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On the Safe Side

Pet owners want to protect their pets—and that’s adding up to sales of health and safety products for pet specialty retailers.


Pet specialty retailers report that pet owners’ increasing interest in the overall well-being of their cats and dogs is spurring demand for health and safety products. 

“Health issues, including how to live longer, feel better and be more active, are driving health trends for both people and their pets,” said Lorraine Walston, CEO of Woodrow Wear in San Jose, Calif. “It’s interesting that what works for people quickly gets tried for pets and vice versa.”

As pet owners continue to treat their dogs and cats more like their children, products designed to help pet owners keep them healthy and protected are taking center stage. Further, consumers want products that not only solve health and safety issues, but that also prevent emergencies in the first place. Brad Payne, director of sales for CountryMax, which has stores in New York state, said, for example, that he has seen a definite increase in reflective pet clothing that makes walking dogs safer.

“People are very active with their dogs—either walking or running—and a lot of that happens in the early morning or evening hours,” Payne said. “Pet owners are looking to make that experience safer with reflective gear.” 

Reflective wear isn’t just about the safety of your pet—it’s about the safety of your family, said Steven Triedman, “big dog” of Corky’s Reflective Wear in Cranston, R.I.

“You walk your dog. Your spouse or significant other walks the dog. Your children walk the dog,” he said. “And you may be doing that before work and school—or after work and school—when it’s dark. Everyone’s safety is an important priority. In the same way that most people won’t let their children ride a bike without a helmet, pet-walking safety is now a focal point.” 

Pet owners are seeking products that facilitate better health management at home, as well, said Jonathan McEuen, vice president of business development at Arrowhead Animal Health in Andover, Mass. 

McEuen also noted a growing demand for products that deter pets from chewing on wounds, sensitive areas or post-surgery bandages. He added that there is always a need for better preventive care for pets living in urban and suburban settings, including better foot protection, quick care for small cuts and other ways to provide a barrier against the hazards of the outside world. 

Encourage Awareness

Finding innovative ways to get customers excited about health and safety products offers an opportunity to draw people into the store, and social media is a good place to start.

“Post images of your customers’ pets with products—and they most certainly will repost them,” said Steven Triedman, “big dog” of Corky’s Reflective Wear in Cranston, R.I. “Strategically post timely photos such as jackets when rain or snow is in the forecast. You can use the long-term forecast so that people have time to shop for those items. Also, offer unique items that have an engaging story and mention your customers. Get them to tell stories about their pets.” 

Sometimes it does take real-life tragedies to make customers aware of certain dangers. Marni Lewis, owner of The Green K9 in Mount Dora, Fla., said that there has been increasing awareness around safety since a customer’s dog was struck and killed by a vehicle.

“Several years ago, we brought in the LED collars and leashes and sought out more reflective products after our customer’s dachshund was tragically hit and killed while walking in their neighborhood,” Lewis said. “We steer people to harnesses, martingale collars or head halters, which prevent dogs from pulling out of their buckle collars. We have had pet guests pull out of their collars and run loose in our parking lot, which is terrifying since we are on a busy road.” 

Special events can also engage customers in the category. Kim McCohan, chief happiness officer for Bend Pet Express, which has two locations in Bend, Ore., said the store recently hosted a first aid workshop that helped educate customers on what items they should keep in their pet’s first aid kit. 

“We gave customers an opportunity to purchase a baseline kit that would give them the basics, and then we explained what all of the items were and how to use them,” McCohan said. “But we also got into items that might not be included in the basic kit—such as reflective clothing or a tick remover—and we discussed why those products might be added. We really customized it to our local area and the specific health and safety needs they [might encounter] around here.” 

Get Creative with Displays

Creative displays are an effective way to promote health and safety products. Brad Payne, director of sales for CountryMax, which has stores in New York state, said that displays are important because most people don’t come in with these products in mind. They might come in for a bag of food or treats, but then something from the health and safety section will catch their eye.

“Prominent placement is important for that reason,” he added. “The customer already knows he or she needs a bag of food, but they didn’t realize that reflective gear or that blinking light was available.” 

Lorraine Walston, CEO of Woodrow Wear in San Jose, Calif., said that motion and lights can be helpful in highlighting a display. 

“[Lights] would also fit with the safety theme,” she added. “Color can be effective in the display. Green could represent healthy and natural, or any bright or neon color would be effective and also fit the safety theme.” 

You can also use displays to position your store as the expert on the category. Lori Fouts Fisher, vice president of sales management for MiracleCorp in Dayton, Ohio, said that even though customers might like the convenience of the internet, nothing beats face-to-face interaction with a retailer who knows the category. 

“The more retailers can show value in their expertise, the better off they’ll be,” she said. 

Introductions Focus on Safety

New products in the pet health and safety category include reflective wear, home health aids and more. 

Corky’s Reflective Wear in Cranston, R.I., recently introduced several products, including 6-foot leashes with LeashSafe; a Jacket Extender for dogs that need a little extra room; and a Ladies Vest, which is now back by popular demand and is ideal for dog walking and training, according to the company. Corky’s also offers a safety center display, which takes up only 4 square feet but holds more than $3,000 worth of product. 

Arrowhead Animal Health in Andover, Mass., has introduced a no-chew bandage that works for small and large species. The company is also launching a cooling vet wrap that helps with heat, inflammation and discomfort by cooling up to 15 degrees and developing a tool to conduct tick inspections on both large and small animals.

In August, Bend, Ore.-based Ruffwear updated The Beacon safety light. The waterproof light can be easily clipped on to apparel, harnesses, packs and collars with the new Quick Clip or attached to collars with the Quick Ring. It features a rechargeable battery, and a USB charging cord is included.

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