Collar the Lead in Sales
Owners seek functional and comfortable collars and leashes in a variety of colors and styles to embrace their pets’ personalities and lifestyles.
Some dog owners prefer that Fido and Fifi keep up with the Joneses when it comes to fashion, which is why leashes and collars represent one of the more enjoyable purchases for pet owners. This particular product category can be fun, funky and functional, all rolled into one.
Consumers request, and manufacturers provide, brighter collars as well as those that are visible at night, said Mike “Tonto” Alexander, owner of Nite Beams based in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Diana Greiner, owner of Felix & Oscar, confirmed this trend, adding that a one-size-fits-all light-up collar from Nite Ize called Nite Howl sells well at her store in Springfield, Va.
Products made in the USA are more important to folks, said Alisha Navarro, president of 2 Hounds Design in Monroe, N.C.
Consumers also want longevity with their purchases, as well as touchable, natural materials, said Alan Dungey, owner of Auburn Leathercrafters in Auburn, N.Y.
“Some of the more recent trends in collars/leashes we’ve seen are functionality enhancements, more use of secondary/tertiary colors, humanization-friendly products, the intangible trend called ‘cute factor’ and gear ‘with a cause,’” said Norm Shrout, co-owner of Long Leash on Life in Albuquerque, N.M. Examples of functionality improvements Shrout cited include leashes that work as harnesses, slip leads, padded collars to protect the trachea and rolled collars to avoid tangling in longer coats.
Beside the importance of function comes style.
“Consumers want functional, comfortable products that come in a variety of colors and styles to embrace their dogs’ personalities and lifestyles,” said Larry Cobb, CEO of The Company of Animals’ U.S. sales headquarters in Davenport, Fla.
What's New in Collars and Leashes
Nite Beams, based in Kalamazoo, Mich., improved its Vet’s Choice Leash, a three-mode leash that now features a USB rechargeable, lightweight battery pack located near the grip.
Last spring, 2 Hounds Design in Monroe, N.C., released two collar designs: the Dandelion collar and the Faux Bois Rose collar.
By adding a silicone grip molding to its Zero Shock and Road Runner Leashes, EzyDog has made it easier for owners to keep closer control over the dog, the company stated.
“The construction of the Zero Shock ‘bungee’ section has been enhanced to be stronger, with better tension, and to be more durable,” said Katie Wood, a sales and marketing executive for the Sandpoint, Idaho, company.
She added that they incorporated reflective webbing on the Zero Shock leashes, and dogs weighing less than 45 pounds now can use the Zero Shock Lite leash.
Auburn Leathercrafters released new cotton and leather rope leashes in bright and fun colors, and “in response to customers’ requests, we added Swarovski crystals to our Tuscany Collars,” said Alan Dungey, owner of the Auburn, N.Y., company.
Last spring, The Company of Animals added products to its Halti training and Halti walking lines, which include functional training tools aimed at correcting problems, according to the company. This includes, for example, the Halti OptiFit Headcollar for pulling issues. The company also offers more trendy colors, the manufacturer stated.
Merchandising and Display Best Practices
Alisha Navarro, president of 2 Hounds Design in Monroe, N.C., said that in the collars and leashes category, retailers can get pretty creative.
“We’ve seen ladders, pallets, Christmas trees and just about anything else used as displays,” she said. “Anything that turns heads will work.”
Felix & Oscar in Springfield, Va., uses mannequin dogs. In addition, the retailer includes a wall that neatly displays all of its collars and leashes.
“It’s important to keep it neat so the customer has an easy time finding the pattern and size that they want,” said Diana Greiner, owner.
Larry Cobb, CEO of The Company of Animals’ U.S. sales headquarters in Davenport, Fla., agreed with using mannequins, adding that it’s a good idea for customers’ dogs to try on the collars before purchase.
“A fitting session also allows staff members the opportunity to detail the advantages of a particular product that otherwise may be overlooked,” he said.
When it comes to leashes and collars, Alan Dungey, co-owner of Auburn Leathercrafters in Auburn, N.Y., agreed that sizing is important.
“That is why we recommend keeping a fabric tape measure close at hand,” he said.
Long Leash on Life in Albuquerque, N.M., hangs the collars over a horizontal bar for ease of visibility.
“Customers easily can unfasten the collar and try it on their dog to ensure correct sizing,” said Norm Shrout, co-owner. “The corresponding leashes for these collars typically are hanging adjacent to the collars. They also designed a hang card that has a curved loop that hangs over the hook.
“We’ve created many displays with specific color collars and leashes that coordinate with other gear, like folding bowls, silicone travel gear, ID tags and safety blinkers,” he added. “Sometimes placing these items together can both push a sale and enhance bundling.”
Manufacturers sometimes provide merchandising assistance.
Nite Beams, based in Kalamazoo, Mich., provides its retailers with electronic display boards that light up the collars. And EzyDog provides racks and signage, categorized by specific products, and features lifestyle images and key selling features.
“A full presentation with an assortment of colors and sizes always makes for a more compelling display,” said Katie Wood, a sales and marketing executive for the Sandpoint, Idaho, company. “It shows that the retailer believes in the product, and so should their customer.”
With the growing selection and types of leashes and collars on the market, keeping customers in the know is more important than ever. Retailers can accomplish this education through one-on-one interactions with customers, and manufacturers often provide educational materials.
Nite Beams provides store banners that detail product information and feature photos and pet owner testimonials. The company is creating an online video of all its products for store employee training and for pet owners to view on their mobile phones while in-store.
“The pet owner will be able to click on any product they are interested in without having to watch the complete video,” said Mike “Tonto” Alexander, president of the Kalamazoo, Mich., company.
“It’s essential that retailers are educated and can help guide consumers to choose the best products possible for their pet,” said Larry Cobb, CEO of The Company of Animals’ U.S. sales headquarters in Davenport, Fla. “Although many pet owners may research products online, on-the-ground education is equally important, if not more so, as retail associates can demonstrate how a product is best used, provide helpful tips and guide owners to make the best decision possible for their dog.”
The Company of Animals furnishes a guide with each product with tips and techniques and gives detailed information on its website.
EzyDog also includes descriptive selling features along with informative signage and lifestyle images.
“Online videos and DVDs are available to retailers and their employees, and they can be played in the stores for customers,” said Katie Wood, a sales and marketing executive for the Sandpoint, Idaho, company. “We are always readily accessible to answer questions via phone and email.”
Auburn Leathercrafters recently developed tags that feature product information and care.
“We recognize that knowledge is power in the hands of the consumer, which is why we include information on materials used plus care instructions for each product we sell,” said Alan Dungey, owner of the Auburn, N.Y., company. “We [began] introducing these new tags in June.”
The company also offers Skype training for its retail partners and entire staff, which shares input that allows the company to improve its line as necessary, Dungey added.
Certain products require more education than others, said Diana Greiner, owner of Felix & Oscar in Springfield, Va.
“Most of our education is in the proper use of Flexi leashes, for example, or no-pull harnesses,” she said.
Education begins when the pet owner walks through the door, said Norm Shrout, co-owner of Long Leash on Life in Albuquerque, N.M. He helps consumers navigate leash choices by problem, function, safety, etc.