From puppies to parakeets, cats to chameleons, gerbils to goldfish, we love our pets. A look at anyone’s social media feed proves how devoted we are to our animal companions, but the numbers speak loudly as well. the American Pet Products Association found pet owners spent $103.6 billion on pet-related products in 2020. The organization predicts sales for 2021 will grow 5.8 percent, well above the average annual growth of 3 to 4 percent.
It can be daunting for home improvement retailers to compete with specialty pet stores and online retailers, but there is a place for your operation in this lucrative category. Read on to discover best practices for adding pet items to your inventory, including what products to start with and how to train employees in this specialized area. And visit hardwareretailing.com/pets to learn how to welcome pets into your store and special services you can offer pet owners.
Start With the Basics
Since it opened in 1988, Franklin Hardware and Pet in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, has been carrying pet products. Lindsay Deaven, assistant manager, says the store owners saw an opportunity to provide local farmers with supplies not only for their farm animals, but also for their pets.
“The store opened to complement the already existing Franklin Feed and Supply Co.,” Deaven says.
“What began as 9,000 square feet of space has morphed into 30,000 square feet of space for lawn and garden, hardware and anything pet under the sun.”
Of that 30,000 square feet, around 10,000 square feet is dedicated to products for pets, wildlife and livestock. Franklin Hardware also has sections for live small animals, domestic birds, reptiles and fish.
Franklin Hardware’s pet department didn’t evolve overnight; it has been a labor of love building it to the size and scope it is today. Retailers looking to get into pet products should start simple too, Deaven says. She suggests launching a pet product section with dog and cat food, carrying a brand that is middle of the road in price and has brand recognition. She also recommends carrying core items pet owners need like puppy pads, treats and collars.
“High-turn dog foods with brand recognition get people in the door, and I think a small animal section is key,” Deaven says. “Toys for small animals and treats have a high margin and are a good way to balance the low margins of dog and cat food.”
Equip Your Employees
With its large selection and variety of pet products, it’s important for Franklin Hardware to employ workers who can educate customers on the different products. Hiring employees who share a love for pets is also helpful for building relationships and trust with their pet-loving customers.
Deaven leads employee training on new products and trends, utilizing sessions offered by pet product manufacturers. She also recommends using these companies as resources when starting out in the pet product business, as most are willing to send retailers planograms and provide staff who can help with product merchandising.
“Most of the major brands have really good people working for them who are willing to give you help,” Deaven says. “You can tell them you have 3 feet of space, and they will tell you what products you need in that space.”