Function & Fashion
Will retailers see manufacturers merge the two traits and coordinate them with human trends more often?
The apparel category means dollars during fall and winter. Diane Groff, co-owner of Other End of the Leash in Durham, N.C., sees sales in sports-related and functional items tied to pet owners’ lifestyles. Dog owners ask for apparel to show their team spirit for college and professional teams as well as sweaters and coats for their short-haired companions, she said.
“We are sport-crazy during football and basketball seasons,” she said.
Hand-knit wool products from Chilly Dog Sweaters also sell well for Groff.
“Some are knit with alpaca wool,” she said. “Pet owners love them, and they’re so easy to wash.”
Groff also sells high-visibility, blaze-orange jackets by Ruffwear during fall.
“Individuals buy those for their dogs during hunting season to easily distinguish dog from deer,” she said. “Our customers want functionality over that fun factor.”
Dog owners’ activities during cooler and wetter periods regularly spur purchases of rain coats and jackets. Some manufacturers combine waterproof materials, fleece linings and visibility safety features, such as the North Country Coat from Kurgo Products.
New Quinzee and Powder Hound jackets from Ruffwear also offer low-light visibility features. Both offer machine-washable, weather-resistant insulation, while the former has an attached stuff sack for packing.
Even owners in search of more fashionable apparel want functionality, said Evelyn Yu, marketing director at FouFou Brands in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada.
“Customers want practical materials,” she said. “Anything water resistant and easy to clean is key.”
Among FouFou Dog’s new items for this fall and winter are water-resistant Puffer Coats designed to roll up into a travel pouch, Yu said.
“However, our Foucler coat will be the runaway hit,” she added. “Its popularity last year was overwhelming due to its close resemblance to high-end human outerwear. This year, we’ve introduced trendy colors and added some subtle details.”
A resemblance to human fashion guides the creation of products at Fab Dog in Lodi, N.J. In addition to wanting to keep dogs dry and warm, pet owners like to imitate human clothing, said Michael Becher, COO.
“And we provide that same quality, design and materials for the dog,” he said. “This year, we went further in interpreting human style into pet style. These are new designs with little details that really make them pop.”
Customer demand prompted Fab Dog to extend last year’s sweaters and jackets in sizing, too.
“Over the past two years, the demand for larger dog products has really taken off,” Becher said. “All our items come in an 8-inch-size sweater all the way through a 24-inch-size sweater or jacket. ”
Janene Zakrajsek, co-owner of Pussy & Pooch Pethouse and Pawbar, with stores in Southern California, said she repeatedly sees the same products, which limits her inventory options.
“Manufacturers have to be more forward-thinking,” she said. “I’m continually disappointed that there isn’t more on trend. I wish more manufacturers would take more cues from human apparel. But we want the human thing done in a nice way—not kitschy.”
Zakrajsek cited Parisa Fowles-Pazdro of Max Bone as an example.
“She’s a designer who actually designs for humans but applies those sensibilities to pets,” she said. “She knows that modern pets are reflections of their humans.”
Two forecasts for this year’s popular dog costumes
Entertainment trends will lead the way again, said FouFou Brands Marketing Director Evelyn Yu, based in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada.
“I find that lately, popularity in movies dictate the Halloween favorites,” she said. “We had ‘Minions,’ and I strongly feel that dinosaurs will have their time this year—ever since the release of ‘Jurassic World.’”
Retailer Janene Zakrajsek of Pussy & Pooch Pethouse and Pawbar, with stores in Southern California, concurred with both of those movie influences and added the 2014 version of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
“I think you’ll see a lot of creativity,” she said. “You can have just a hat or bonnet. We offer a variety of hats, hoodies and full costumes.”