by Dave Ratner

Getting your customers to spend more money in your store every time they visit is a top priority for smart retailers. Just think how much your sales would increase if every customer spent one dollar more with each visit—huge, right?  We in the pet food business are lucky because we can sell so many add-ons such as treats, toys, litter etc.

Yet, one of the most over looked add-on sales is canned foods for both dogs and cats. What I like about selling canned foods to my customers is that it’s a true win-win.  I was just this minute reading a syndicated article in our local newspaper by a veterinarian touting the health benefits of feeding canned food. He recommended feeding less dry food and including more high-quality, mostly meat, canned foods—especially for cats.

In my stores, we sell tons of canned foods for several reasons. One of the reasons is that we have a huge variety of cans available at all price points. Our staff also knows the differences between all the formulas so we can recommend the right food for the right situation.

If you google “overweight” or “food” for diabetic dogs, or even how to prevent obesity and diabetes in pets, you will find many articles advising dog owners to feed less dry and add canned foods.  Since a large percentage of your customers have dogs that are overweight, it is such an easy sell to get them to feed even some canned foods.

After you do your search, I’d recommend printing out some of the articles you find—preferably written by real experts, not internet gurus—and tape those articles up in your store. Let your customers read them.  You can even email the articles to your customers, put the links on your website and Facebook page…think your customers would like to hear about things that will make their dogs healthy? I thought so.


Walk into the grocery store and see how many feet of cat food there is—it’s amazing.  The canned cat food market is exploding all around us, and what a good thing that is!!  Even veterinarians are telling their cat owning customers to feed canned food. Are you ready to capitalize on the trend?

I want you to repeat the following mantra as many times as it takes to sink into your brain:  I can never have too much cat food on my shelves. As you know, dogs will happily eat the same food for years. Cats are different. Nestle figured that out long ago and that’s why there are about 6,000 flavors of Fancy Feast.  By the way, Fancy Feast has such a large percentage of the market that even many of your customers who buy high-end dry food from you are buying Fancy Feast in the grocery store.

So the question becomes, how do you get those folks to buy their canned food from you?  Ok, I gotta be truthful.  Often times I walk into a store and ask, “How is your cat food business?”  The all-too-often reply is, “We don’t sell much cat food”. Then I look at the shelf and see a few facings of very expensive cat cans.  No wonder you don’t sell and cat food!!!

I completely understand the choice not to carry grocery store brands, but there are so many choices of reasonably priced canned cat foods now.  It’s such an easy way to get more sales through the register and help improve the health of your customers’ cats.

Check out this site:  Dr. Pierson has developed a huge following and is more than happy to let you copy, reprint whatever is on her site.  We took some of the pages off the site and placed them all over our cat food sections. Again, send this information to your customers. Become the expert.  Let them know you are looking out for them.

Now, when space is a real issue, do what the big retailers do: get rid of the stuff that doesn’t sell.  I am pretty certain you’ve been looking at flavors and brands of food that have been sitting on the shelf for way too long.  Give those away and put foods that will sell on the shelf.  It is critical if space is an issue to have fast moving SKUs on the shelf.  Bring in some reasonably priced cat cans.  Have your rep get you the sales ranking of the brands and bring in the best sellers.  Give away some cans to customers (yup, give away some cans).  That is the best way to get a new brand going.

A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to tour a P&G facility where they do a lot of consumer research on shopping.  They even have a pet store set up to track how best to merchandise food. It was so cool!!  Here is what they learned: Your dog cans are best merchandised with the same brand of dry.  Makes sense right?  Mr. or Mrs. Consumer usually buys the matching can to the dry.

Cat cans? The complete opposite.  With cat food,  all cat cans should be together in one continuous place so Mrs. Consumer can walk up and down and do what she loves to do…”Let’s see what’s new”. This next point is not scientific, it is “experiencetific”.  When you decide to bring in canned cat food, it’s probably better to bring in fewer brands and more varieties of that brand than it is to bring in more brands and fewer varieties.  There is something to the “you need to have a shelf presence” that is really true.

One last though—every customer that buys cat food buys litter and chances are not from you.  Get where I am going with that one?

Thanks for reading this, I hope I help increase your sales.