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Winterizing the pet aisle

Pet owners have more to worry about during the winter — and more to shop for

Seasonal changes to pet food aisles can encourage sales and help retailers gain favor with pet owners, who make up nearly 60% of households in the U.S., according to Mintel. The pet supplies market reached $11.4 billion in 2017, up 3% from 2016.

Those most likely to purchase pet supplies ­— Millennials and parents with young children — are just the shoppers who retailers are hoping to entice to the brick-and-mortar groceries. These younger shoppers tend to purchase more pet supplies than older adults, according to Mintel’s research. And these pet owners increasingly think of their pets as a member of the family and worry about them much like they would a child.

“Pet owners are always concerned about the health and safety of their pet,” said Tierra Bonaldi, a pet lifestyle expert at American Pet Products Association (APPA). “During the winter especially, owners may have increased anxiety about pets being warm enough or protecting them from pad damage and canine influenza. Having a variety of products to help provide peace of mind that their winter worries are addressed is your best bet.”

Bonaldi suggests stocking up on sweaters, jackets, and holistic and natural products that help boost pets’ immune systems. Another popular category is paw protection. Consider selling booties and balms, which help protect dog’s paws from the chemicals and salt used to de-ice sidewalks and streets. “Along with that, owners may be looking for a pet-friendly ice melt that would be suited for the pet aisle as well,” she said.

To convince consumers to shop the pet aisle rather than an e-retailer, target promotions to inclement weather and make the experience convenient for shoppers.

“Bootie and clothing purchases are made both in-store and online,” said Bonaldi. “It depends on the situation and if owners are in need of them immediately. For example, for those that were affected by the winter weather in the East, they may not have had time to order something online and shipments may have been difficult to receive. Because clothing and booties are not one-size-fits-all types of products, pet owners do like options with easy return/exchange policies, whether that be online or in-store. Making the customer feel assurance that they can easily come back in for a different size should it not work out the first time is huge in terms of earning their trust and loyalty, even if they don’t plan on exchanging.”

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