With a few adjustments, the pet jewelry market continues to thrive.
By Joan Hustace Walker
Pearls are a classic option for people and pets.
PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of Designz by KC
In 2004, custom jeweler Paul Bierker of Pittsburgh launched Bark Avenue Jewelry with “two to three diamond pieces that were $2,000 each, and a line of gold and diamond tag jackets that were all customizable,” Bierker reported.
Times have changed for the pet jewelry industry.
“Over the past three years people have had to check themselves,” he said. “They’ve had to limit their conspicuous consumption.”
In response to the evolving market, jewelers expanded their lines vertically to include less-expensive jewelry, according to a report by the National Jewelry Network (“Meeting Luxury Shoppers on New Terms,” June 29, 2010). The same expansion into lower-priced lines is occurring in the pet jewelry industry, too.
“We’re still offering the higher priced items,” Bierker said, “but we’ve added lower cost pieces, too.”
Andrea Levine, owner of Andrea Levine Designs, said she resisted working with anything other than gold and diamonds for quite some time. However, after what she called a “dismal showing” at a trade show in October 2008 (“I didn’t receive a single new order.”), she developed a line of engrave-able sterling silver pet tags. The “Peace and Love” collection retails at a more modest level.
Matching sets are a hit with some customers.
PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of Louis Dog
“I listened, I heard and I did,” Levine said.
Another strategy used by manufacturers to create quality pet jewelry at a lower price point is to create “faux” versions of high-end jewelry. At High Maintenance Bitch (HMB) in Seattle, the 2003 introduction of $45,000 diamond earrings for dogs created huge media interest and several sales, according to Lori Pacchiano, co-founder of HMB. To make the look more attainable, however, Pacchiano designed a rhinestone version, Ego Magnetic Earrings and a new adhesive plastic “gem” earring, Doggie Disco Diamonds. Both are more affordable top sellers, Pacchiano said.
A Charmed Life
“One of the things we sell is sterling silver charms and tags,” said Vince Anginoli, co-owner of Mackie’s Parlour Pet Boutique in Phoenix. Since the tags can be engraved for identification, “Pet owners can express their need or want for glitter or jewels and still have functionality,” said Anginoli, who sells charms mostly from Cleopatra and Silver Bones.
Nancy Jelenic, owner of Barking Babies Boutique in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, said charms are successful for her, too.
“We sell lots of charms from FouFou Dog and Buddy G’s—little hearts with crystals, paw prints, cherries—they’re all very popular,” she said.
On the East Coast, Lisa Toscano, owner of Pup Hollywood in Staten Island, N.Y., also sells charms from FouFou Dog, often to clients who want something special but can’t afford a more costly item.
“The charms give them something they can purchase to ‘bling up their kids,’” she said.
Bright colors add style to decadent pet jewelry pieces.
PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of Chien Coature
Neckwear that Dazzles
Adorning the neck is something pet owners do anyway with regular collars, so pitching a fancy collar with jewels isn’t an uphill battle. A big seller from HMB is the “Beg” necklace, a faux diamond collar made with rhinestones, according to Pacchiano. Another popular entry into the neckwear category (or in this case, “waist wear”) is HMB’s “What a Waist,” a brightly colored, elastic sequined belt with faux jewels that can be paired with a sequined collar, Pacchiano added.
Louisdog & Company of Seoul, Korea, launched a new line of pet necklaces for the international market in 2009, according to Andrew Baek, chief marketing officer for the company.
“We started a collaboration work with jewelry designer Veronica B,” said Baek.
The resulting ten necklaces, which incorporate such details as chiffon, satin, faux pearls, artificial gemstones and Swarovski crystals, have done very well, he reported. In addition, the top selling necklace is the Couple J/4 Dog, a “bijou” necklace with faux pearls, a heart-shaped gem and a large bow. A new collection of pet jewelry is planned for a fall 2010 release, according to Baek.
