You’ve just come up with an idea for a cat toy that’s guaranteed to fly off the shelves. It's the sort of invention that kitty moms and dads will love, because it’s safe, inexpensive, unique, sturdy and fun--everything a pet parent looks for when she shops. That’s when you realize that coming up with the idea was the easy part. Now, it’s time to get your product on the shelf of your neighborhood pet store. Your cousin gives you some great advice: Stick to one chain of stores to start your enterprise. Sounds logical, you think. With Petco shops located in most major cities, this could be your best bet. Now what?
If you follow the plan outlined here, and your idea and presentation are a good match, you could soon be in business with one of the top pet-supply chains in the nation.
Invent and evaluate the item. It’s not enough to simply come up with a clever brainstorm. Figure out the cost of manufacturing large quantities of your invention to determine your investment. Divide the total cost by the number of units produced; that is your baseline price. Double the figure to arrive at your wholesale price. If Petco buys your idea, they will double your wholesale price to make their profit.
Protect your invention by filing for a trademark or patent. Both are pricey when handled by an attorney. You can do your own trademark paperwork using a website that takes inventors through the process step by step. (See Resources.) Please note that applying for a copyright won’t protect you, as ideas can’t be copyrighted.
Don’t spend money on package design. Walk the floors of a Petco, and you’ll notice that products are showcased in signature boxes, on backer cards, in plastic sleeves, in blister packs and in other protective packages. If Petco buys your idea, they will handle the job of packaging it, and you needn’t worry about this step. You will, however, have to deal with the packaging issue if you decide to market your product on your own.
Prepare your presentation for Petco marketers or product developers. Create a list of features and benefits to support your reasons why your design should be welcomed into the Petco product line. Features are a product’s unique properties (i.e., it’s strong, safe, inexpensive and/or sturdy). Benefits cover the emotional selling points (you show your love when you buy this toy for your kitty; or you help your pet live longer by giving it a toy that stimulates exercise).
Make an appointment with the product-development people at Petco. Contact the Petco corporate offices by letter: PETCO Animal Supplies, Inc., 9125 Rehco Rd., San Diego, CA 92121; or by fax: (858) 784-3489. If you are persistent, you might be able to track down a marketing or product-development person by phone, but be prepared to be transferred around after calling the company’s main number: (877) 738-6742. According to the Petco website, anyone with new product ideas is urged to use the Internet to suggest them.
Avoid describing your invention completely when you contact Petco. Your letter/fax/e-mail should not give away details of your new invention. Instead, tell them that you have invented a terrific new product that’s popular with your pets, and that you believe the idea would make a great addition to Petco’s proprietary toy line. Ask for an appointment with company representatives when you visit San Diego on a certain date.
Make a formal presentation. Bring several samples of your invention. Remember that your goal is to convince Petco why they should buy your idea. Know in advance what type of compensation you seek. Some inventors sell their idea outright and lose ownership of the concept. Others license their invention and receive royalties. Be prepared to leave your samples with Petco after your presentation.
Are you worried about Petco stealing your idea? Before you travel to San Diego, receive assurances that anyone within the corporation reviewing your product idea is willing to sign a nondisclosure statement.
If you pitch your product to Petco and the company isn’t interested in manufacturing it, you can always approach another chain or manufacture it yourself, then sell it to any store, cataloger or Internet site you choose.
Don’t sign or affiliate yourself with companies that promise to get your invention into the hands of the folks at Petco. Many of these concerns are rip-offs. They will take your checkbook to the cleaner and leave you and your invention out in the cold. Check with the Better Business Bureau if you are considering giving your invention to an agent.