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Shining a Spotlight on Safety

Offering reflective gear and light-up collars, leashes and harnesses can help keep dogs and their owners safe during outdoor adventures.


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]Safety is often a concern at the forefront of dog owners’ minds. As such, offering products that help keep dogs safe—such as LED light-up collars and leashes and reflective wear—can be a boon to an independent pet specialty retailer’s bottom line, especially for retailers that take the time to educate dog owners about why these products are important. 

According to Brad Locke, founder of Nashville, Tenn.-based Glopup, 1.2 million dogs are hit and killed on roads each year, and, in most cases, the dogs were hit because the driver didn’t see them.

Locke said that a high-quality LED collar or leash could help alert drivers that a dog is close from up to 1,000 feet away, which would give them time to slow down and potentially prevent an accident.

“Pet owners should know they don’t have to compromise on other important features in collars and leashes in order to get the LED visibility benefit,” Locke added, adding that Glopup recently expanded the sizes of its products in all colors in order to be able to serve dogs of all sizes. “They should still expect the highest-quality materials, comfort, durability and long life out of a leash or collar.”  

While there is a clear need for these types of products, depending on the region, retailers noted some variation when it comes to consumer interest in safety collars, leashes and gear. 

Caleb Fretz of Dogs & Cats Rule, which has locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, reported that many of the retailer’s shoppers do not typically walk their dogs at night. However, he added, they might be more inclined to buy reflective wear or light-up products for a camping trip. 

But in more rural areas, like Bend, Ore., where Bend Pet Express has two locations, reflective or light-up leashes and collars are a big seller, according to the store’s chief happiness officer Kim ​McCohan—and her customers are even using these products in their backyards.

“Because we live in a smaller rural area and people have backyards that consist of acres, they want to be able to see their dog when they let it out at night,” she said. “It’s very dark in most areas because the street lights are few and far between, so reflective items sell well here.”

Merchandising 

Attracting Attention

Pet specialty retailers that get creative with their collar, leash and harness displays can generate consumer interest in these products, according to industry insiders. 

Denise Strong, co-owner of Pawz On Main in Cottonwood, Ariz., said that her leash and collar display is an attention grabber because the products are displayed on an old iron coat rack.

“All of our displays attempt to become part of the overall experience of shopping here,” Strong said. “It’s not something you’d see in a big-box store, and that’s exactly why customers shop here—to find products they feel they couldn’t find somewhere else. I try to create that same experience with leashes and collars.” 

Susan Strible, director of marketing for Bend, Ore.-based Ruffwear, said that the company encourages retailers to showcase leashes with complementary collars.

“Our customers enjoy the complete setup, using a collar and a leash that are designed to match and function together,” she added. 

Tom Rogers, owner of Panhandle Pet Supply in Tallahassee, Fla., agreed that matching collars and leashes is important for encouraging multi-item purchases.

“Collars and leashes are big sellers for us, and people can’t seem to get enough of them,” he said. “They’ll often buy both if they coordinate, so we make sure to display them together.” 

When it comes to incorporating a safety message into displays, there are many opportunities for retailers to get creative, said Kitter Spater, chief creative officer and co-founder of Kurgo in Salisbury, Mass. 

Spater suggested having light-up items on display in-use so that customers can see how they work. Along with that, he added that signage with simple safety tips—such as the fact that driving during the day with headlights turned on can reduce vehicle accidents by 25 percent—can also help pique interest. 

Steven Triedman, “big dog” of Corky’s Reflective Wear in Cranston, R.I., said that safety is its own category and should be a prominent section of any pet specialty retail shop. 

“We have a Safety Center that covers only two square feet and uses smart graphics to drive home the safety message,” Triedman said. “Some retailers also use a stuffed dog to showcase a Corky’s jacket. You can place it in a far corner or hang it from a ceiling and periodically shine a flashlight on it to demonstrate the reflectivity.” 

Consumer Education

Safety Patrol

In addition to using displays to promote pet safety, industry insiders said that pet specialty retailers should talk to their customers about how to keep their pets safe. 

Kim McCohan, chief happiness officer for Bend Pet Express, which has two locations in Bend, Ore., said that each year the stores host in-store winter safety seminars, which always include information on light-up and reflective items. 

“We have an educational seminar each month with rotating topics, and these products fit perfectly into our winter safety talk,” she said. “Likewise, our summer safety seminar also brings up reflective and light-up products since we tend to focus on camping. These products help dog parents keep a close eye on their pets when taking them camping.” 

Steven Triedman, “big dog” of Corky’s Reflective Wear in Cranston, R.I., said that oftentimes it’s a news story—or even a personal close call—that drives people to seek out safety products. He added that sharing pedestrian accident statistics such as those offered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with customers can be powerful. 

Retailers also should keep in mind that reflective wear isn’t just about keeping the pet safe—but about keeping one’s family safe as well. 

“When you or a family member are out walking the dog after dark, there is risk for you or your family member as well,” he said.

With that in mind, Corky’s Reflective Wear introduced its Reflective Wear Ladies Vest, which makes walking a dog in the dark a safer experience for women. 

Triedman said that retailers should talk to customers about these risks and educate them on solutions. 

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