Stocking pet care items is becoming increasingly important for wholesalers and their c‑store customers. Worth £2.4bn, the category is more valuable than either breakfast cereals and baby products, and according to Mars Petcare, buying pet food is the third most common reason for a pet owner to visit a c‑store.
The challenge for convenience retailers is to make shoppers aware that they stock pet care products, as many don’t realise they are available in smaller stores.
Top tips for pet care profits:
- Value for money: The cost of living has risen, so consumers have less disposable income. Offering value products will enable retailers to appeal to customers looking to treat their pets on a budget.
- Range it right: Shopper demographics vary between independents and multiples, and consumer habits are changing, so your range should reflect this.
- Sign language: Offer retail customers PoS material so they can draw attention to the pet care category. Many shoppers don’t know independents sell pet food so this will let them know what’s available.
- Pampered pets: More pet owners than ever are spending money on premium products so make sure your range caters for the top end of the market, too.
- Small is beautiful: There are more than three million small animals kept as pets in the UK. Having a small animal focus in-depot can yield a higher margin and help retail customers drive footfall.
“In total, 56% of households in the UK own a pet, 42% of convenience shoppers own a cat or dog, but less than half of them have purchased pet food in c‑stores, which represents a huge opportunity for retailers,” says Mars Petcare category and customer marketing director Dave Minton.
Mars has a retailer-oriented website, Pet Profit, which has been designed to help retailers maximise their pet food sales. Through the site, retailers can download branded shelf barkers, A3 and A4 posters and shelf strips to promote the category in‑store.
For wholesalers, working with pet food suppliers to promote products to retailers is a successful strategy – and one that has recently been used by Parfetts. It included a new product from Wagg Foods – Bunny Brunch rabbit food – in a retail club promotion, in what Wagg Foods sales manager David Shorthouse describes as a “progressive step”.
“We’re trying to drive extra footfall and get retailers to think differently about pet food. By diversifying away from cat and dog food, retailers can only add value and drive footfall into their stores,” he says. “I see this as a progressive step by Parfetts and our rate of sale through them is particularly buoyant.”
Expanding the category to include products for pets other than cats and dogs can seem like a brave step for both retailers and wholesalers. But Shorthouse says food for small animals presents a sales opportunity for the sector.
“Once retailers and wholesalers understand that it makes more of the fixture and that it has a good margin, then they become more open to it,” he says. Making the most of the fixture also includes stocking the bestselling brands so retail customers can immediately recognise the category and replicate it in their stores.
Mars Petcare’s portfolio includes Pedigree, Whiskas, Cesar and Sheba, while Nestlé Purina’s includes Felix, Go-Cat, Bakers, and Pro Plan. Both Mars and Nestlé agree that stocking leading brands is a marker of a successful pet care category.
“Owners are looking for the best products on the market for their pets from brands they know and trust,” says Mars Petcare’s Dave Minton.
[pull_quote_right] It’s essential that every opportunity is maximised to inform retailers of changes within the market and impact promotional activity has on shoppers looking for value [/pull_quote_right]
There’s plenty of activity when it comes to new products, too. In January last year, Pedigree launched Dentastix Fresh, a chewy stick for dogs that helps to reduce tartar build-up and contains a blend of green tea extract and eucalyptus oil. In January this year, Sheba launched three additional Sheba Fusion varieties with a new pack design: Salmon & Chicken, Tuna & Poultry and Chicken & Turkey. Multi-packs can also drive sales in convenience – they are growing faster than single packs. Cesar has also introduced two new Country Kitchen varieties, including Tender Chicken and Tasty Turkey, both with wholegrain and available in four-packs with an RRP of £2.49.
Whatever combination of products retailers want to stock, wholesalers that offer informed advice and promotional tips will help drive their own sales, as well as those of retailers.
“Promotional execution is key to success for wholesalers,” says Wagg’s David Shorthouse. “Convincing retailers to pass on promotions will benefit all within the channel. It’s essential that every opportunity is maximised to inform retailers of changes within the market and of the impact promotional activity has on shoppers looking for value.”
Inside the depot itself, making sure the pet fixture is in a high-footfall location and stocking a variety of pack formats and sizes are essential. When it comes to advising retailers, offering new products and bestsellers, as well as smaller value brands and pet care products, is a successful tactic.
“Pet food shoppers are loyal to top brands so make sure you stock them and de-list poor performers,” says Dave Minton.