Out for Summer
In the coming months, pet owners will be seeking products to keep pets cool and safe all summer long. Retailers and manufacturers weigh in on the latest trends in first-aid and summer-safety items.
As spring gives way to summer and pet owners take to the outdoors, consumer demand for first-aid solutions and a wide range of summer safety products will rise. Pet specialty retailers will want to be prepared with an appropriate assortment to meet this seasonal demand, reported industry participants.
According to Courtney Mack, marketing communications specialist for Innovacyn, the Rialto, Calif.-based maker of Vetericyn brand products, the warm-weather months usually bring with them an uptick in nicks and cuts, hot spots, and other skin-related pet conditions.
“During the summer, pet owners and their pets are the most active,” she said. “Animals are outdoors, traveling and enjoying the weather. All the activity can increase the likeliness for animals to be injured or have skin issues.”
Fortunately, minor injuries and skin irritations don’t need to ruin an otherwise fun day, as manufacturers offer solutions for addressing such conditions.
“Pet owners are becoming more aware about what they can treat at home and what they need to see a veterinarian for,” Mack said. “Pet health care products do not replace the need of a family veterinarian but work together for the increased health care of the pet.”
Products that both kill germs and soothe and cool itchy, irritated skin are expected to be in demand. In response to customers’ needs, the latest modification to Vetericyn’s existing products has been the added indication of “antimicrobial” to the labels.
“All of our Vetericyn Plus gel formulations are now antimicrobial and help relieve itch and pain associated with skin irritations,” Mack said. “We believe this will have a big impact for our customers who notice itchy and painful skin on their pets.”
Meanwhile, for minor injuries, MiracleCorp, based in Dayton, Ohio, offers a line designed for on-the-spot control of minor bleeding. Kwik Stop Styptic Gel Swabs are each a single-use swab filled with the Original Kwik Stop Gel. Kwik Tips styptic-filled nail caps come with an easy applicator for at-home use.
“The nail caps stay on the nail, containing the blood and allowing the quick to heal while benzocaine eases discomfort,” said Lori Fouts, vice president of sales management for the company. “Value packs for the professional veterinarian and groomer markets are also available. They are both great [for] first aid kits, travel, hunting, dog shows and performance events, service dogs, groomers, veterinarians and everyday use.”
While rising temperatures and abundant sunlight can be refreshing after a long winter, these conditions do require that pet owners take precautions. With this in mind, Clackamas, Ore.-based Gold Paw Series created the Sun Shield Tee, made of a UPF50 lightweight stretch jersey that is comfortable in warm weather.
“What a lot of people are surprised to learn about the Sun Shield Tee is that the light colors of the tees help mitigate heat absorption from the sun, which can be especially nice for dogs with darker coats,” said president Rebecca Gadd.
Keeping pets cool and safe are top priorities, particularly for outdoorsy pet owners, and demand for products that accomplish this goal is driving innovation in the category.
It is a myth that dogs can’t drown, noted Diana Salerno, managing partner of Hedz Up Pets in Houston. Thus, water safety products are on the rise, she said.
Bend, Ore.-based Ruffwear plans to launch several new products this summer that feature the company’s Swamp Cooler technology to help keep dogs cool. The original Swamp Cooler will now feature a leash portal on the back of the vest for connecting to Ruffwear’s Web Master and Front Range Harnesses when worn underneath the vest.
In addition, said Susan Strible, director of marketing, the company will introduce a Jet Stream light-and-fast cooling vest that features a Spandex panel on top, a zippered closure for a high-performance fit and a cooling panel on the bottom to keep pets cool during high-intensity activities such as trail running.
“Our Core Cooler is an add-on product that connects to select Ruffwear packs and harnesses to also keep dogs’ chests and bellies cool while hiking,” Strible added.
The company also has updated its Float Coat life jacket in three vibrant new colors.
In the southern states of the U.S., sun protection is a must year-round. At The Doggie Bag in Lakeland, Fla., owner Heather Moran has success with an Aroma Paws product that is a coat conditioner and sunscreen all in one. She also likes Buzz 4 Bugs.
“It’s a cedar oil product safe for dogs, puppies, humans and cats—most are not safe for cats. Buzz not only repels bugs, it also kills bugs,” she said.
At TailsSpin Pet Food & Accessories, which is a Bentley’s Pet Stuff company and has stores in Georgia, the stores work to help promote local manufacturers such as No Natz and the Savannah Bee Co.’s Doggie and Me Balm and Hipster Hound. Co-owner Jeffrey Allen Manley said that Savannah’s warmer climate promotes year-round consumer interest in safety vests and raincoats as well as in flea and tick medications.
In this digital world, there are many opportunities for manufacturers to provide online educational opportunities, such as the product videos that can be found on Ruffwear’s website.
“Ruffwear’s internal customer service team fields calls and emails daily to assist customers with everything from fit to gear selection,” said Susan Strible, director of marketing for the Bend, Ore.-based company. “Ruffwear dealers have access to online retail training, including EduGames, which is updated seasonally to keep retail sales staff up-to-date on new products.”
