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2:11 PM   September 30, 2014
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Fall Fashionistas

Savvy retailers offer their customers the newest and hottest looks in pooch apparel.

For the customer with an eye for luxury
For the customer with an eye for luxury, items made from soft leather can be appealing.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chien Coature
Big, bold and bling are out. Conservative glam and streamlined sophistication have surpassed oversized, over-the-top styles of years past and are selling big for this fall, said Ryan McIntosh, the owner of Bark Avenue in Fort Meyers, Fla.

“It’s a rare customer who still wants to be all blinged out,” McIntosh said. “Flashy is just not selling well anymore.”

Despite all of the glamming-down that’s occurred because of the downturned economy, sequins remain the current embellishment of choice, McIntosh said.

“Everyone still likes a little sparkle so customers are trading in big bling for sequins,” he said.

Lace is sneaking its way into more and more designers’ looks because it adds a warm, feminine touch to the chill of fall, said Stacy Braverman, the president of BNYDogs.com, a Merrick, N.Y.-based pet product distributor. “A lace T-shirt makes a great substitute for a dress on a special occasion.”

While trendy styles attract customers’ attention, the hottest hues actually draw the biggest apparel sales, said AdreAnne Tesene, the owner of Two Bostons Pet Boutique & Gourmet Bakery.

“People who buy these types of trendy apparel products are the kind of customers who need to see that you’ve always got something new and fun coming in,” Tesene said.

Dog owners continue their love affair with pink and this segment continues to see strong sales with no fatigue in sight for this lasting color, McIntosh said.

“You can never go wrong buying apparel in pink even though I think it’s long since tired,” he said.

Gray is proving to be a breakout neutral that has carried over from the human fashion world, Braverman said.

“I’m still seeing gray everywhere so I’m sure we will also continue to see it next year,” she said. “It’s always been a great color for boy dogs, but I’m also seeing it in an overwhelming amount for girl dogs, too.”

Sweaters fpr Dogs
Sweaters this year come in all kinds of styles, just like their human apparel counterparts.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Fab Dog
Customers favor lighter shades over darker-colored apparel in McIntosh’s mild-weathered market. Popular colors include blue, gray and green for male dogs and white, pink and lilac for the females, McIntosh said.

“I still have darker-colored sweaters from last year, but we sold out of everything that was light and cheery,” he said.

In the Northeast, vibrant red outsells any other color by a two-to-one ratio, said Donna McLaughlin, owner of Uptown Dog Cape Cod, a Falmouth, Mass., retailer. McLaughlin said it wins out because it’s gender neutral and looks great on any breed’s coat color.

Bright pops of color, such as coral and reds, paired with classic fall neutrals, like ivory and chocolate brown, round out the color palette for fall, Braverman said.

“Those colors are everywhere and they’re really eye-catching, so they must be the new ‘it’ colors,” she said.

While the colors and textures may be luxe, customers still seek out practical and functional items such as sweaters, coats and raincoats, according to both McIntosh and McLaughlin. These staples are classic and timeless in fall and winter wardrobes regardless of climate and sell well every year, McLaughlin added.

Must-Stock Items for Fall Apparel

  • Lightweight and heavy sweaters
  • Raincoats.
  • Hoodies
  • Fleece-lined coats or lightweight fleece jackets
  • Bomber jackets or heavy coat
  • Dresses for holiday parties
  • Scarves
  • Boots
  • Apparel with lace or sequined embellishments
  • Items in hot hues, such as coral, red and other cheery colors 
In warmer climates, lightweight sweaters in cashmere and angora tend to sell best, reported Braverman and McIntosh.

“Everyone loves the cardigan or a classic argyle sweater,” McIntosh said. “In our climate, lighter sweaters, such as cashmeres, definitely sell well.”

Bomber jackets sell well in both cold and warm weather climates, said Uchol Kang, manager at Gooby Pet Fashion, a Los Angeles-based manufacturer.

“They’re great on all sized dogs–even the big dog sizes sell well,” he noted.

Horse blanket coats that are heavy-duty winter coats lined with fleece are hot items in the cold weather climate in which McLaughlin’s customer base resides. In contrast, lighter fleece jackets and hoodies also sold well for McLaughlin last fall and will likely line her shelves again this year.

“They sell well for a long time because it stays chilly into the spring,” she said.

Many manufacturers have begun adding D-rings to their apparel this year for leash accessibility. For those products that don’t have this feature, Tesene overcomes this sales obstacle by collaborating with a seamstress to add a buttonhole to apparel.

“Having that alteration available can be a deciding factor on a coat or sweater purchase,” she said.

Another trick successful retailers use to improve apparel sales is to order wide but not deep—ordering lots of styles but in fewer sizes, according to Bo Nelson, president of Wholesalepet.com, a Richmond, Va.-based distributor of pet products.

“It gets the customer’s eye to see so many different options,” Nelson said. “It also makes the products feel more unique when they don’t see 30 others on the rack.”

Special ordering by size is a service that can save valuable floor space, Nelson said.

“Special ordering for your clientele is a great personalized customer service that makes the customer feel like they’re really special,” he said.
Customers are always on the prowl for a great holiday gift for pets or pet lovers in their lives. Successful retailers who can market apparel in an eye-catching and inventive way will have customers opening their wallets to splurge, Braverman noted.

Pairing a luxury item with a practical purchase to create a custom-made gift set is a great way to boost apparel sales without purchasing any specialty holiday apparel that may lose value after the holiday hoopla is over, according to Nelson.

Braverman also suggested that retailers may have success selling items in tandem, such as a light-weight sweater and a sharp collar, human pajamas with a matching set of pet pajamas or a fancy party dress and matching barrettes.

Standout accessories such as scarves will sell again into Christmas because they make great filler gifts in apparel packages, McLaughlin said.

“I was surprised at what big sellers scarves were [last year],” she said. “I sold way more than I had anticipated.”

Dog shoes are another practical accessory that pet owners are splurging on this fall, according to Kang and Tesene.

“If I can fit someone’s dog properly in the store and show them the benefits of the boots, then 80 percent of customers will buy the boots with whatever other apparel they’re already buying,” Tesene said.

Dog owners giving their dogs a $15 or $20 gift greatly outweighs the monetary value of the love that the owners get from their dog all year, reported Nelson.

“Besides, a dog will never refuse a gift – there’s never buyer’s remorse,” he added.


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