product arrives fresh and looks attractive to the consumer.

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Now, mix it up!

An attractive display features a good blend of color and design! One of my favorite advertising phrases is “When it’s all big, nothing is big.” Assort bright color packaging with some natural or lighter colors to rest the eye. Use white packaging to your advantage — it can bring attention sometimes just as much as a vibrant color. Mix hard and soft packaging for tactile appeal.

“Shop” non-competing stores and trade shows for display ideas

Visit other retailers of any kind and see how they place items to get a customer’s attention. The big retailers have made this a science. At a trade show, bring a picture of your display area with you to remind yourself how the products you’re considering might look to your buyers. When suppliers make sales calls, ask them to bring the actual product as it is packaged, then put it on your shelf to see what it looks like. And, finally, look at your display in the eyes of your customer — you’ll find the products sell easier and your rate of return comes into your pocket faster!

Pattie Zeller is the owner and pack leader of the multi-award winning natural pet store, Animal Connection, in Charlottesville, VA. She is the host of "What's Barking Local," a weekly live show on Facebook and ITunes.

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