Posted: April 29, 2014, 1:55 p.m. EDT
The key to successful cat collar sales is understanding pet owners’ desire for safety and fashion.
By Keith Loria
With the humanization of pets, cat collars are looking more like fashion accessories than just collars, said Angela Wharton, project manager at Petmate in Arlington, Texas.
Petmate’s latest offerings include its Glow in the Dark and Aspen Pet brand Reflective collars, which use different colors of ink than other brands so that the product not only serves a function, but also stands out at retail, she said.
"In an effort to not be stagnant, we are exploring new materials and remixing our techniques,” Wharton said. "Customers always want fresh, innovative product, so we are looking to the runways and accessory trends, such as belts, bags, shoes and even jewelry.”
Up Country Inc. in East Providence, R.I., offers more than 30 collars for all seasons and has just introduced new ribbon designs that are bright and fun, said Donna Bodell, director of marketing.
"Customers want something adorable to put on their cats, just like their dogs,” she said. "Many customers like to match their pets, so we have several coordinating cat/dog designs. We have several cat-centric designs and many holiday-inspired designs.”
Placing cat collars with other cat products can make them easier to find. Radio Systems Corp.
Mandie Sweetnam, product manager for PetSafe, a brand of Radio Systems Corp. in Knoxville, Tenn., said safety and quality always are the most important buzzwords in the cat collar industry, but she said that style is important too.
PetSafe offers Premier Twice As Nice Kitty Collars, which are made for comfort, safety and quality, Sweetnam said.
"Twice As Nice Kitty Collars feature a safety breakaway buckle, are made of stretch elastic nylon and are available in four colors,” she added.
Colby Branum, marketing director for TailsSpin, with three retail locations in Georgia, said Coastal Pet Products’ expandable safety collars and its New Earth Soy cat collars are the stores’ top sellers.
TailsSpin no longer carries high-end lines of cat collars because it hasn’t had success with the category in the past.
"Most cat-owning customers would prefer inexpensive collars due to their cats losing collars frequently,” Branum said. "Lower-cost items perform much better for us, and many customers will purchase up to three collars at once with engraved ID tags for ready replacements.”
Show Them Off
Cat collars don’t always sell as well as dog collars because they aren’t a must-have item for all cat owners. But by focusing on proper placement and display, retailers can increase collar sales.
Kelley Parsons, owner of Denny’s Pet World in Kirkland, Wash., said that with a slight change, cat collars have become a growing category for the store.
"We have had better results since we moved the collars away from the ‘collar wall’ and placed them in the cat section,” she said. "It was difficult to distinguish them from dog collars prior to the move, and I think the reason for the sales increase is the ease of locating them.”
She recommends placing collars near a store’s busiest cat supply section and stocking styles that are bright and eye catching.
"Manufacturers do have racks that help to display the collars,” Parsons said. "They are space-saving racks so that you do not need to take up as much space yet you can display many collars.”
Alison Schwartz, manager of All Pets Considered in Greensboro, N.C., said one of her favorite cat collar brands is Beastie Bands from Twin Cat. All Pets has a special display in the store because Beastie Bands are Velcro and can stick on it, she noted.
Unlike with dog products, which manufacturers work hard to help display in retail stores, Schwartz has seen very little cat display or merchandising help from most cat collar companies, she said.
TailsSpin places all of its cat collars, harnesses and leashes near its cat toys.
"We find that most customers don’t come to our stores looking for cat collars specifically and are more likely to purchase alongside treats and toys for their cats,” Branum said. "We recommend trying to provide customers with a diverse selection to suit their needs. We do see that having a variety of eye-catching patterns and bright colors sells much better than your average line of collars.”
In an effort to help retailers with sales, Bodell said Up Country has its cat collars attached to a hanging card that can be added to a wall display or placed in baskets for a more boutique-y look.
According to Wharton, Petmate’s collections are designed to tell color stories and make an impact that way.
"However, the patterns and materials we have used are chosen so that if the retailer prefers to display the product based on style/function, the set will still look cohesive,” she said.
Sweetnam said PetSafe’s cat collars are packaged perfectly for displaying on a peg at eye level in the store.
"The packaging clearly conveys the quality and purpose of each product,” she said. "A good recommendation would be to separate pegs by size and/or color to make it easier for the customer to see the variety available.”
|Whiskers Can Walk
A trend that those around the industry are noticing is a boom in the exploration of using harnesses and leashes for cats. Veterinarians often suggest that owners shouldn’t let cats outside much to maintain their health and security, but cat owners are finding they can take their pets outside safely with the help of a leash and harness.
Consumer awareness of "cat walking” is certainly on the rise. Cat walking has been featured on CBS’ "Sunday Morning,” has been in The New York Times and is featured regularly on Animal Planet’s "My Cat From Hell” TV series.
"Silhouettes and materials are evolving from the traditional nylon strap harnesses to mesh body harnesses,” said Angela Wharton, project manager at Petmate in Arlington, Texas. "The construction provides more comfort for your pet as well as adding more surface area for fashion.”
Harnesses and leashes are popular items at Denny’s Pet World in Kirkland, Wash., with the best-seller in the category being the Premier brand Come With Me Kitty Harness and Bungee Leash from PetSafe, as both the harness and leash come together, said owner Kelley Parsons.
"The two items packaged together aids the customer in their decision by keeping it simple,” Parsons added. "We sell a lot of these in the spring and summer.”
At TailsSpin, which has three retail stores in Georgia, marketing director Colby Branum said that Coastal Pet Products’ mesh cat harnesses and the Come With Me Kitty harness and leash set are its highest-performing items in the category, selling very quickly due to a higher demand for harnesses over collars.
"These items offer a more interesting variety of patterns and colors,” he said.
With the Come With Me Kitty Harness and Bungee Leash, indoor cats are able to experience safe outdoor playtime, which can be an incredibly enriching experience for them, said Mandie Sweetnam, product manager for PetSafe, a brand of Radio Systems Corp. in Knoxville, Tenn.
"A key feature of the harness is that it is designed to safely tighten to the cat’s body if they should pull away, preventing them from escaping the harness,” said Sweetnam. "It’s available in six fun colors and is sold with a matching bungee leash, which allows them to explore but gently gives if the cat decides to pounce.”
Walking vests are popular right now because they tend to be more difficult to escape from, said Tobi Kosanke, president of Crazy K Farm Pet and Poultry Products in Hempstead, Texas. Her company offers the Kitty Holster walking vest.
"Cat-specific walking vests are also designed for comfort and much more readily accepted by cats,” she said.
Kosanke added that because customers are interested in products that are made in the USA, Crazy K Farm completely moved its operations to the U.S.
"Customers prefer companies that ‘give back’ over those that don’t, and we are a social venture that supports an animal sanctuary and also donates a portion of sales to other worthy causes, such as charities that fight breast cancer,” she said. "Customers also seek a broad range of cat sizes, and ask that we manufacture matching leashes. We now offer XS and XL sizes and [are] introducing a harness/leash combo.”—KL
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