Though educating the consumer through websites and social media is a tried-and-true method of marketing products, these days, nothing beats face-to-face interaction, said Lisa Senafe, president and founder of Bentley’s Pet Stuff, a multistore chain.
Jeffrey Allen Manley, co-owner of TailsSpin Pet Food & Accessories, which is a Bentley’s Pet Stuff company and has stores in Georgia, agreed.
“The best opportunity to educate comes when customers have an issue or problem to solve,” Manley said. “They are eager for solutions and open to new ideas, which allows our staff to present our specialized knowledge. This helps build customer trust and loyalty.”
He added that his store often works with manufacturers to conduct training sessions on their products, which are open to customers as well.
“At these open sessions, our staff has the opportunity to mingle and to better acquaint themselves with our customer base,” Manley said. “It is also an opportunity for the manufacturers to have a direct contact with our customers. These open relationships with all entities are helping keep our loyal customers.”
Those that use social media should aim to keep it regularly updated.
“We will post fun and entertaining photos and videos every day on our Facebook and Instagram pages to help attract, engage and grow our audience,” said Brian Frazier Wright, vice president of The Green Pet Shop in Deerfield, Ill. “Once we have their attention, we start to push the content of higher importance—i.e., pet safety, product development, climate change/environmental issues, etc.”
Rebecca Gadd, president of Gold Paw Series in Clackamas, Ore., said, “Education is extremely important when it comes to sun protection and summer safety. A lot of people think that dogs can’t get sunburned, but that’s not true.”
As a means of ensuring that the company’s retail partners are well informed, Gold Paw Series offers incentives for employees who get to know the products.
“The more familiar an employee is with our products, the better they will be able to match them to the needs of their customers,” Gadd said.
Manufacturers also often urge their retail partners to tap into the resources they provide when seeking to get staff up to speed on their products.
“We are always open to helping educate retailers on our products,” said Courtney Mack, marketing communications specialist for Innovacyn, the Rialto, Calif.-based maker of Vetericyn products. “We find that education of our products and animal health care is important to building trust between the retailer and the consumer. Ultimately, when a retailer understands why a product works, they are able to help the consumer, and the consumer feels empowered to be doing the best thing for their pet.”
From mannequins to living, breathing dog models to special sections in the store, there are a number of ways to merchandise first aid and summer products.
“Product vignettes focused on outdoor activities such as camping or hiking are a great way to inspire consumers to not only engage in these activities with their canine companions, but to encourage them to purchase the gear that makes these adventures great,” said Susan Strible, director of marketing for Ruffwear, based in Bend, Ore. “Ruffwear’s dog mannequins are ideal for using in these in-store displays.”
Jeffrey Allen Manley, co-owner of TailsSpin Pet Food & Accessories, which is a Bentley’s Pet Stuff company and has stores in Georgia, pointed out that context is crucial for merchandising summer safety and first aid products.
“We find it best to display a few items in use, such as on a dog or cat mannequin,” he said. “It gives customers a better point of reference as to why they may need the products.”
Many industry sources encourage retailers to use a combination of marketing and merchandising tools to generate interest in first aid and summer safety products.
“We recommend grouping our products together so that customers can see all the offerings and pick the specific product they need before making a purchase,” said Courtney Mack, marketing communications specialist for Innovacyn, the Rialto, Calif.-based maker of Vetericyn products. “We also offer many shelf displaying materials such as testimonial sheets, shelf danglers and channel strips to help pull the eye of the customer, while helping to educate them on the product attributes.”
Using dog mannequins to display products can engage the senses.
“When it comes to merchandising clothing, it’s especially important to have a stuffed dog on display wearing the garment,” said Rebecca Gadd, president of Bend, Ore.-based Gold Paw Series. “This allows customers the ability to get a better sense as to how the product looks on a dog, rather than when they just see it hanging up or folded on a shelf. Plus, it’s always nice to be able to touch and feel the fabric before you buy it.”
Mannequins work well, but if you’ve got a live dog that is a willing model, go for it. For example, Bentley—the real-life inspiration behind Bentley’s Pet Stuff, a multistore chain—is featured in many videos showcasing these products.
And Houston-based Hedz Up Pets provides retailers with a visual banner, depicting a dog wearing its Watercollar, serving as a reminder about drowning prevention and a promotion of the product, said Diana Salerno, managing partner.
Social media can come in handy for marketing items as well. Take, for instance, The Green Pet Shop in Deerfield, Ill.
“We will partner with famous pet Instagram accounts and run regular contests for giveaways to help grow our name and also increase awareness about our company and products,” said vice president Brian Frazier Wright. “Additionally, we will sponsor these accounts by sending them products and providing a discount code for their followers on our website. In return, we ask that they regularly post promotional photos on their account. This method has proven to be very successful for us and helped to grow our customer base.”