Furnishing for Felines For retailers, the right mix of cat furniture comes down to understanding the products and their benefits.
With today’s discerning cats and finicky cat owners, pet retailers really need to stay on top of what it takes to properly furnish the average American household for the family feline. Cats require a variety of furniture, including scratching posts, beds and perches, and a retailer’s assortment needs to encompass an array of styles to satisfy the likes, dislikes and needs of both cats and owners alike.
Putting together the right merchandise mix is the task at hand for the pet supply retailer. As dauntless as that may seem, retailers can easily accomplish it by understanding both the intended and inadvertent benefits of cat furniture, and just what it is today’s cat owner is buying for their pet.
Evaluate the Need
Today’s cat furniture not only needs to look good in most homes, it needs to be durable, long-lasting, easy to clean and needs to fulfill a practical purpose. The practical purpose is the intended benefit for the cat. But, there is often a hidden benefit for cat owners, who may think only it’s only their cats that have something to gain when they buy cat furniture.
These products will obviously provide much needed exercise for kittens, adult cats and senior felines. It also gives cats a place to scratch, thus contributing to claw maintenance–a recognizable and common purpose for providing cat furniture. But there are often some subtle benefits that cat owners will reap from providing a mix of cat furniture throughout the home. A well-furnished home helps train the family feline, resulting in a less-stressed and more well-adjusted kitty.
Cat furniture can help curb destructive tendencies such as climbing, jumping, territory marking, chewing, scratching and others. By recommending and encouraging the use of these products, the retailer is in a position to curtail these and other unwanted behaviors from ever occurring, thus building customer loyalty, credibility and a sustainable customer base for the cat department. In addition to just curbing unwanted behaviors, the furniture encourages positive behaviors in young kittens and new cats in the household.
Most cats will quickly use the furniture provided for them. The naturally inquisitive traits of a feline will have them exploring every new piece set in the home. In addition, cats love to settle down in a place with privacy and a place to rest. Play time and just good ‘ole people watching will make up a good portion of the day for the family pet, particularly when a tall cat tree is available or a new comfy cat perch is installed in the family room window.
Knowing what cat customers are buying can help in selecting pieces for the store and also give retailers a better feel of where to stock up on inventory. According to the APPA National Pet Owners Survey, one half of cat owners own a scratching post in their home, and over 25 percent of cat owners own two scratching posts. In households with two or more cats, 55 percent have scratching posts. The leading material, and still the most popular for posts, is carpet–76 percent of scratching post purchasers indicated this material as a favorite. Sixteen percent of cats have a kitty condo and 35 percent own a bed.
Probably the biggest concern for most independent pet retailers when selecting furnishings for the cat aisle is finding adequate space to merchandise these items. In addition, it doesn’t take long to rack up a pretty hefty investment in large pieces of cat furniture, particularly slow movers. Consequently, product selection needs to be deliberate, calculated and well thought-out, with an ongoing in-store merchandising and marketing plan.
Begin with stocking products that will be readily used by most cat owners such as beds, litter cabinets, scratching posts, cardboard posts, cat trees, condos, hoops, window perches, sisal posts and some of the tall custom cat trees. Aside from practical reasons for buying feline furniture, color, style and décor will play a big part in the selection process. Retailers need to take that into consideration when selecting inventory. Choose neutral colors, and stay away from brightly colored extravagant pieces. Also, buy cautiously when selecting the large gym pieces–if floor space is limited in the cat aisle, so should be choices for large pieces in the inventory.
Be sure every piece has a price tag that the customer can easily find. Merchandise all furnishings emphasizing the benefits for the pet and the owner. Both are important for your customers to know when making buying decisions. Offering a good selection of different sizes, such as with scratching posts and cat condos, will also help sell more furniture. Beds with different fabric, colors and patterns will provide more choices, resulting in more sales, as well. Like most items in the store, selection is vital in order to be competitive.
Also, if you have a store marketing plan, be sure to include the cat furniture. Create sales around special events and holidays–particularly for the larger pricier items. Let your customers know what is in stock and the deals being offered.
Cat furnishings can sell year around. Buy carefully, promote the benefits provided by cat furniture and have a plan for selling these products. Discerning cats and finicky owners will be a store’s best customers.
John Tyson is a freelance writer and photographer who resides in Houston, Texas. He has 20 years combined experience in the pet industry as a multi-store owner, general manager and industry