Steppin’ Out in Style
Comfort and safety are top considerations for pet owners searching for collars, leashes and harnesses.
It’s no secret that today’s canine is ensconced at the family hearth. However, dogs also adore gadding about town and relishing a holiday retreat. For these reasons, industry insiders report that pet owners are insisting that collars, harnesses and leashes be activity appropriate, stylish, comfortable, safe and durable.
“Consumers take a lot into consideration when buying collars, leashes and harnesses and want to make sure that they are picking the best product for their pet and their lifestyle,” said Carol Erisman, communications and marketing manager for MiracleCorp in Dayton, Ohio.
Comfort is also an important factor in this product category.
“It’s important to keep pets comfortable with long-lasting accessories that are breathable, affordable and made of top-quality materials,” said Leah Angelos, sales representative for ZippyPaws in Chino, Calif.
Toni Shelaske, owner of Healthy Pet Products, which has two retail locations and a grooming operation in the Pittsburgh area, noted that pet owners are often looking for problem-solving products that are also comfortable for the pet, and for this, they require a retailers’ help.
“Our customers want their dogs comfortable but secure and realize that a flat collar can put undue stress on the neck and trachea, and are asking for assistance in choosing a harness, especially items that help with pulling,” she said. “We highly recommend the [2 Hounds Design] Freedom No-Pull Harness, particularly because it is made in the USA.”
Nylon collars, leashes and harnesses are in high demand, as are waterproof materials, said Sara Schrekenhofer, advertising manager and graphic designer for Leather Brothers in Conway, Ark.
Other considerations run the gamut from ease of cleaning to style.
“For instance, one owner may participate in a lot of outdoor activities with their dog, which can often mean dirt—[so] are they able to scrub the collar and leash easily?” Erisman said. “Another is simply interested in having the cutest collar for their pet.”
At Dog Krazy, which has locations in Virginia, owner and president Nancy Guinn noted a strong demand for martingales.
“I have a lot of requests for the thicker greyhound martingales,” she said. “The harness lead is my absolute favorite. I love it because the dog is not able to pull out of it; it tightens with their body.”
Customized collars are also in the mix at Dog Krazy.
“I carry a line called Moose Pet Wear,” Guinn said. “One side has the print, and my logo is on the inside. They are gorgeous.”
The call for canine fashion is hot at Dog Krazy.
“We get a lot of people that want the really nice leather collar with a lot of bling,” she said.
“Made in the USA” is a designation that has gone mainstream, Schrekenhofer said.
“Many consumers are saying they want to see more American-made-and-sourced collars and leashes,” she said. “Additionally, sales in organic and ‘green’ items remain strong and steady as consumers want to know the ‘ingredients’ in the product they are purchasing.”
Safety is another factor, and normal wear and tear over time requires that collars, leads and harnesses be replaced periodically for the safety of the pet, she added.
Finding the Proper Fit
Because every collar and harness fits differently, product and brand familiarity are essential to assisting a pet owner in fitting and sizing a collar or harness. Further, ascertaining the type of use is key, said Sara Schrekenhofer, advertising manager and graphic designer for Leather Brothers in Conway, Ark.
“Ask the consumer how they will be using the product,” she said. “For example, [will it be used for] training [or] outside?”
Leah Angelos, sales representative for ZippyPaws in Chino, Calif., said that allowing pet owners to try the product on their pet can also help owners find the right product.
“It’s always good for retailers to have easily accessible samples available for consumers to actually try on their furry friends so they can find the perfect fit,” Angelos said. “Many retailers also provide measuring tapes for customers to use.”
Further, as a dog grows, the pet owner needs to ensure that the collar or harness fits correctly and is not too tight, Schrekenhofer said.
“As a dog matures, it will need different-sized collars and harnesses,” she said. “You don’t want a dog to become uncomfortable or have obstructed airways.”
At Healthy Pet Products, which has two retail locations and a grooming operation in the Pittsburgh area, owner Toni Shelaske recommends that customers bring their dogs into the store in order to provide a proper harness fit.
“If they are not able to do so, we advise that the most important measurement is the circumference of the chest behind the front legs,” she said.
