Many Americans call their pets “fur babies.” It makes sense when you consider that there are more dogs (78 million) and cats (86 million) than children under 18 (74.2 million) in the country. Pets often are considered important family members and many owners extend their holiday gift giving and pampering to them.

Pet retailers can encourage their customers’ holiday generosity by hosting special events, developing holiday promotions and decorating for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah and New Year’s.

Here are ideas to make the holiday season jolly for you and your customers:

1. Festive Decorations: Decorate your front windows to match your store brand and mix in merchandise with the decorations. If you’re a rural store, stick with nature-themed decorations. If you’re a modern shop, try bright, non-traditional colors (like hot pink and teal with silver). Avoid cluttering your store with decorations on the floors; place decorations on shelves and displays and from the ceiling. Have fun with signage messaging such as “Howl-o-ween Savings” and “Happy Howlidays.” For inspiration, check out Pinterest and search for “pet store holiday merchandising.”

2. Product Placement: Holiday-themed endcaps and bins with “stocking stuffer” items can be filled with an ever-changing offering of treats and toys. Signs at these displays could say “Great Stocking Stuffers!” or “Holiday gifts for furry family members.” Doggie coats, leashes, toys and beds can be displayed with a holiday theme.

3. Shelter Donation Promotion: Offer a bin where customers can place food, treats and toys for shelter animals. Cross-promote the drive with the shelter or rescue group. Consider offering a “Buy One, Donate One” special.

4. Trick-or-Treat for Pups: Pick an evening or weekend day to hold a Halloween event that includes a dog costume contest and free treats. Post the costume contest winners’ photos on your Facebook, Pinterest and other social media pages. Hand out Halloween safety tips from an organization like the AVMA.

5. Holiday Pet Photos: Set up a special holiday backdrop in your store where pet owners can have photos taken with their pets. Or hold an event where a professional photographer will take holiday-themed pet photos for a fee.

6. Holiday Open House: Select a day (or days) to hold special sales and pet adoptions. Make the event fun with pet-themed holiday music, snacks (for humans and pets) and maybe even a visit from Santa Claus. Offer a free gift (inexpensive toy or treats) to the first 25 to 50 people who make a purchase. If you have space, offer free gift wrapping, a “Yappy Hour” or just a small area with a few chairs for shoppers to relax. Promote the event through your online channels, outdoor signs, direct mail, advertising, small flyers given with purchases and through personal invitations to nearby businesses.

7. Service Specialist: If you offer grooming or training services, offer “holiday” specials during slower times in your store. Then give each pet parent a coupon for a discounted service after the holidays.

8. Online Opportunities: Use your website and/or social media to post holiday photos of your customers’ pets. On your digital channels, offer special savings/coupons and gift ideas for pets.

9. Customer Service Spirit: Be sure you and your staff are cheerful and helpful during what can be a stressful shopping season for your customers.

Sharing holiday fun with pet parents and their fur babies can lead to your warm, fuzzy and profitable holiday season.

Phillips Pet Food & Supplies