With the pet care market growing bigger year after year in nearly all regions and competition intensifying, Hong Kong companies have to find their suitable niches in order to secure a bigger slice of the growing pie. As a rule of thumb, finding the right clientele can ensure a good start, while living up to the ever-changing requirements and standards guarantees continued success.
Finding the right channels
Given their more mature pet culture and extensive knowledge of different products and brands of pet care products available, pet owners in advanced economies are generally looking for choices rather than professional advice on nurturing their pets when shopping for pet care products.
Except for therapeutic items that require a veterinarian prescription, supermarkets/hypermarkets and pet shops and pet superstores are therefore by far the most important channels from which pet owners shop for pet supplies in North America, Western Europe and Japan.
In stark contrast with the mature pet culture in the developed world, less experienced pet owners in developing markets tend to rely more on the expert advice that they can receive from veterinary clinics in making their purchase decisions. For instance, veterinary clinics remained the second most important channel for sales of pet care in India last year, accounting for 40% of the total sales of the country.
In light of the rising trend of pet humanisation and the increasing willingness to splurge on pets, as well as the subsequent call for more premium pet products, specialist retailers such as pet shops and pet superstores are fast gaining popularity and importance in the distribution of pet care products.
This comes hand in hand with the technological progress and design enhancement which make the development and change of pet care products so fast that expert advice and professional recommendations become almost a must for pet owners to make safe and healthy picks for their loved pets.
The trend is also becoming more prominent as the population ages, while more complex items such as grooming tools and training toys today require hands-on demonstration, training and instruction before buyers can correctly and effectively use them on their pets.
Exhibition a must
Given an increasingly large pool of buyers looking for new, innovative pet care products, leading pet trade fairs or exhibitions which can attract showcases of pet products from all over the world are seeing growing demand.
For many pet care manufacturers and traders, Interzoo, the world’s largest, bi-annual pet fair in Nuremburg, Germany, and China International Pet Show (CIPS), Asia’s largest pet and aquarium trade show that alternates between Beijing and Guangzhou each year are two must-go events.
These trade fairs not only help manufacturers/exhibitors showcase and demonstrate their new products to buyers from all over the world, but provide a good networking occasion for industry players to collect market information and understand market trends.
According to the show report of Interzoo 2010, the top-3 reasons for visiting are sourcing information about new products, maintaining business contacts and setting up new business contacts.
Pet product retailers including key mass market retailers such as supermarket chains and pet shops and professional buyers such as veterinary practitioners are major visitors to these trade shows, giving exhibitors a convenient platform to acquire new business contacts and cultivate customer relations.
In 2010, Interzoo received more than 38,000 buyers flocking from different parts of the world, like Belgium, China, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, the UK and US, while CIPS enticed more than 33,000 buyers from more than 60 countries and territories in the world such as Germany, Japan, Russia, South Korea and Taiwan.
To help Hong Kong pet supplies manufacturers grasp the opportunities stemming from the rising pet trend, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), since 2009, has embedded in its annual Houseware Fair a specific zone, World of Pet Supplies (WoPS), for pet products. Last year, the World of Pet Supplies attracted more than 100 exhibitors from eight countries and regions including the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Taiwan and South Korea to showcase their trendiest products and a visitor flow of nearly 9,000.
In addition to exhibition participation, promotion on online portals for the pet supplies industry such as www.petsinfo.net and www.ipetchannel.com and printed international pet supplies trade publications such as PETS International and Pet’s Business Information are vital to the success of the pet care business.
Penetrating with reliable products
Although few safety rules are specific to pet care products, except for pet food and health supplements, safety is always an important consideration for importers and final consumers of pet care products, not to mention the relevant monitoring authority.
As a rule of thumb, pet products should never contain any contaminants that are not allowed for use in products for human use. Despite the more lenient standards, most pet products still have to comply with certain basic safety requirements.
For instance, electronic/electrical equipment such as the lighting, filtration systems, air pumps and heaters embedded in an all-in-one aquarium would have to satisfy the requirements put forth by safety standards set forth by related Directives such as WEEE, RoHS, REACH and ErP (energy-related products) and the CE mark requirements before entering the EU.
To enhance safety and boost consumer confidence, manufacturers are increasingly inclined to send their products to testing laboratories such as SGS, Bureau Veritas and TÜV to ensure compliance, while demonstrating to their clients the quality and safety of their products. In the meantime, safety labels have become more widely used as a selling point to attract customers.