A collar and leash display that is organized by size, along with a sizing chart, will further assist the pet owner in finding the right product for their dog, said Carol Erisman, communications and marketing manager for MiracleCorp in Dayton, Ohio.
All in the Presentation
When it comes to merchandising and display, a retailer’s selection of collars, leashes and harnesses should be large enough to provide a variety of styles, materials and colors, and designed to accommodate the specific customer base of each individual store, according to industry insiders.
Establishing and determining the needs of the clientele will enable retailers to select products that will increase overall sales, said Sara Schrekenhofer, advertising manager and graphic designer for Leather Brothers in Conway, Ark. Presentation is important, too.
“Being creative and unique in collars and lead displays will catch your customer’s attention,” she said. “Think outside of the box so displays will appeal to your customer base.”
At Dog Krazy, which has locations in Virginia, legging display racks present a selection of collars.
“They look really nice; the racks are like a ladder,” said owner and president Nancy Guinn.
For high visibility and maximum use of space, leashes are draped side by side over metal curtain rods.
“They’re not on pegs where a customer has to sift through them—they can be seen straight across,” she said. “In my first tiny, tiny store, I had to save space and the curtain rods worked for me.”
Leah Angelos, sales representative for ZippyPaws in Chino, Calif., noted that retailer display preferences vary and are often dependent on store layout and shelving design.
“Generally, pictures, eye-catching displays or props showing dogs wearing these items will strengthen appeal and help the customer to visualize them in use,” Angelos said.
Point-of-purchase displays, catchy graphics and signage, and colorful headers are essential, Schrekenhofer agreed.
“When a customer orders a display, we always provide a re-order strip to ensure quick and easy re-ordering of sizes and products, but this can also be a useful tool for keeping your products neatly organized and in their rightful place on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “Sizing should be visible and easy to find for consumers.”
Keeping a clean and tidy store will also make it easier to shop, resulting in better sales, Schrekenhofer added.
A clean, organized presentation will send a clear message, said Carol Erisman, communications and marketing manager for MiracleCorp. in Dayton, Ohio.
“The days of digging through unorganized racks with mismatched sizes and colors are over,” she said. “Also, sizing small to large from top to bottom allows customers to easily find what they are looking for.”
Along these lines, refreshing the space is vital.
“Bring in exciting new designs to keep things looking fresh,” Erisman added.
Fresh Looks for Furry Fashionistas
In response to consumer demand, manufacturers are creating a wider variety of leashes, collars and harnesses featuring high-quality materials and vivid, fashionable colors.
This year, MiracleCorp added new patterns to its Hamilton Ribbon Overlay Fashion collection of nylon collars and leashes, which now features more than 40 different prints for pet owners and canine fashionistas, said Carol Erisman, communications and marketing manager for the Dayton, Ohio-based company.
“Every year, we add to our collection and are excited to give pet owners new and improved prints,” Erisman said.
The products are made using 100 percent premium custom nylon with jacquard ribbon overlay. Patterns are developed by carefully analyzing emerging and continuing trends in all areas of the fashion, interior design and lifestyle markets, according to Erisman.
MiracleCorp’s Hamilton Reflective Pet Series fashion collars utilize highly reflective print on premium-quality nylon, which is resistant to wear and tear, she said.
“When thinking of new prints for this year’s fashion collars, we wanted to incorporate a new feature,” Erisman said. “The reflective collars now offer added safety for pets on their adventures.”
The collars are available in two designs and a variety of colors and sizes to ensure that dogs are kept safe during lowlight conditions without sacrificing style, she added.
Leather Brothers recently debuted its OmniPet Biothane Ultra Sport collection.
“Ultra Sport collars are all-weather products and are adjustable, waterproof, stink proof, soil resistant, easily cleaned and durable,” said Sara Schrekenhofer, advertising manager and graphic designer for the Conway, Ark.-based company.
Made with patent-pending Biothane material, the collars are available in five colors: black, blue, neon orange, neon pink and red. Each is fitted with a matte-black D-ring and adjustable Kwik-klip buckle sporting the OmniPet logo. Matching leads are available.
Skilled craftsmen make the line in the USA, Schrekenhofer added.