Ready, Set, Go!
Whether it’s a local hike or a road trip across state lines, pet owners are bringing their pets with them, and that means more opportunity to sell the products that can make these adventures safe and comfortable.
Traveling with pets is now the norm. Many pet owners find that it’s actually easier to take their pets along for the trip than to make arrangements to leave them at home. As more owners get onboard with the trend, there will be an increasing need for travel and adventure gear.
Manufacturers and retailers alike agree that the big trend in pet travel and adventure gear is simply the fact that pets are coming along for the journey. The somewhat-recent acceptability of this practice is helping the trend grow, said Mike Leon, president of Leon Engineering Inc. in Orlando, Fla.
“It’s been accepted to take pets out into public and into establishments in Europe for a long time,” Leon said. “But things are changing here, and it’s becoming more common to see restaurants and stores welcoming dogs. Ten years ago that was unheard of in this country. As it becomes more accepted, more people are doing it.”
Taking your dog anywhere and everywhere is a rising trend, agreed Dan Hawk, owner of Gen7Pets in Elverson, Pa.
“And pet owners aren’t just taking their dogs on vacation to leave them in the hotel, they’re taking them along for their adventures—parks, the beach, even restaurants,” Hawk said.
And pet owners need products to keep their dogs on the go, said Susan Strible, director of marketing for Ruffwear in Bend, Ore.
“Products that keep dogs happy, safe and comfortable during travels are important,” Strible said. “What we’ve heard from our customers is that they want durable, long-lasting products that are easy to use and comfortable for their dogs.”
Keeping pets comfortable psychologically also is on owners’ minds, said Diane Dewberry, owner of The Healthy Animal in Pembroke, Mass. She reported selling an increased number of essential oils designed to calm animals during travel.
“There are a couple reasons pets may have trouble traveling—the motion itself may make them sick or uneasy, but there also can be fear associated with travel,” Dewberry said. “Perhaps the last time a puppy traveled was to the vet to get neutered. That could create some fear about getting in the car. Tranquility-blend essential oils can help with relaxation and are becoming increasingly popular.”
The Latest Travel Products for Dogs
Car travel with a dog can be a much more pleasant experience with the right product. New from Solvit Products is the PupSTEP HitchStep, a two-step accessory for helping dogs in and out of cars.
“The PupSTEP HitchStep can mount into any vehicle square-hitch receiver and has two folding steps that are stowed easily so that they stay out of the way when not in use,” said Patrick Hoffman, president of the Arlington, Texas, company. “They also are adjustable to fit different vehicles.”
Having the right gear for stops along the way or the destination itself also is important. Gen7Pets in Elverson, Pa., recently launched the Cool-Air Cot, which features heavy-
duty mesh flooring that provides ventilation, said Dan Hawk, owner.
Launched at Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., in March, the Portable Play Yard from Gen7Pets offers an incredibly quick setup and stores easily for portability, Hawk said.
“This is a great product for the dog who wants to have a little space to stretch out and walk around,” Hawk said. “It prevents pets from wandering off, protects the dog from the environment, or protects the environment from the dog.”
The Latest Adventure Gear
Having the right gear will ensure travelers are ready for any adventure. Some of the latest products in this category will help dog owners take their companion along for the trip.
Max Wax paw wax, new from Pawz Dog Boots, is a wax product designed to protect paws against snow and ice buildup, chemicals, hot pavement and sand. It also can help moisturize dry and cracked pads, said Michael Friedland, president of the New York-based company.
Ruffwear in Bend, Ore., recently introduced a sleep system designed for camping and backpacking, said Susan Strible, director of marketing. The Highlands Sleeping System includes sleeping options to meet a variety of needs. At the foundation of the system is the new Highlands Pad, a low-profile sleeping pad that easily folds for transport. It can be used on its own, with the redesigned Highlands Bed or with the new Highlands Sleeping Bag, Strible said.
San Francisco-based P.L.A.Y. (Pet Lifestyle And You) introduced its Scout and About Outdoor Collection this spring. The line features outdoor and travel-friendly products for the active human and dog including rope toys, training pouches, travel bowls, tents, beds and mats.
