Hamacher Resource Group’s Pet Merchandising 101

June 2, 2022By Behind the Shelf Blog

by Colleen Volheim, category research & analysis manager, written for ECRM in support of their Pet Program

We all love those big puppy dog or kitty eyes or the soothing aura of an aquarium full of colorful fish. As an estimated 95% of American pet owners consider their pets family members, opportunities abound for retailers and suppliers of pet products. Indeed, 36% of dog owners purchase birthday presents for their furry family members and 81% add gifts under the tree for them (I myself just purchased a swimsuit for my beloved Dixie’s birthday!).Dixie, black lab

Our pets are our friends, workout partners, office companions, and confidants. They get us through some of our happiest times and are our lifeline during our most challenging periods. Due to their loving care and companionship, they helped us get through the long days of COVID-19 isolation and are increasingly assisting us in the growing roles of service and emotional support animals. According to the the New York Times, there were nearly 200,000 emotional support animals in 2019 in the U.S. — that number has surely increased since then.

Maximizing the opportunity
Research shows that the average pet household spends just over $1,100 per year on their pets. Yet merchandising pet supplies can be challenging with the variety of species we provide loving homes for, as well as the quantity of products that are available. From collars and leashes to food, treats, supplements, clothing and toys (don’t forget waste bags for a little added swag), there is a reason to stock a variety of each product type.

But where to begin?  We recommend starting by species (hint – every species gets its own space), age group (newborn, adolescent and mature adult), and then by product type. This will lead customers through each species logically and encourage them to spend more time scanning the assortment.

The first step is creating the right adjacencies for product placement determined by animal type with multiple products that complement each other cross-merchandised to increase basket size.

Next, the right fixtures are important for product presentation, so the right formula and size products can be positioned for easy identification and selection. Take dog food in bags, for example. Food is the main reason shoppers enter the pet area of a store. Arrange the dog food first by age (puppy, adolescent, and mature) with smaller bags on top shelves and front facing for easy identification. Larger bags can be stacked so they are easy to pull off the shelf and into shoppers’ carts or over the shoulder and off to the register with an open hand to grab a bag of treats on the way out the door. You know if there is a dog waiting in the car, a treat will be expected when you return to them!

A strong product assortment is the key to satisfied customers (both human and animal). You need to stock best sellers within all animal and product types, and round out your product mix to address special dietary needs and flavor preferences that pets might have as well as those products that address current trends.

Consider the life cycle of our pets; their needs are different at every stage of life, and as they live relatively shorter lives compared to their owners, your customer base may change every 10 to 12 years. Switch up your assortment and merchandising much more often, using the change of seasons as your guide. Keep up with trends to attract and maintain your customer base for years to come. Two current trends to keep an eye on are products that include CBD and supplements that support digestion and mobility.

The best way to have a consistent, well-thought-out pet merchandising plan is the use of planograms that are data-driven and strategic, knowing that space is at a premium and to maximize sales in this growing area of retail.

For more on HRG’s insights into pet trends, view this interview of Dawn Vogelsang with ECRM’s Joe Tarnowski. To see Corey and Dave’s presentation, ECRM members can login to their site and view it in the content area for the Pet Program.