Sizzling Stock: Dog toys
Entertaining Both Pets & Owners
Pet owners generally seek dog toys that they think will provide plenty of mental stimulation for their pets, yet industry participants said owners are also increasingly purchasing options that simply catch their eye and reflect their personal interests.
“Regardless of functionality, it seems that [shoppers] may be purchasing toys they find funny or cute,” said Jessica Klingler, store manager for Pet Goods in Succasunna, N.J.
Jennifer Cao, co-founder and vice president of ZippyPaws in Chino, Calif., reported similar trends.
“Because consumers see their pets as an extension of themselves, they love to project their likes, wants and hobbies onto their pets as well,” Cao said.
Consumers also recognize that toys help them connect with their pets, and they keep an eye out for novelty and innovation in the toy section, in order to keep playtime interesting.
“In the dog toy category, we are seeing innovation in ways to engage dogs, whether that be in new materials, ways to play with the dog, or just new and better features or designs,” Cao said.
Lars Lund, sales director for Kruuse in Langeskov, Denmark, agreed, adding that “more people are now aware of the fact that mental stimulation of the dog is just as important as physical exercise.”
Consumers lean toward toys that provide avenues to interact with their pets, sources added.
“Interactive toys are also very popular as people continue to focus on the significance of bonding with their dogs through activity,” said Sarah Johnson, sales coordinator for P.L.A.Y. (Pet Lifestyle And You) in San Francisco.
In addition to mental engagement and interaction, durability ranks high for toy shoppers, insiders said.
“Customers, particularly those with puppies, want something that will hold up to their dog’s physical demands as well as challenge them mentally,” said Bryan Williams, general manager of Wag N’ Wash Natural Food & Bakery’s corporate stores, which are located throughout the U.S. “For any breed of dog, puzzle toys are a great way to promote brain development in puppies, keep up mental stimulation in older dogs, regulate calorie intake when used as a feeder for overweight dogs, or help entertain a dog stuck inside on a rainy or snowy day.”
The win-win of having a toy that is both strong and engaging is key for shoppers.
“Customers are seeking out toys that are innovative and dynamic,” Klingler said. “Many of the customers I interact with on a daily basis are seeking out toys that will keep their pet busy when they aren’t home and will be durable as well.”
Both retailers and manufacturers said they see a rise in demand for plush toys and those that feature food themes.
“We’ve seen such a trend for food toys lately,” Cao said.
Food-shaped toys are popular at Dog & Co. in New York, said owner Mindy Montney.
“We are currently carrying a variety of plush, hand-knit and durable canvas toys in a variety of food shapes—and they are a huge hit,” she said. “Who doesn’t love a burger and fries, right?”
Looking ahead, pet toy insiders report excitement in the offerings coming from this category.
“I expect to see a lot of innovation, including more technological features in toys, ways to make them even more durable and more interactive, and designs that will make them appeal to dogs even more,” Cao said.
“Many customers are used to seeing the same toys over and over again and are looking for something different—different being color, texture, durability and fun shapes,” she said. “I expect to see more technology integrated into dog and cat toys. This will lead to a larger category of interactive toys.”