Not long ago, when cat owners had problems with their pets scratching up the couch, drapes or cabinets, they visited a vet and simply had the cats declawed. Today, pet activists and veterinarians alike are discouraging that practice, leading pet owners to seek alternative solutions.
“Claws give the cat a sense of security, knowing that their defense system is intact,” explains Shannon Supanich, marketing coordinator at Pioneer Pet Products, LLC. “They also allow the cat to grasp and hold objects, [and] establish footing for walking, running, springing, climbing and stretching.”
Instead of declawing, most cat owners are encouraged to trim their cat’s nails regularly and offer pets an outlet for their natural instincts. This trend is leading many feline owners to visit their local pet retailers. Once there, they can choose from an ever-growing selection of cat scratching products in a wide variety of materials, colors and styles.
“Over the recent years, there has been more emphasis on new designs and scratch materials to provide consumers with more choices,” says Dave Hitsman, director of product development at Ware Manufacturing, Inc.
Unlike food products, which are easily merchandised, scratchers generally take up lots of space. “Scratch products are available in both horizontal and vertical configurations,” says Frank Callari, “chief stacks evangelist” at Cat House Systems. “Some of them are actually lounging surfaces for your cats. They can be attached to door knobs or free standing.”
That means most retailers have to choose which of the many options available make the best use of their limited floor space. Retailers can start by determining which price points and features are the best fit for their individual customer base.
“We have all kinds of consumers in the scratching furniture category,” says Hitsman.
Some, he says, are price sensitive—they’re trying to find a solution without spending a lot of money. Others, however, are looking for something that looks upscale and fits into their home—something they don’t have to hide when they have company—and they’re typically not sensitive about price.
To see a new product from Scratch 'n Shapes, as well as some advice from Pioneer Pet Products on
selling cat scratchers, scroll down or click HERE.
“They’re looking for something that maybe blends with their couch, the spread in their bedroom or the furniture in their family room, and they’re the ones looking for the alternative materials, something that’s a little more home-décorish,” Hitsman says.
A basic option might be a cardboard scratcher with replaceable scratching pads or a carpeted scratcher, while a more elaborate option might be designed to match popular home décor trends with sea grass or jute scratching surfaces.
For most retailers, it is wise to carry an option or two from both the high and the low end of the price spectrum. However, the depth and breadth of the assortment should depend on the store’s demographic.
A pet boutique in the middle of an affluent neighborhood in New York City may want to stock several ritzy but small-sized items that will match and fit nicely in apartments found in that area. By contrast, a stand-alone store in the suburbs might do better with larger furniture items, and stores with highly price-sensitive shoppers might do best with mostly lower-end options.
Nailing The Sale
Regardless of where a store’s demographic falls, merchandising scratchers successfully can be complicated. Scratchers generally sell best when customers can evaluate the products hands-on. Yet, due to their size, merchandising this way is often impossible.
Instead, scratchers are often left unassembled on a bottom shelf or assembled on a top shelf, above the other products in the cat aisle. In either location, they are hard for customers to see and touch.
The solution to this problem is to feature scratching solutions periodically, setting up an endcap display or even setting up a small selection of scratching options outside as part of a sidewalk sale, if possible. “If, every once in a while, [retailers] bring [a scratcher] down, put it on the floor where people can see it, touch it, get involved in it—they sell way more,” says Hitsman.
Setting up memorable and accessible displays creates excitement, and even if customers don’t buy immediately, having had that opportunity to check the product out close up increases the likelihood that they’ll purchase the product later on.
One of the best times to highlight scratchers is around the holidays, says Hitsman. Pet owners are often looking to splurge a bit for something special for their pet that time of the year. He says that ready-to-assemble and boxed items do particularly well during the holidays, since they can be wrapped, helping to fulfill that gift-giving tradition. However, even with boxed items, it’s important to pull a sample out of its box and set it up so that customers can get a chance to see what they’re buying.
Retailers that have the space can merchandise a small grouping of cat scratchers in one area of the store, rotating individual scratching products in and out of the set to keep things fresh. However, stores should be careful not to set up too many scratchers, since that can create clutter.
Mix It Up
There are also several products that can be cross merchandised with scratching products to increase sales and help ensure kitty takes right to her new scratching post. Catnip, for example, can be used to encourage cats to check out the new item in their space, as well as let them know that the scratcher is theirs. Toys are also a great add-on sale. Many larger scratchers come equipped with space to place toys that can help keep cats entertained for hours. Both toys and catnip are low-cost options that make for good impulse buys.
In fact, these items are sometimes even included by manufacturers as a bonus buy, so retailers can tell customers that the product “comes with something for free.”
Cat beds present another cross-merchandising option, especially with larger scratchers that have climbing perches. Most cats like to alternate between scratching and good, old catnaps, so a bed placed near the new scratching post is sure to be appreciated.
However, it’s important to remember that scratchers aren’t an optional product for cats. Without one, even the best-behaved feline will claw up the couch. Retailers can provide a solution before unwanted scratching becomes a problem by working with staff to educate new cat owners about why scratchers are so important to their cats’ development. And when pet owners better understand their cat, it increases their bond, which in turn builds a bond between shoppers and your store.
The Lap of Luxury
The Scratch ‘n Shapes line (imperialcat.com) was specifically developed to satisfy the feline’s instinctive need to scratch, while simultaneously providing a unique space for cats to play, stretch and relax. Made from corrugated cardboard, the honeycomb texture imitates natural tree bark, so cats instinctively want to sink their claws into the scratchers. And to further encourage a happy, active lifestyle, each scratcher includes a bag of Certified Organic Catnip.
Scratch ‘n Shapes are made in the USA from 100-percent post-consumer recycled materials and are 100-percent recyclable after kitty’s use. Furthermore, to ensure they’re providing an eco-friendly product, packaging and product patterns are printed with soy inks.
For a Scratching Success
With the ever-growing selection of scratching products, customers are increasingly looking to sales associates to help them choose an option that meets their needs and for tips on how to be successful with that product once they get it home. Retailers should educate their staff on some common pointers to help ensure cat owners are completely satisfied with their scratching solution.
Shannon Supanich, marketing coordinator at Pioneer Pet Products, LLC, offers up the following tips, also located on the company’s website:
• To introduce the post to their cat, cat owners can try using catnip as a lure. They can do this by rubbing catnip onto the scratcher and then calling the cat over to the post.
• Owners can also scratch their own nails along the surface of the material. This will attract the cat and at the same time teach him where to scratch.
• After the cat begins to scratch they should praise him and give him a food treat.
• If the cat has already been scratching a piece of furniture, it’s a good idea to place the post directly in front of it as an alternative.
• Then they should temporarily cover the previously scratched areas with a few strips of double-sided carpet tape or clear double-sided tape strips that are designed for this purpose, which are a great item for retailers to cross merchandise near scratchers. This will help redirect the cat’s scratching activities to the post.