Planet Dog kennels its consumer book

After six years of selling to both consumers and businesses, Portland, ME-based Planet Dog is putting its consumer catalog in hibernation for a year.

“Our business has at least doubled each year for the past couple of years with b-to-b and b-to-c combined,” says Catherine Frost, marketing director for the supplier of upscale dog supplies, “but b-to-b is pretty much what’s been driving the growth.”

The b-to-b sector currently accounts for 70%-75% of sales, says Frost. The average order for its b-to-b book is $300-$500, whereas the average order for the consumer book is in the $50-$60 range.

Not only does the consumer catalog yield a lower average order, but finding viable consumer prospects is more costly than prospecting among businesses, Frost says. When renting consumer lists, Planet Dog ended up paying extra for selects such as pet owners who have made catalog purchases in the past.

While Planet Dog’s consumer catalog is on hiatus, its consumer Website will remain in operation, says Frost. In fact, the company is launching a storefront on Amazon.com this month. Planet Dog will pay Amazon a portion of each sale that is made on the site.

Putting more teeth in b-to-b

As far as b-to-b goes, the company will refine its marketing efforts to better serve the small and midsize, independently owned pet stores that it targets. For instance, its spring catalog will feature Easy Order Kits, assortments of popular wholesale products such as Planet Dog leashes and collars in quantities of two to four product units, rather than the typical 6-, 12-, or 24-unit kits.

The kits will offer several best-selling sizes and colors, as well as merchandise display material such as a point-of-purchase signs. “We’re changing the emphasis to be much more helpful to the end user” by offering a fully merchandised product for store proprietors, Frost says.

The b-to-b catalog mails to 20,000 businesses in the spring and the fall. The current mailing list includes 12,000 prospects culled from the subscriber files of pet-supply trade publications such as Pet Age and Pet Business, says Frost.

The catalog is also used by Planet Dog’s four sales reps when they visit prospective customers. By the end of 2005, the company plans to have increased its sales force to 10-12 reps.

Planet Dog would like to expand into veterinary hospitals — many of which have mini-stores either under the same roof or next door — as well as into the hospitality market. Frost points out that many hotels now offer wings or floors where animals are permitted, making the sale of Planet Dog products to the gift shops of these establishments a promising avenue to explore.

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