Combining Function & Fashion
Top sellers in dog collars, leashes and harnesses provide users with quality, safety and aesthetic appeal.
Safety and functionality are key considerations when dog owners look for new collars, leashes and harnesses, according to pet specialty retailers and manufacturers in the category. Because dog owners consider these products essential gear for their pets, most businesses report overall consistent or growing sales.
“Sales are up significantly and have been on a steady rise for more than a decade,” said Krista Nixon, category manager for Radio Systems Corp. in Knoxville, Tenn., which manufactures the PetSafe, SportDOG and Invisible Fence brands. “Dog owners want a high-quality product that looks and feels good. Form and function are equally important.”
Mark Watkins, sales manager for ZippyPaws in Chino, Calif., also noted an increase in sales.
“In general, people are spending more on their dogs and often spoiling them in different and fun ways,” he said.
At Korna Natural Pet Supplies, which has stores in British Columbia, Canada, Caitlind Meeks, administrative manager, said sales are steady.
“Everyone with a dog in their family needs at least one set, but some customers have multiple sets depending on the season or how they are feeling that day,” she said.
Eran Konorty, founder and CEO of Angel Pet Supplies in Toronto, has also noticed the trend toward owning more than one set.
“The days of ‘one dog, one collar’ are far behind us,” he said. “Many dog parents have a variety of collars and leashes for each pet. Perhaps one for swimming, one for regular walks, one for a night out on the town, etc.”
• Solution-based products or training aids
Industry insiders reported several key trends in this essential category.
“Customers are gravitating towards products that solve problems, primarily pulling,” Nixon said. “Pulling on a leash is the most common issue people seek to solve.”
Konorty added, “Pet guardians these days are much more aware and in tune when it comes to helping their dogs become more socially aligned.”
• Multiple functions
Dog owners want products that fulfill multiple needs and seamlessly transition, Nixon said, adding that “combing functions—like comfort, no pull and car travel—feels like a greater value and gives the owner a single product that suits multiple areas of their life.”
According to Watkins, active leashes are trending up because of the increase in pet owners who are active outdoors with their dogs.
• Aesthetic appeal
Owners like to outfit their dogs with gear that reflects their own style and personality, according to industry insiders.
“More people are focusing on their pups looking good, with cute and stylish leashes,” Watkins said.
These design trends mirror the trends seen in human fashions, said Rebecca Gadd, president and CEO of Gold Paw Series in Gresham, Ore.
“There are lots of fun colors and bold prints and patterns making their way to market,” she said. “Trends are also being influenced by pop culture, [and] products are being produced with animals or food on them—think unicorns, elephants, ice cream and donuts. These eye-catching designs really stand out to consumers, and pet parents like that it helps their pet’s personality really shine through.”
What’s Walking on the Streets
Several harnesses, leashes and collars for dogs hit the market in the first half of 2018.
In March, Gresham, Ore.-based Gold Paw Series debuted its Walking Collection featuring a martingale collar with 1- and 1.5-inch widths, a traditional flat collar, an adjustable-length lead and a step-in hybrid harness with multiple lead connection points. The striped collection comes in three colorful designs: canyon, riverbed and sunset.
Also in March, Angel Pet Supplies in Toronto expanded its Elite Collection with the Dallas Leash in four standard sizes. Made from the company’s top grain Argentinean leather, the leash includes a genuine brass snap hook, iron rivets and a soft padded handle, the company said.
In June, Radio Systems Corp., the Knoxville, Tenn.-based manufacturer of the PetSafe, SportDOG and Invisible Fence brands, launched its PetSafe two-point control lead as a companion product for its PetSafe 3 in 1 Harness. The leash is designed to provide extra control as well as a boost to the no-pull properties of the harness, according to the company.
Meeting Canine Needs
The latest product features and developments that industry insiders report seeing in the collars, leashes and harness category center around meeting canine customer needs, ranging from safety features to options that assist with training.
