The Latest Design Trends for Collars, Leashes and Harnesses
Industry insiders reveal how retailers can grab hold of the latest trends within the collar, leash and harness category.
Fashion-forward accessories aren’t just for people. Dogs are also joining in on the fun by sporting the latest trends within the collar, leash and harness category.
“Pet owners are looking for fun designs that reflect who they are, including their interests and lifestyle,” said Donna Bodell, vice president of Up Country in East Providence, R.I.
Sport-themed neckwear is on trend, according to Mark Vitt, co-owner of Mutts & Co., which has stores in Ohio.
“Whether it’s a collegiate or professional team, [these products showcase] allegiance,” Vitt said.
Pet owners are also looking for patterns and designs that match their dog’s personality, according to Alisha Navarro, president and CEO of 2 Hounds Design in Indian Trail, N.C.
Vitt finds that functionality of products can also lead a trend, especially when it comes to leash pulling.
Harness leads are a best-seller at Dog Krazy, which has five stores in Virginia, for this exact reason, according to owner Nancy Guinn. Guinn reminds customers that while harnesses can help, dogs still need to be trained.
Trends can also vary by season. For instance, Vitt sees an uptick in harness sales come spring.
“People want that extra comfort and ease of walking as [warmer seasons] come along,” Vitt said.
Alison Cremeans, marketing manager for MiracleCorp, the Moraine, Ohio-based company behind the brand Hamilton Products, agreed.
“With warmer weather comes longer walks, road trips and vacations, so pet parents tend to prepare for these with new nylon and travel accessories,” she said. “In the fall, when the days are shorter and it gets darker faster, our reflective items become more popular as pet parents are concerned about their visibility.”
Selecting Products with Finesse
Customers love options, but give them too many choices and the shopping experience can quickly become overwhelming, with the customer leaving empty-handed. So, should retailers limit their assortment?
“It is fine to limit what is carried, but it is important to have a good size run in the products that you do carry,” said Alisha Navarro, president and CEO of 2 Hounds Design in Indian Trail, N.C. “If you carry red harnesses, make sure you have them in every size. If you don’t have a large available in the color/style the customer wants, you will lose a purchase.”
The key is balance, which comes from knowing your customers, according to Alison Cremeans, marketing manager of MiracleCorp, the Moraine, Ohio-based company behind the Hamilton Products brand.
“Start with a core set of top sellers and experiment with more functional and fashion-forward items as space permits,” Cremeans said.
Donna Bodell, vice president of Up Country in East Providence, R.I., suggested having style choices within a store’s aesthetic, and then covering all options.
Nancy Guinn, owner of Dog Krazy, which has five stores in Virginia, carries what she uses for her own pets.
“I also carry what our local dog trainers recommend,” Guinn added. “My husband and I both pick different colors and prints so we have a variety. We have very different tastes, so we have a pretty good selection.”
Retailers might want to consider price points, as well, when choosing an assortment. Mark Vitt, co-owner of Mutts & Co., which has location in Ohio, chooses products that fall into one of two price categories: basics and bells/whistles.
Customer feedback and/or requests play a role in what Denise Strong chooses for her retail store, Pawz On Main in Cottonwood, Ariz. Quality of products and customer service from the manufacturer also top her list.
Reflecting the Market
Pet owners often seek out reflective collars, harnesses and/or leashes as a way to help keep their pets visible in low-light conditions, according to industry insiders. With safety high on buyers’ expectations list, it’s not really a surprise that this subcategory has been increasing.
As such, new reflective products continue to hit the market. For example, Indian Trail, N.C.-based 2 Hounds Design recently released a reflective version of its Freedom Harness in black/silver/charcoal and red/black/charcoal.
Denise Strong, owner of Pawz On Main, said that reflective products are higher in demand at her Cottonwood, Ariz.-based store.
Fun and unique product designs also regularly come in to market.
“Our new Bristol Collection showcases six designs that have become our best-sellers,” said Donna Bodell, vice president of Up Country in East Providence, R.I. “It includes our popular Heart of Gold, Floaties and Pink Madras designs. The collar designs all have matching leads and harnesses.”
Alison Cremeans, marketing manager of MiracleCorp, said the company is constantly working on innovative products or ways to enhance its current nylon assortment. The Moraine, Ohio-based company, which includes the brand Hamilton Products, plans to release two new nylon collections at SuperZoo, which will be held Aug. 20-22 in Las Vegas.
The collar, leash and harness category offers retailers the opportunity to really get creative with their displays, especially since these products are often so colorful.
Donna Bodell, vice president of Up Country in East Providence, R.I., suggested showing collars on bars so that shoppers can fully see the designs.
“This creates a wall of color that is irresistible,” she added.
Patterns also immediately attract most pet owners, according to Alison Cremeans, marketing manager of MiracleCorp, the Moraine, Ohio-based company behind the brand Hamilton Products. Next, consumers will see if their dog’s size is available. As such, Cremeans recommended that retailers put sets together that support a consumer’s decision-making process.
“Putting matching collars, leashes and harnesses together can help pet parents find what they need or like quickly,” Cremeans said.
Utilizing unique shelving or displays can also attract customers to the section, said Alisha Navarro, president and
CEO of 2 Hounds Design in Indian Trail, N.C.
“I’ve seen tons of gorgeous displays over the years, from dog mannequins to reclaimed pallets and ladders with collars hanging from them,” Navarro said.
Nancy Guinn, owner of Dog Krazy, which has five stores in Virginia, hangs collars on curtain rods.
“It makes them much easier to see rather than on slat wall hooks,” Guinn said. “Our harnesses are on stuffed dogs throughout our stores so that if someone comes in without their dog, we can show them how it works on a stuffed animal.”
While colorful displays might draw customers to a product, they don’t always facilitate a purchase. Sometimes, pet owners need a bit more guidance.
“To keep customers coming back to your store, you must offer what e-commerce retailers cannot, which is simply face-to-face interaction with an expert,” Cremeans said. “Engage with store visitors, ask questions, listen carefully and help them solve whatever problem they might be encountering as a pet owner.”