Pet Product — News March 2012-Comp
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Sell More Cookies
Maggie M. Shein

Fresh, seasonal displays and clever bakery promos attract repeat customers.

Selling bakery items can mean extra profit for many pet retailers, whether they bake treats in-store or buy them from a vendor. With their elegant designs and tantalizing smells, bakery items can be tough to resist. Add some tried-and-true sales and marketing tactics to gain customer interest and loyalty, and every customer that walks in the door will be walking out with a treat.

One sales tactic that retailers use is changing inventory seasonally. Rotating stock, particularly around holidays and special occasions, may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s a strategy that will keep customers coming back for more, and it will create excitement each time they walk in the door.

“We tend to change the majority of our bakery items with the season or holiday that is approaching,” said Jen Voelker, store manager at Millie & Bo’s Barkery in Decatur, Ill. “It keeps everything fresh and exciting.”

Baking treats in-store means retailers can change seasonal offerings right up to the minute, but purchasing from a vendor requires planning and preparation on the part of the retailer.

“On average for a season like Christmas, you want your order in stores a minimum of a month ahead of the holiday or season,” said Jaymie Crook, owner of Bosco and Roxy’s, a dog treat wholesaler in London, Ontario, Canada.

For stores that cater to tourists or seasonal visitors, custom cookies that double as souvenirs work well.

“We have a lot of tourists, and so we’ve found that decorated cowboy boots, cactuses and tacos are very popular,” said Mira Lopez, manager at Santa Fe, N.M.- based Teca Tu: A Pawsworthy Emporium & Deli. “Southwestern shapes seem to be our best-sellers.”

Teca Tu buys its bakery items from local vendors so the store can have a closer hand in the look, ingredients and freshness of the products, Lopez said.

“Good quality and uniqueness is the bottom line. Whenever we get a new shape or seasonal item, sales pick up,” she added.

Stay Stocked

Beyond just changing stock with the seasons, keeping things fresh and clean is another sales tactic that may sound simple but goes a long way, according to retailers and manufacturers.

“A big mistake a lot of bakeries make is not keeping bakery cases fully stocked,” said Haley Marsh, sales and marketing at Preppy Puppy Bakery, a wholesale dog bakery in West Wareham, Mass. “No one wants to eat the last cookie. Keep treats stocked, fresh and rotate items; that’s why seasonal lines are so great, because you can rotate them around.”

Crook agreed.

“If you can keep it clean, tidy and well-stocked, people will always be looking,” he said.

Maria Tagliarino, co-owner of Three Bean Bakery for Dogs in Plantation, Fla., recommended that retailers refrigerate bakery treats so they last longer.

“We bake everything fresh to order with no preservatives whatsoever, so I always recommend refrigeration and ordering exactly what you think you’ll need,” Tagliarino said. “I’d rather people order weekly than every few weeks because it keeps things fresher.”

Just how much stock retailers may need depends on the season, event or volume they plan to sell, but one thing’s for sure: Getting the appropriate mix of not too full and not too bare is important.

“You want a happy medium,” said Mary Ellen Oertel, founder of Ma Snax, a Santa Rosa, Calif., dog treat manufacturer. “There’s no need to have a ton of stuff, but you want it to look full and fresh and have enough variety. The big key is to have a good cross section of items looking fresh and clean.”

Creative Promotions

Bakery items are often an impulse or gift buy; therefore, retailers find that events, promotions and any small touches that can grab the customer’s attention often result in long-term success. For example, at Teca Tu, there is an area with tables and chairs outside of the store. It encourages local shoppers to bring food and sit down for a bite. Of course, with the store’s pet deli inside, canines can enjoy a treat alongside their owners.

Community events are another way for retailers to get their name out—and their cookies tasted. Beth Staley, co-owner of Happy Dog Barkery, said that the store participates in events such as dog Clean displays laid out on a table are walks, and it donates treats for other events, which helps spread the word about the bakery.

In addition to being involved in the community, Staley said social media has played a big part in allowing Happy Dog Barkery and its staff to interact with customers.

“We use mostly Facebook,” Staley said. “We post images of things we are working on, and our customers will post pictures of their dog with one of our bakery cakes.”

When the fresh-baked, seasonal treats are ready, the store posts pictures to let customers know of the new additions, she added.

Retailers can take a page from a restaurant server’s book when it comes to innovative sales tactics, Oertel of Ma Snax said.

“My background is in restaurants, and any good server will try to upsell a dessert or coffee to get that check average up,” she said. “That translates the same to the retailer. Give employees some autonomy and let them try to sell a fancy cookie with every purchase, or let them throw in a cookie if someone is spending more than $50. It increases customer loyalty.”

Retailers can also collect information, such as a pet’s birthday, from customers for later promotions or marketing, Oertel added.

Lastly, making sure staff can attend to the bakery and greet customers with a smile is a detail that shouldn’t be overlooked. And having staff near the bakery items also helps them keep the area clean and restocked, Bosco and Roxy’s Crook noted.

“The nature of bakery items is that employees have to help the customer, so having employees readily available to help the customer is very important,” he said. “You don’t want people waiting for help and eventually giving up.”

No Bakery Case? No Problem

For retailers who have limited store space, there are a number of bakery case alternatives with which to display fresh-baked goods and garner customer attention.

“Things like a cake pedestal to put treats or packaged items on can help free up counter space but still have that upscale feel to merchandising,” said Haley Marsh, sales and marketing for Preppy Puppy Bakery in West Wareham, Mass.

Many vendors offer prepackaged treats in cellophane bags or boxes, or retailers can purchase bakery items in bulk and package them up themselves.

“We do a lot of packaging,” said Maria Tagliarino, co-owner of Plantation, Fla.-based Three Bean Bakery for Dogs. “For some of our local customers, bone-shaped wicker baskets work nicely to display products if they don’t have a bakery.”

At Happy Dog Barkery in Downers Grove, Ill., in addition to two dry bakery cases and one refrigerated case, the store has another table with biscuits and cookies, as well as various prepackaged treats hanging on the walls, according to Beth Staley, the store’s co-owner.