“Companies are looking to fill the many and varied tastes of dog owners,” said Mark Watkins, sales manager for ZippyPaws in Chino, Calif. “The trend that we’ve focused on the most lately is the designer segment. People are keying in on great-looking products to keep their dogs in fashion.”
At Radio Systems Corp. in Knoxville, Tenn., which manufactures the PetSafe, SportDOG and Invisible Fence brands, category manager Krista Nixon said the company is working on “feature upgrades—for comfort or looks—and injecting integrated features that seamlessly transition throughout the day.”
Along these same lines, Rebecca Gadd, president and CEO of Gold Paw Series in Gresham, Ore., said she sees a lot of products on the market designed to serve multiple purposes.
“For example, lots of leashes now feature additional rings near the handle that can be used to clip on accessories or keys,” she said. “In regards to harnesses, a key feature we’re seeing more of is a close control handle for extra safety, which, in some cases, may also double as a seatbelt pass-through.
“Several harnesses are also beginning to feature multiple options for where you can connect the leash, like a ring in the front on the chest or two shoulder Ds, to provide extra control or help with training,” she added. “These features are all driven by consumer demand for safe products that are practical for everyday use.”
To accommodate overall customer demand, Eran Konorty, founder and CEO of Angel Pet Supplies in Toronto, said the company has been “developing a few new collars and leashes meant to help pet owners train their pets and make daily walks much easier and comfortable.
“Extra handles, more options and different sizes to accommodate a wide range of consumers is what we, here at Angel, are working on,” he said.
4 Tips to Make Your Assortment Pop
To boost sales of dog collars, leashes and harnesses, experts recommend key in-store display strategies.
1. Organize displays neatly and logically.
“Categorizing leashes and collars by function and style makes it easier for shoppers to find exactly what they need,” said Mark Watkins, sales manager for ZippyPaws in Chino, Calif.
At Hip Hound in Portland, Ore., manager Keiko Swagrty said the store displays this gear “front and center when you walk in, fanned on the wall by size—small to large—with leashes in between each group.”
Korna Natural Pet Supplies, which has stores in British Columbia, Canada, blocks each brand together for a visual impact, said Caitlind Meeks, administrative manager.
“I still am certainly adamant about having the display set up nicely and customer friendly,” she said. “Coming from a past retail background, I know just how important it is to make sure your customers find what they are looking for quickly and in a pleasant setting.
“I propose that displays be set up in terms of size, design and color, if space allows. A customer will look for two things to start: an appealing design/look and their dog’s appropriate size. Therefore, if the collars are arranged in such a way that they can easily find their desired size and their particular color, they will have a much more pleasant shopping experience.”
2. Use signage and lifestyle pictures.
“Signage and a clean arrangement also help customers shop this high-traffic
section,” said Krista Nixon, category manager for Radio Systems Corp. in Knoxville, Tenn., which manufactures the PetSafe, SportDOG and Invisible Fence brands. “Name brands with vet and trainer endorsements help add recognizable brand presence in the assortment.”
Watkins recommended using merchandisers to showcase these products because “many of them show lifestyle pictures of dogs wearing these products to really give consumers the opportunity to envision how they’ll look on their dogs.”
3. Model products with props.
“When it comes to in-store displays, it’s helpful to have props, like a stuffed dog, on hand modeling some of the products,” said Rebecca Gadd, president and CEO of Gold Paw Series in Gresham, Ore. “Retailers should get creative with different props to make the display look realistic and really bring it to life.”
4. Offer custom fitting and assistance.
“It’s always good to have knowledgeable sales people to help customers pick just the right product for their dogs, too,” Watkins said.
Swagrty said that Hip Hound displays its dog harnesses in the back of the store because there is more space there to fit the products on dogs.
“We encourage customers to bring their pet with them and let us assist with fitting the pet and finding the most comfortable harness that both the fur baby and customer will be happy with,” said Trevor Adamson, manager of Nashville Pet Products, which has locations in Tennessee.