“This collection offers active humans and dogs all the go-to accessories to pack for your pup in one place and is perfectly suited for any day of backyard fun, training and events, weekend trips to the beach or lake, and even backcountry hiking and camping,” said sales manager Bill Parsons.
Display and Marketing Dog Travel Products
The key to successful travel displays often comes down to catching the customer’s eye. Caroline Gunther, owner of Wag! A Unique Pet Boutique in Hendersonville, N.C., said she tends to put travel displays near the door. Located in a tourist destination, Gunther gets quite a few travelers in her store. As a result, she said she makes a point to keep travel products front and center.
Visibility is key for travel gear, agreed Laura Clark, co-owner of Wylie Wagg, which has locations in Virginia and Washington, D.C. While pet owners will always come in for food, they might not be thinking about the products they could use for an upcoming trip. A travel display is the chance to give the customer ideas. Clark said she makes a habit of choosing a visible spot in the store for this type of display and aims to only use travel gear so that the products truly are grouped together in a one-stop-shop fashion.
“Many travel products fall into that category where customers say ‘I never knew this existed’ until they actually see it,” said Dan Hawk, owner of Gen7Pets in Elverson, Pa. “Even if it’s not a fancy display, as long as the products are clearly visible, it can be enough to let them know it’s out there. The next time they come in the store might be the time they buy it.”
Susan Strible, director of marketing for Ruffwear in Bend, Ore., suggests grouping displays based on activity, such as hiking, in order to steer customers to a place where products that fit their needs can be found.
“Retailers can display collections of products together to tell a story,” Strible said. “For example, showing a collection of travel products together gives consumers a clear idea of what they may need for their next road trip.”
Clark agreed that telling a story goes a long way in travel gear displays.
“Using real vehicles can be very effective—think bicycles, tricycles, miniature cars, etc.—merchandised with plush animals wearing or using accessories and gear,” Clark said. “We create accompanying themes and signage so that the display tells a story.”
Educating the Consumer About Dog Travel Products
“Speak to your customers and understand their family’s lifestyle—then share your own wisdom of products they need,” said Michael Friedland, president of Pawz Dog Boots in New York. “Pet owners appreciate you sharing your expertise and count on your advice.”
Caroline Gunther, owner of Wag! A Unique Pet Boutique in Hendersonville, N.C., said she tries to make a point to talk to every customer that comes in. Gunther is located in a popular tourist destination and often sees tourists who have visited the area without their pet.
“I always encourage tourists to come back with their dog and give them tons of information about dog-friendly places in the area,” Gunther said. “Sometimes educating the customer about a tourist destination is the first step to selling a travel or adventure product. They have to know what options they have to actually travel with their pet.”
Michael Leon, president of Leon Engineering Inc. in Orlando, Fla., said that video can go a long way toward educating customers. A lot of products—such as his company’s Bike Tow Leash—are not self-explanatory when sitting on the shelf. But Leon said that video is an excellent way to explain what a product does.
“Even if the retailer uses signage to encourage customers to check a video out on YouTube, that can help,” Leon said. “With smartphones, all a customer has to do is type in a product name and they instantly can see more images and videos. But they need to be encouraged to take that extra step.”
Be a Travel Guide
Retailers can play a big role in encouraging pet owners to bring their companions along on vacation. Caroline Gunther, owner of Wag! A Unique Pet Boutique in Hendersonville, N.C., makes it a point to provide tourists with a lot of information about things they can do in the area with their pet.
Whether they’re located in a tourist spot or not, retailers can suggest travel websites that will help their customers plan their next trip. Here are some to start with:
BringFido.com: This website can help travelers find pet-friendly destinations worldwide and includes information on lodging, air travel, attractions, restaurants and more.
GoPetFriendly.com: Search more than 60,000 pet-friendly locations and find helpful tips on what might be involved with pet travel.
PetsWelcome.com: Search for pet-friendly hotels by city with this easy-to-use site. Or, if you don’t know where you’ll be stopping along the way, you can search for hotels by route.
This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Pet Product News.