The world of high-end collars and leashes is brimming with new products that marry style and design with functionality and safety.
Products that combine fashionable innovation with safety and durability are trending right now in the high-end collar and leash category, according to both manufacturers and retailers.
“Consumers are becoming more educated about leashes and collars that best suit their dogs’ needs,” said Larry Cobb, CEO of The Company of Animals U.S. in Davenport, Fla. “They are also demanding unique styles for their dog accessories. Consumers want functional, comfortable products that come in a variety of colors and styles to harmonize with their dogs’ personalities and lifestyles.”
Diane Thomas, marketing manager for Coastal Pet Products in Alliance, Ohio, has seen a growing demand for high-end collars and leashes as dog ownership continues to increase.
“Consumers are looking for high-quality, durable and fashion-forward collars for their dogs,” she said.
Designs recently introduced to the marketplace aim to meet these needs and include handcrafted leather collars in classic looks by Coastal Pet Products; circuit boards, aliens with spaceships, monsters, robots and ninjas patterns by 2 Hounds Design; and styles paying tribute to Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. by Kurgo.
“We are seeing a migration away from flashy accessories, like rhinestone collars, to more practical products that serve a specific purpose and are highly durable and secure,” said Gordie Spater, chief business officer for Kurgo in Salisbury, Mass.
Collars and leashes that are secure and will last are a priority for dog owners shopping for high-end products in this category.
“Our customers and the end consumers are always looking for new seasonal wear with quality and value,” said Donna Bodell, vice president of Up Country in East Providence, R.I. “They like to refresh their assortment with seasonal styles, but also with durability that makes it worth the dollars spent.”
Colleen McCracken, CEO of Planet Dog in Westbrook, Maine, said that although consumers are looking for collars and leashes that are bright and fun, they also want durability and comfort.
“We have found that dog owners are looking for collars, leashes and harnesses that are fun, but that also last and are comfortable for their dog,” she said.
Customization is another trend retailers are seeing in the high-end collar and leash category.
“Customers are looking for more handcrafted, quality collars and leashes, and customizable collars,” said Christian Velasco, co-owner of D.O.G. Pet Boutique and Daycare in Los Angeles. “We’ve created a great partnership with the brand RN Design, where customers can choose from a wide assortment of genuine Italian leathers and hardware to create a unique collar or leash. We have a catalog of moonstones, Swarovski crystals and leathers that customers can view at our store.”
Janene Zakrajsek, co-owner of Pussy & Pooch Pethouse and Pawbar, which has locations in Southern California, also sees the customization trend at play in her store.
“Clients choosing to purchase a luxury collar typically favor quality, unique styling, craftsmanship, and, oftentimes, customization where they can choose the crystal/stone colors, leather color and either brass or stainless hardware,” she said.
Manufacturers of high-end collars and leashes have a variety of suggestions on how to market this category, which naturally lends itself to eye-catching displays that can highlight product designs, colors and functions.
“To sell high-end collars, know your customer demographic,” said Alisha Navarro, owner of 2 Hounds Design in Monroe, N.C. “Know their style and what is important to them. Stock items that are important to the customers who come into your store.”
According to Cobb, one of the biggest keys to building stronger retail sales is making every customer’s shopping experience as easy as possible.
“For this reason, retailers should stock the leash and collar aisle with product lines that communicate key selling points and sizing information in a clear and direct way,” he said. “Well-packaged brands also make use of color blocking, which consistently presents each hangtag and header card in a uniform color.”
Cobb added that retailers can showcase all items within a given category with header cards of the same size and shape so that the facings are evenly spaced. He also suggested using life-size dog mannequins to highlight color-coordinated leads and collar sets, which enables customers to handle a product and see how it fits for themselves.
“It’s also a good idea to let dogs try on sample merchandise so that pet parents can decide if a product is the right size, style and fit for their pet,” he said.
Educating retailers is crucial to helping increase sales in this category, according to Anita Dungey, president of Auburn Leathercrafters in Auburn, N.Y.
“We encourage our customers to phone in with any questions they may have,” she said. “No question is too small. We believe an informed staff is the front line in building strong store-consumer relationships.”
Kurgo also offers marketing assistance to retailers in the high-end collar and leash category.
“We have a new leash and collar merchandising unit available for free to retailers with a minimum order quantity,” Spater said. “It reflects the popular outdoor styling and holds up to 72 products. There is a header card that can be rotated based on season or offering.”
Giving customers plenty of choices is important when selling this category, according to Bodell.
“Make sure you have new style offerings each season with holiday-, color- and theme-specific designs,” she said. “Try a specialty style that isn’t just functional but stylish and decorative as well.”