Virginie Discart, owner of Les Chiens de ma Puce, a dog boutique in Brussels, Belgium, said she recently added the Louisdog collection of pet jewelry, along with a line of pet jewelry from Buddy G’s.
“They are a real success,” she said. “Jewelry for dogs works very well in my shop. The [economic] crisis has not really affected luxury shops for dogs.”
Jewelry designers are putting as much thought and intricate work into pet jewelry as they do some pieces for people.
PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of Bark Avenue
Made in the USA… or Canada
Consumer concern as to where a product is made and/or sourced from extends to pet jewelry.
“It’s a big deal,” said Levine, who purchases the exotic leathers—lizard, crocodile, stingray, python and anaconda—she uses for her jeweled collars from a source in the United States. “Some people will only buy if the product is made in the United States.”
A similar concept is true in Canada.
“It’s important to my customers that the products I sell are from Canada,” said Jelenic. “People like buying Canadian. And for me, it’s a better price point. By the time we pay shipping, tax and duty, if it’s from overseas, it becomes expensive.”
Jelenic tries to include the work of local craftsmen in her store, too.
“If I can get pet jewelry locally I do,” she said. “I have a few necklaces that I sell on consignment. If they don’t move, they go to a different shop and I have no financial investment.”
Other retailers who invest in local talents include Mackie’s Parlour Pet Boutique. Anginoli said he purchases Southwestern-themed, beaded dog necklaces that are sturdy enough to attach a leash to from a local Phoenix company, Zany Zak. In Staten Island, Toscano commissions local artists to create necklaces for her boutique.
Is the Sky the Limit?
Dubbed the “world’s most expensive” dog collar, the Amour, Amour from I Love Dogs Diamonds in Los Angeles is worth an estimated $3.2 million and contains more than 1,600 diamonds, including a 7-carat diamond as its centerpiece.
“It’s a one-of-a-kind piece,” said Martha Smith, general manager of I Love Dogs Inc.
In addition to the Amour, Amour, the pet jeweler offers five other diamond necklaces in its La Collection de Bijouix line. Most popular among international buyers, according to Smith, is a $150,000 design with 15.6 carats of diamonds called La Jeune Tulipe. In the U.S., a favorite design is La Jeune Cherie, a collar designed for the “puppy or puppy at heart” with 15 carats of diamond, Smith added.
“The collars attract the most interest from wealthy, style-conscious dog parents,” Smith said, noting that it is a market segment that has not had its spending habits affected by the economy. She also reported that I Love Dogs Diamonds is currently working on designs for a new line.
The decadent Amour, Amour is still available.
“They are all unique; I don’t tell them what to do because I don’t want to stifle their creativity,” she said, noting that one of the most popular necklaces is a faux pearl and ribbon necklace, “Pooch Pearls,” created by Designz by KC.
Who’s the Buyer?
In 2007, Louisdog & Company invested in marketing and design research to find out who was buying pet jewelry in Asia and Europe and why.
“There are two types of shoppers: the economic and practicality oriented shopper; [and the] quality and design-oriented shopper,” said Baek.
Louisdog built its pet jewelry line using an Italian designer and quality materials to reach the latter shopper, according to Baek.
Pacchiano also recognizes the difference in pet jewelry shoppers.
“One will buy a quality piece that can be worn for months,” she said. “The other is a high-end customer who will buy an amazing amount of items so that her dog looks different every day.”
Knowing who your customers are and what they are seeking can make a huge difference in a store’s success in selling pet jewelry, Pacchiano reported.
Even when a retailer has the “right” product for the store’s clientele, it’s important to know what you’re selling, according to Levine.
“It’s hard when you have a kid working in the store and she may really know her dog foods; but what does she know about fine jewelry,” she said.
Levine suggested working with pet jewelry designers to learn not only about the jewelry lines, but also how to best present and sell the jewelry.
Designers may be willing to offer marketing help, too. Levine, Pacchiano and Bierker all said they freely share their advice in everything from displaying pet jewelry and creating awareness, to creating sales and press events that sell jewelry. <HOME>
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