From cats to canaries, Britain is a nation of animal lovers. Here, two retailers who are getting the category right, advise another who is keen to learn how to increase his profits. Alex Yau reports

Samanatha Coldbeck

Wharfedale Premier, Hull

Sam’s 1,600sq ft store has a 12m bay of pet products catering for families and their children. Her range of products is varied, offering items such as dog leads to straw for hamster cages.

Mo Razzaq

Family Shopper, High Blantyre

Mo’s store operates in an area of animal lovers, particularly dog walkers, and there is high demand for pet products. He has 12m of shelving dedicated to meeting the needs of pet owners.

Eugene Diamond

Diamond’s Newsagents, Ballymena

Space is at a premium in Eugene’s 1,000sq ft store and he only has a 3m bay for his pet section. He wants to know the best ways to make such a small area work with a limited selection of dog and cat food.

ED I haven’t really put much thought into my pets category and there are a few challenges I’ve faced in the past. Is it definitely worth taking a further look into the area?

SC Yes, definitely. Pets are big sales drivers for us as the category makes up 35% of our total household sales. It is one of our biggest categories in household and it is helped by the fact we have many families with young children in the community who have pets.

MR Pet supplies is an important sector as we have a lot of dog owners living in the community. We have a core market here so we have 12m of space to cater for those customers. It doesn’t matter which area you are in, there will always be pet owners who will provide a market for you.

ED I can’t really expand my 3m bay because I have to consider other categories in my store. How can I make the most use of the limited space to create an appealing range?

MR Pricemarking definitely helps me here. I get a lot of my products from OTL and they are normally pricemarked at £1. It tells customers instantly how much a product is and it means they don’t have to spend ages looking at the finer details. It creates an instant visual impact, regardless of how big or small your pets section might be

SC I find having a promotional bay helps as well. We have one near the till and it draws attention to our range, especially when any of the pet foods are on offer at two for £1. I normally place the pet products near other household items too, as it helps drive impulse purchases when shoppers are buying similar products.

ED Is there an opportunity to offer a wider range of products or is a top-up shopper likely to just want food?

MR Although dog and cat food represents the majority of our sales, our £1 puppy training pads work quite well, too. It shows the pet category is not restricted to food, and customers will look for other products which fit or can improve their animals’ overall lifestyles.

SC I agree. There’s definitely a benefit in stocking more than just pet food. We sell everything from dog leads and straw, to chew toys and cages. We’ve become a pet shop destination for local customers. The accessories make up about 5% of our total pet sales, but they’re definitely good at driving basket spend and impulse buys up even further. We get many dog walkers buying newspapers or small items, and sometimes they might add a pet accessory to their basket.

ED Is it just cat and dog products, or are there opportunities with other animal products as well?

SC We stock everything from dog food to cages for birds and gerbils. Pets supplies is such a wide-ranging category and often families will have many different animals in their households.

MR Dog and cat products are the predominant sellers, but stocking for other animals is essential. There are more than just dog and cat owners out there. We have food and hay for rabbits and gerbils. Items for parrots is also an area with increasing demand.

ED What about brands? Do shoppers care as much about brands in the pets category as they do in others?

MR OTL discount products tend to sell well and customers do not seem to have much of a preference between big-brand and lesser-known suppliers in my area, although that might be different elsewhere. Pets supplies is a category where many customers love their pets enough to offer them quality products at times, even if it means going without themselves.

SC We stock a range of OTL products and more well-known stock from firms such as Pedigree, Purina and Felix. We get a mix of customers purchasing big-brand products and lesser-known ones and there does not seem to be a major shift from one to the other. Big-brand and lesser-known labels are just as popular as each other.

Supplier Insight
Liz Wood, Market developmentorganisation director, Nestlé Purina

Premium is growing Shoppers are increasingly seeking out more premium cat food options as an alternative menu for their cats.

Canned pet food is dying Consumers are moving away from cans, indicating a switch to more convenient options such as pouches. In the past three years, there has been a 24% decrease in the purchase of cans and a 4% increase in pouches.

Pet food needs visibility Retailers should position bestsellers at eye-level, as well as utilising end of aisle displays to maximise exposure.

Watch out for new trends Retailers must take consumer trends into consideration when selecting which pet food products to stock, such as the popularity of snacks mentioned above, in order to capitalise on sales.