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How to Rock the Small Animal Category

Walking into nearly any pet store, it's impossible to miss what the two biggest categories are in the pet industry: dog and cat. The small animal section, if even present within the store, is often stuffed in the back and takes up the smallest footprint of the entire store. Why is that? Many pet retailers attribute this to a couple of things. 

  1. A small pet customer will be looking specifically for their favorite food. They will seek out that pet food, and therefore don't necessarily need to be presented with it as they walk in the store.
  2. With small mammals only making up 7% of U.S. pets (besides cats and dogs), the share of profits in this category just may not seem worth the amount of effort required to more properly merchandise it.

With these two reasons in mind, it makes sense why many pet supply stores are either shoving the category in the back of the store, or just opting out of it altogether. However, what many don't consider is how the small animal category may affect the bigger picture of a retailer's sales

While only 13% of U.S. households own an exotic pet, half of all of these owners also own another pet such as a cat or dog. This means that multi-pet households need a place that engages them not only in the dog and cat categories, but also in the exotic and small pet categories. Engaging customers in the small mammal section starts with correctly merchandising product, offering the right product selection, and educating the consumer in the aisle. 

A Strong Merchandising Strategy

Too often, many stores' marketing strategy is to simply brand block the exotics aisle. While this technique does give a brand a stronger presence within the aisle, it does no favors for the consumer. Imagine having a customer who is brand new to owning guinea pigs, and wants to find a food that is high quality, but still at a great price. This customer won't be shopping by brand, but instead will be searching for the "guinea pig" section. However, when stores brand block the aisle, it makes it very difficult for this customer to shop, resulting in frustrated consumers and smaller basket sizes.

Related Article: The Frustration Behind Small Animal Merchandising

A strong merchandising strategy in the pet industry achieves a shorter shopper journey with a good, better, best technique that delivers sales growth throughout the entire store. This works best in an aisle that is merchandised by animal type, rather than by brand. Some benefits of merchandising by good, better, best include:

  • Brand price points which demonstrate category value
  • Ease of shopper navigation
  • Demonstrate low price of private-label offerings (when applicable)


One other aspect of a strong merchandising strategy is by blocking merchandise within the good, better, best approach to create windows and doors that deliver navigation hotspots. These will help shoppers quickly find what they want. In fact, Supreme Petfoods' Tiny Friends Farm's new packaging has been especially designed to create these doors and windows within the aisle. The bright yellow is easy to spot from far away, and the associated color with each animal type is a quick and efficient way for consumers to instantly recognize where their specific animal's section starts and ends. 

What does a good, better, best merchandising strategy look like in the small animal aisle? Download the free white paper below and find out a little bit more about how you can easily apply this method to your own pet supply store.


Choosing a Strong Product Selection

The next step to having a strong aisle for exotics is choosing a strong product selection to go with your new merchandising strategy. While you may always want to offer your customers the highest quality pet food on the market, the price that goes along with it may not always fit every single one of your customer's budgets. This is where the good, better, best strategy really comes into play.

You would never want to offer your customer a "bad" quality pet food, but there are plenty of inexpensive options on the market that you would be able to successfully merchandise as a "good" quality pet food. The best way to understand which products fall into the "good" category, take a look at their price points and ingredients. Products with the lowest price points are likely to have some controversial ingredients. While they may not directly affect the pet's short term health, they may not be very good for them in the long term (i.e. added sugars, molasses, ect.). Carrying a limited supply of these products is a good idea, however, as it will give those on a budget the ability to feed their pet, at least for a short time until they are able to afford a higher quality food. 

Those pet foods in the "better" category may still be slightly controversial for one reason or another, but their guaranteed analysis more closely matches the nutrients that are great for each small pet. Because of the higher quality of nutrition, there is a higher price point attached to these as well. This is a great "middle" option for those who can afford better nutrition for their pet, but still not the best. For example, Supreme's Tiny Friends Farm line fits perfectly within this category. Their tasty mixes are perfect for encouraging small mammals' foraging instincts, but the large variation may cause pickiness. The quality of the food altogether is great, but when pickiness comes into play, the animal may not get all the nutrition they need and instead pick out only the food pieces that are alluring to them.

That's where the "best" category comes into play. Supreme's Science Selective line is a perfect example of food that fits into the best category. Not only do consumers consistently love the quality of the food, but so do their pets. If a pet is particularly picky, as described above, then Science Selective is the perfect option. It's a palatable food that is the only extruded pellet in the U.S. market, which gives them consistent nutrition as they eat it along with hay. A "best" pet food will be easy to tell based on consumer reviews online (which will likely be all 4.5 star and above) and the lack of any controversial ingredient. However, you will also be able to tell this quality in the price point, which will likely be a bit higher than the "good" and "better" foods.

Offering foods in all three of these categories will mean that you will have to offer more than one brand to small pet customers. Offering pet foods in multiple price points, along with education within the aisle, will be your best bet toward ensuring your customers are thoroughly engaged with the category.

Related Article: Engaging Shoppers with the Small Animal Category

If you would like to receive one-on-one training on this topic, feel free to request an employee training webinar and specify that you would like to learn more about properly engaging customers in this particular aisle. Our team of experts have been trained to give you the best knowledge which comes from our own collection of research.



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Ashley Hoffman – E-Commerce & Digital Marketing Manager joined the All Points family in April of 2015. Ashley brings a fresh outlook to the marketing industry as well as a constant desire for learning something new. She is dedicated to consistently improving her skills and efficiency in the marketing industry and using those skills to promote APM and all brands we represent. Ashley has grown up with many animals throughout her life and is currently the loving owner of two cats.

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