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Perking up pet sales: consumers that own pets are spending more money on their animals.

Traditional retailers have to fight back by stressing what they do best, including in-store expertise, convenience and the overall shopping experience.

IS THE PET INDUSTRY IN TROUBLE?

Not according to Mark Hirschberg, the CEO of Moonachie, N.J.-based Multipet International. The 32-year veteran of the pet industry says that the category remains vibrant and, even with internet sales increasing, traditional retailers should still be able to cash in on the pet category for years to come.

We should listen to what Hirschberg and others like him have to say. They all have much at stake in the pet category and are willing to support retailers to ensure that the category's momentum continues to stay strong.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Of course, not every one agrees. Some say that the internet is starting to put some dents into pet care sales at retail, especially with dog and cat food and cat litter, segments that do particularly well at supermarkets. Others say that the pet care segment, including pet toys, bedding, supplies and flea and tick products, has peaked with too many products chasing too few consumer dollars.

But Hirschberg does not see it that way. Instead, he calls this the golden days of pet retailing, with more and more better-educated consumers owning pets, spending more money on their animals and willing--even eager--to treat them as an equal part of their families. Even the dreaded internet is helping retailers, if only to force traditional retailers to improve their merchandising and marketing strategies to compete with digital operations.

"More than ever, retailers need to have the proper assortment of product, the proper signage and make sure that their pet sections or their pet stores look like they just opened," he says. "The right products are vital and retailers should not reject a particular product just because it does not meet their margin requirements. Now, more than ever, retailers need to establish a niche in this market."

Hirschberg is right on. The internet is most definitely a problem for traditional retailers, but a trend toward higher margin food and nonfood products in the pet section should enable merchants to make more money from this category.

It is going to take some work. Traditional retailers have to fight back by stressing what they do best, including in-store expertise, convenience and the overall shopping experience. "People still want to go to the store, despite what some may say," Hirschberg says. "If retailers offer an environment that is welcoming and helpful, they will still get most of the shoppers, even with the benefits of the internet."

This is not going to be easy, but it is quite doable, he says. We can only agree with his outlook and hope that retailers realize that it is not going to get easier in the pet care category. But who said this would be easy.

THERE WAS QUITE A BUZZ AT MY NEIGHBORHOOD ShopRite store last month in the nonfoods section. The area, normally one of the quietest in the store, was bristling with shoppers looking to get their hands on products in two bins that featured Kodak AA and AAA batteries at the bargain price of $1.79 for a 20-pack (if you were a ShopRite loyalty card member).

The frenzy showed just what aggressive pricing will do to perk up sales of a rather quiet product category like batteries. But when consumers see a great price they are going to jump on it, particularly if they are knowledgeable enough to know that they are getting a great deal.

The sense here is that Kodak is trying to grab market share away from the big players in the batteries market and nothing encourages consumer trial better than an aggressive price point.
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Title Annotation:NONFOODS TALK
Author:Mendelson, Seth
Publication:Grocery Headquarters
Date:Jul 1, 2016
Words:621
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