Leading The Way: Collar, Harness and Leash Trends
Attention to design and display mark the latest trends in dog collars, harnesses and leashes.
Help customers try collars and harnesses before they buy to ensure the perfect fit.
The collar, leash and harness needs of today’s dog owners are very complex, varying individually as well as depending on usage.
Manfred Bogdahn, CEO of Flexi Bogdahn International in Bargteheide, Germany, reported an increase in consumer need for retractable leashes. For example, he said, the desire to customize the leash easily for every walk, dog and owner has become more popular.
“In terms of functionality, one size doesn’t always fit all, and customers are seeking comfort in their retractable leash,” Bogdahn said.
New offerings from the company include its Flexi New Classic, a retractable leash series targeting the price-sensitive consumer, the Flexi Giant series retractable leashes for larger dogs, and Flexi Neon, leashes that offer more safety and visibility when walking a dog in the dark.
The company also has concentrated on safety and created an LED Lighting System for its Vario leash, Bogdahn said. It attaches to the leash, and offers both front and rear lighting.
Ann Marie Milone, senior product manager, soft lines, for PetEdge in Beverly, Mass., agreed that illumination is a big trend.
“In collars, leads and harnesses, the latest buzz is about products with LED properties,” she said.
In response to this demand, PetEdge recently introduced Zack & Zoey Illuminate LED Harnesses and Zack & Zoey LED Collars and Leads.
Consumers are looking for new and fashionable collar and leash products that also are safe, said Jennifer McEowen, merchandising manager at Coastal Pet Products Inc. in Alliance, Ohio.
“Our fashion lines are continuously updated to keep the category fresh and to introduce new products that correspond to fashion trends,” she said. “We have also seen increased demand for personalization. Consumers are looking for an extra layer of security for their pets.”
Coastal Pet’s product development sourcing strategist, Dan Pirigyi, said there has been an increased focus on natural products, such as those made from soy or leather.
Dave Colella, founder of Earthdog in Brentwood, Tenn., remains a big believer in eco-friendly collars and leashes. Customers constantly ask about safety regarding the company’s hemp-based products, he said.
“We recommend a collar with a quick-release buckle and ID tags to be worn at all times for the safest and most practical solution for any dog and guardian,” he said. “We don’t suggest using a martingale collar as an all-day wear collar because a choking hazard does exist, especially in an instance of two or more dogs playing where jaws can become caught in the loop.”
The Voice of the Retailers
Starla Carter, manager at Denny’s Pet World in Kirkland, Wash., said that when she talks with customers, the most important advice she can give is to make sure the collars and leashes they buy are sized right and use a material that is appropriate for a dog’s activity level.
“Let’s say you have a dog that swims a lot; a nylon collar can get mildew because it doesn’t have time to dry out,” Carter said. “We actually have a special rack in the store for collars better-suited [for water lovers], tagged individually based on size and color.”
Alison Schwartz, manager of All Pets Considered in Greensboro, N.C., prefers collars be used more for identification than for walks.
“We recommend softer collars, which are more comfortable for the dogs,” she said. “That’s what our customers want.”
Laura Clark, owner of Wylie Wagg, which has stores in Virginia and Washington, D.C., said her biggest tip for selling actually starts with the buying process.
“It’s very important to keep lots of different customers in mind when stocking collars,” she said. “Make sure there are plenty of alternatives for both female and male dogs, and make sure there are lots of materials available—leather, ribbon, nylon, rope, waterproof, luminescent, etc.”
Whether in-store or online, Bogdahn said Flexi offers customers full support for the presentation of its leashes.
“For in-store, we offer our retailers very impressive displays in different sizes, with an optional lighted crowner or even digital frames for in-store communication,” Bogdahn said. “Next to the display, we offer product testers, allowing customers to try the leash and feel the top quality, which is very important.”
According to Colella, retailers should educate themselves on the uses of various types of collars and encourage clients to always have a collar and tag on their dog.
“I’m constantly surprised at the number of people who remove their dog’s collar when in the home, and it really makes no sense,” he said. “If a dog happens to get loose, he or she is not going to stop to put a collar on before they go.
“As for marketing our particular line, knowledge is really helpful in converting sales,” Colella added. “Helping customers understand the comfort, hypoallergenic properties and eco-advantage of hemp is very powerful in turning that key.”
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When it comes to displays, Flexi works to design and build based on how consumers shop for a leash, which is why its displays are supported with planograms and detailed instructions to ensure ease of setup and maintenance, Bogdahn said.
“We know that a proper presentation of our brand will result in a final sale,” Bogdahn said. “Perhaps our most popular displays are the wall panels and the four-sided floor display. They tend to integrate nicely into the majority of American retail stores.”
At All Pets Considered, Schwartz said she displays collars in flat rows. For Up Country products, she has a display made of wood in the shape of a bone with pegs on it to hang the collars, leashes and harnesses.
Coastal Pet developed rack danglers for more training product information.
“These silent salesmen feature QR codes that link to our website for additional product knowledge,” McEowen said. “Signage helps consumers determine the right selection and usage of products.”
Wylie Wagg’s Clark said the key to an effective display is having a clear visual organization of options.
“We always group similar collars together, and we delineate the unique pattern choices within those groups,” she said. “Furthermore, we group associated products with matching collars. The result is essentially a collar, leash and harness ‘department,’ allowing customers to quickly and easily see what’s available and enabling them to quickly find a complementary leash or harness.”
While most manufacturers and retailers agreed that the basics always will stand the test of time, if you want to see category sales rise, it’s important to sell innovative and fashion-friendly products.
|Tips for Better Sales|
“When it comes to displays, we always are fans of the nontraditional approach. An old ladder or two can create an effective and eye-catching display for collars.”—Dave Colella, founder of Earthdog in Brentwood, Tenn.
This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of Pet Product News