Keeping Pets Cool This Summer
When it comes to family fun, the canine set is joining in, generating demand for gear that makes hot weather activities more convenient and comfortable.
The summer season means holiday travel, family adventures and a host of activities unique to heat. Today’s furry contingent is often along for the ride, creating the call for a range of products that will enrich the experience.
“The humanization of pets, and their status as family member, has led to a slew of innovative summer items, from cooling jackets, vests and jerseys to nose sunscreen lotions and insulated water bowls,” said Rebecca Gadd, CEO of Gold Paw Series in Gresham, Ore.
In keeping with the season, consumers are searching for gear that will enhance time spent outdoors with their dog, said Susan Strible, director of marketing for Ruffwear in Bend, Ore.
“In the summer months, that often means keeping dogs cool in hot climates,” Strible said. “Our apparel and accessories are all designed to do just that through shading and evaporative cooling.”
At one time, when the weather warmed, demand for functional products dropped off in the pet apparel industry as shoppers focused more on canine fashion, Gadd said.
“However, that product-stocking platitude is now obsolete,” she said. “Consumers today are savvier about safeguarding the health of their pets on sunny days.”
For example, pet owners now look for sun-safety apparel with ultraviolet (UV) protection to help block the harmful rays.
In seeking to enhance canine outdoor recreation, consumer attention includes life jackets, allowing dogs to safely join their humans in and around the water, Strible said.
Floating throw toys also add to the summer fun, she noted.
Brian Anderson, co-owner of Happy Dog Café, Boutique and Spa in Belmont, N.C., agreed.
“The life jacket market has taken off, along with products like the [Petmate] Chuckit! water skimmers,” he said. “When it comes to summer products for dogs, we emphasize anything for water safety.”
In North Conway, located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Kathy Ahearn, co-owner of Four Your Paws Only, said summertime means outdoor activities.
“We have plenty of hiking trails in the area and sell backpacks, collapsible water bowls, high-energy treats, first-aid kits, paw protection and bug spray for dogs,” she said. “We are surrounded by rivers and lakes and also tend to sell a lot of life jackets, Frisbees and water toys.”
At Bark Out Loud Doggie Boutique and Café in Mansfield, Texas, summertime fun is officially kicked off with a Memorial Day doggie ice cream social. Store-made ice cream sandwiches, along with cups of frozen yogurt, are popular with the canine crowd.
“Our long summer starts in March,” said owner Connie Romano. “There are lakes and plenty of water parks in the area, and every weekend an event of some sort involves water and includes dogs.”
As a result, bathing suits, life jackets, sunglasses and water toys are sought-after items.
When the weather heats up, hydration is another concern, Strible noted.
“We’ll see an uptick in consumers looking for packable and portable bowls so they can keep their pups hydrated as temperatures rise,” she added.
Portability is a key factor in summer-appropriate products, said Irene Diaz, sales representative for ZippyPaws in Chino, Calif.
“More than ever, consumers are seeking options that will enable them to take their pets along,” she said. “Any product that promotes or simplifies safe travel with pets is a product that is sure to sell well.”
When it comes to toy design, consumers are seeking fresh, cute and fun playthings that remind them of summertime, Diaz said.
“Seasons and fashions are always changing, and dog toys are no exception,” Diaz said.
Creating Visual Context
When it comes to summer activities and gear recommendations, an engaging display featuring collections of summer-related products can inspire and help educate the customer, said Susan Strible, director of marketing for Ruffwear in Bend, Ore.
“We encourage our retailers to leverage our lifestyle photography in their displays to evoke emotion and inspire customers to seek their own outdoor adventures with their dogs,” she said. “Gear-sporting dog mannequins will add visual context as to how the product is worn or the intended activity.”
Mannequins in bright, colorful garments will help shoppers visualize how a product will look on their own pets, added Rebecca Gadd, CEO of Gold Paw Series in Gresham, Ore.
At Four Your Paws Only in North Conway, N.H., backpacks and life jackets are displayed on large stuffed dogs, said co-owner Kathy Ahearn.
“This allows our customers to see how they fit and visualize what size they may need if their dog is not with them at that time,” Ahearn said.
In addition, creating a summer scene will set the stage. For example, a picnic or a day at the beach, propped with thematically appropriate retail products.
Summertime displays should showcase products that will encourage customers to go out and have fun with their dogs, said Irene Diaz, sales representative for ZippyPaws in Chino, Calif.
