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Q4 FOCUS: Dog & Cat Toys

Sales get a big boost from pet owners picking out toys for their pets during the holiday season.


With the holidays right around the corner, pet owners are eager to find special gifts for their pets, and the toys category is perfect for boosting end-of-year sales.

“We find people looking for original toys that maybe they haven’t seen before,” said Paul Lucius, manager of Bellows Falls Pet Shoppe in Bellows Falls, Vt. “Safe, fun and different are all things customers look for in their toys for their pets.”

Nick Yerton, CEO of R2P Group in Pleasanton, Calif., said he has noticed three key toy trends of late: more refined interactive toys for both indoor and outdoor use (more features and benefits, battery life, etc.), innovative and durable materials rather than basic rubber, and small-dog-specific assortments that go beyond simply miniaturizing an existing item.

Product safety is an increasingly important part of the pet owner’s purchase decision, said Jennifer Crotty, director of marketing for Petstages in Northbrook, Ill.  

Petstages has been working to develop products that provide safe alternatives to a dog’s favorite chew, such as the company’s Dogwood Stick and Beyond Bone, which will not split or splinter, causing no harm to a dog’s mouth as it chews, Crotty said.

Ellen Lawson, owner of Fluff & Tuff in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., said consumers are looking for toys that are more durable for their dogs—whether they’re plush, rubber or canvas. 

“We specialize in creating plush toys that are timeless—a good design, natural colors—and we don’t follow design trends as we want our toys to be as relevant today as next year and the year after,” she said.

Most consumers equate toys made of natural materials with safety, and safety is foremost when owners are selecting a toy their pet will play with and mouth daily, said Mary Wolff, president of Honest Pet Products in Green Bay, Wis.

Feline Fun
Sixty-nine percent of surveyed cat owners reported keeping their cats indoors during the day in 2014, according to the American Pet Products Association’s 2015-2016 National Pet Owners Survey. Staying inside can mean a more sedentary lifestyle.  

“Petstages recently launched a line of Invironment toys that focus on bringing the interest and variety of the outdoors inside,” Crotty said. “The products offer an assortment of natural materials, textures and stimulating activities meant to satisfy a cat’s instinctual needs in the safe ‘invironment’ of home.”

In Focus
Branded signage (logos, photo boards, banners) is always a great way to make customers stop and look at a toy for their dog or cat.

Yerton said he’s seen more successful retailers utilize attractive merchandising options such as bins, baskets and brand-specific displays to help products stand out, because many new toys are often lost in a planogram setup.

Wolff recognizes that one of the biggest challenges for the smaller retailer is space, which is why Honest Pet Products offers a free floor display with the starter kit to merchandise its entire product line in a small two-foot-square footprint.

True Dogs presents its SodaPup Can Toy. It’s the can that can’t be destroyed; the original can-do dog chew. Proudly made in the USA, Can Toy is a natural rubber chew toy that is sustainable, nontoxic and biodegradable. Pet owners can stuff it with treats and keep their dog entertained for hours.

Petmate’s Chuckit! Max Glow Ultra Sling is a portable and versatile fetch device that can shoot long or short distances. Five different fetch toys can be used with the Ultra Sling to keep dogs engaged and entertained. Five minutes of light exposure for the toys generates 20 to 30 minutes of glow play.

Petstages’ Kitty’s Choice brings variety to the chase for engaging play. The toy includes four different balls for four activities—a ball with a bell for sound, a catnip-infused ball, a ball for everyday play and a soft ball for quiet, nighttime play. The design includes a transparent top for added visibility and a center ball caddy for ball storage when not in use.

P.L.A.Y. (Pet Lifestyle And You) offers Momo’s Monsters, inspired by dogs everywhere that can be little “monsters” sometimes. The plush toy collection embraces the silly shenanigans that make pets so endearing. Included with each toy is a poem dedicated to each monster. The toys are eco-friendly and stuffed with the company’s certified-safe PlanetFill filling made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. They are washer and dryer friendly.

Imperial Cat presents stuffing-free Cat ‘n Around Fuzzy Heart Duo, Snake Duo and Feather Hedgehog Duo. The toys have Velcro closures that allow pet owners to easily refill them with fresh catnip, and each comes with a bag of certified organic USA-grown catnip.

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