“Bright and bold hues, even neon colors, are on trend for the season and will attract the attention of customers and evoke summertime feelings,” she said.
Retailers can go the extra mile by creating an informative station where customers can pick up pamphlets or fliers regarding dog-friendly summer activities or locations, Diaz added.
Retailers can find opportunities to cross-merchandise pet apparel in other aisles, Gadd suggested.
“For example, displaying caps or sun-blocking garments near skin care items,” she said.
Brian Anderson, co-owner of Happy Dog Café, Boutique and Spa in Belmont, N.C., noted that competitive pricing and quality product are key considerations when merchandising summer products.
“We really don’t do special promotions; instead, we make sure we are not out of the ballpark pricewise in comparison to the online retailers and other chains,” he said.
Seasonal items at Bark Out Loud Doggie Boutique and Café in Mansfield, Texas, are announced on Facebook and featured in a designated section of the store, said owner Connie Romano.
“We’ll display bathing suits, sunglasses, little bathrobes, life jackets and other summer items,” Romano said.
All Set for Summer
The summer season means more travel and outdoor fun for pets, and a host of new products perfect for warm months is hitting the shelves.
ZippyPaws is offering the Adventure Car Front Seat Barrier and Adventure Support Lift Harness. These additions join the Adventure Car Hammock.
“The front seat barrier is great for keeping pets safely in the back seat, allowing for a distraction-free drive,” said Irene Diaz, sales representative for the Chino, Calif.-based company. “As with our other products, our focus is on quality and fashion in the design.”
The harness assists animals with mobility issues as they enter the car, making it easy on both the dog and pet owner’s back.
ZippyPaws recently relaunched its Adventure Backpacks and Adventure Bowls in a graphite color, making a sleek and stylish statement for pet owners out with their pups, Diaz said.
Ruffwear’s spring/summer 2019 line is inspired by working dogs and their unique needs.
“Guide dogs, avalanche dogs, scat-detection dogs—and their humans—put Ruffwear’s gear to the test, providing invaluable product feedback, which is incorporated into these designs,” said Susan Strible, director of marketing for the Bend, Ore.-based company.
Strible said the Audible Beacon is a waterproof, rechargeable safety light with audible signals to indicate on/off, low battery and charging status. It has a silicone mount that is compatible with guide dog harnesses and canes.
The Huck-a-Cone rubber toy was inspired by the reward-based play method used by avalanche rescue dogs and handlers during training, she said.
Gold Paw Series’ summer lineup includes a new color for its Sun Shield Tee.
“Hi-viz orange is a fun, bright color for those pups who like to live out loud,” said Rebecca Gadd, CEO of the Gresham, Ore.-based company.
The Sun Shield Tee is a lightweight stretch jersey that blocks 98 percent of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.
“Thanks to the special properties of the fabric we use, this stylish product actually helps pets beat the heat,” Gadd said.
And just in time for summer, the company’s full-body sun protection suit will be styled similarly to the company’s Stretch Fleece Onesies.
“We’re really excited to offer sun safety to dogs with critical UV protection needs,” Gadd said.
Assessing Seasonal Demand
Manufacturers zero in on consumer needs and trending fashions when creating new products for the summer season.
“Our design focus begins with answering a new need or improving on an existing one,” said Susan Strible, director of marketing for Ruffwear in Bend, Ore.
Rather than relying on trends or forecasts of demand for coming seasons, Ruffwear has created a responsive supply chain with relatively short manufacturing lead times, according to Strible.
“This means Ruffwear retailers can place smaller, more frequent orders—removing the pressure to predict how much inventory they will need to support demand during the season,” she said.
Irene Diaz, sales representative for ZippyPaws in Chino, Calif., noted that consumers play a key role when the company assesses the call for summer products.
“We love listening to customer feedback and take it into consideration when trying to predict seasonal trends,” Diaz said.
In addition, she noted, the design process reflects the popularity of current product lines and builds on that success in a fresh and innovative way.
“We have an amazing team that helps us stay ahead of customer demands,” Diaz said.
The Gold Paw Series design team is inspired by everyday happenings.
“We’re noting new fabrics, patterns and colors for ‘people-wear’ that are gaining popularity in fashion-forward stores,” said Rebecca Gadd, CEO of the Gresham, Ore.-based company. “We’re constantly looking for trends that provide practical solutions to everyday problems.
“We’re especially dialed in to new developments in outdoor recreation wear,” she added.