Growing interest in outdoor activities is increasing demand for safe and effective pet containment.
By Sandi Cain
The No. 1 trend in the pet product market is the humanization of pets, according to the U.S. Pet Market Outlook 2009-2010, published by Rockville, Md.-based Packaged Facts. The No. 2 trend is a focus on pet health and wellness. So it’s not surprising that pets are getting more outdoor time and exercise along with their human caretakers. According to the American Pet Products Association, more than $3 billion was spent on pet services last year as consumers included pets in their increasingly active lifestyles.
“People are more interested in pet health and wellness, and exercise and space for pets to run,” said Tara Whitehead, marketing manager for Midwest Homes 4 Pets in Muncie, Ind. “As more people move to an urban environment, having [outdoor containment] items helps them allow exercise for pets while keeping them safe.”
Containment products sometimes are used to keep pets safely away from hazards such as swimming pools. Yet some pets still manage to fall in. The Safety Turtle Pet Immersion Alarm works in conjunction with a wireless gate alarm to alert owners if a pet falls in the pool or off a boat.
Bob Lyons, president of Ottawa-based Safety Turtle, said the product was conceived for children to wear, but he soon learned people were buying them for pets. That led to a pet version that attaches to the collar with Velcro.
“Our biggest constituency is pet owners with pools who have already lost a dog,” Lyons said. “That’s because dogs can swim, but can’t get out of the pool or back into a boat.”
The product is sold primarily in the pool and spa industry, through veterinarians and online. Safety Turtle also is promoted by the Canadian Humane Society.
Midwest Homes 4 Pets is just one of a growing number of companies meeting those needs. It offers a range of portable outdoor kennels and exercise pens in various finishes and with or without step-through doors. The pens are suitable for dogs and cats, the company stated. A smaller pen, called Critterville, is designed for guinea pigs.
Exercise pens, kennels, playpens, patio and balcony enclosures, electronic and Wi-Fi perimeters, and even GPS tracking systems provide a variety of options for consumers. Paul Garmon, president of Temecula, Calif.-based Garmon Corp., makers of NaturVet products, said the prevalence of an outdoor lifestyle for dogs has translated to more sales of the company’s No Dig and Off Limits products, which are designed to be safe for plants, pets and the environment.
Outdoor containment products today also address lifestyle issues, such as homeowners’ association rules about balcony barriers and more emphasis on keeping pets from roaming the neighborhood. And some products pull double-duty; consumers can use indoor gates outside to block access to stairs, pools or spas, for example.
In addition, cat enclosures are gaining ground as caretakers seek to provide outdoor time without endangering either the cats or surrounding wildlife. The challenge for retailers is how to take advantage of these trends. Knowing what’s available is the first step.
Gates and Fences
Traditional gates and fences still have appeal for consumers. Minneapolis-based Carlson Pet Products has seen increased interest for its all-metal, durable gate barriers, according to marketing manager Shannon Bickel, and the company recently launched an adjustable eight-panel play yard.
Other manufacturers are seeing interest in traditional containment options, as well. Richell USA of Grand Prairie, Texas, received a lot of interest at the recent Global Pet Expo, held in Orlando, Fla., for its PT900 playpen, said Barbara Button, marketing and product development manager, and the company is looking to expand in Canada and South America.
A versatile plastic pet yard also is a bestseller for North States Industries in Minneapolis, said Julie Yager Grad, director of sales and marketing. With extensions sold separately, it can expand to almost 35 square-feet, offers easy access and is weather resistant, Yager Grad added. The company’s 3-in-1 Petyard, which can be hardware mounted as a barrier, includes a gate and expands up to 44 square-feet.
|Integrated containment options offer consumers choices as well as aesthetic appeal when it comes to keeping pets in.|
Courtesy of Cardinal Gates
For balcony and deck containment, Cats on Deck of Tallahassee, Fla., recently launched the flexible-design Tower of Meows, designed to provide up to four levels and 25 square-feet of play space within a 7.5-square-foot footprint.
“We developed this for people who live in apartments or condos,” said sales and marketing executive Jim Montgomery.
Along similar lines, Charlotte, N.C.-based Play Safe Fence features a retractable deck guard that President Cyndi Bowen said sells well in Miami, where many residents have restrictions against permanent attachments on balcony railings. In addition, Cardinal Gates, based in Newman, Ga., offers deck netting to meet the need of consumers wanting to contain pets on a deck or balcony, according to company president Craig Heiser.
Modern containment systems include electronic fencing and wireless control options. Clearwater, Fla.-based DogTek offers a PetSafe GPS locator that mounts on a pet’s collar to track roaming dogs or felines. The system is designed so that users can establish a “home zone” area, and if a pet fitted with the GPS-enabled collar goes outside of the area, the collar will notify the user.
The Invisible Fence Brand containment system relies as much on training as on the embedded signals. Kristin Rogers, regional marketing director for JGB Distributing, a unit of Knoxville, Tenn.-based Radio Systems Corp.’s Invisible Fence Brand in northeast Ohio, said a dog wears a collar that emits a correction vibration when it gets too close to the barrier. The corrections teach animals to retreat through humane positive reinforcement that doesn’t scare the dogs, according to the company.
Purchase of the company’s products includes professional installation, as well as consultation and training with the one of company’s Pet Safety Professionals, or user-implemented training using the company’s Perfect Start Pet Training Protocol system.
“If you don’t do the training, it won’t work,” she added.
|Pet fences come in a wide variety of options and designs.|
Photo Courtesy of Play Safe Pets
In addition to keeping pets in, the Invisible Fence brand now offers PetFree solutions—training collars that allow users to define “no-go” areas for pets, designed to issue corrections if pets enter these areas—to create pet-free areas, Rogers added.
Other companies also participate in the wireless pet containment market. Los Angeles-based Dogtra’s eF3000 Gold invisible fence covers approximately 40 acres and comes with a rechargeable battery, the company reported.
Pete Fisher, a Minnesota-based consultant for the company, said customers look for durability in fencing products. The eF3000’s rechargeable battery will last roughly three years, and the dog’s collar contains an LED light that shows when the battery needs to be recharged, fisher added.
Fisher added that the product gives dogs a vibration warning—similar to a vibrating cell phone in a pocket—when they get too close to a barrier, rather than an immediate jolt or a sound.
“A lot of people live in [communities] where rules don’t permit regular fencing,” Fisher said. “That leaves the option of tying the dog up or using an underground fence.”
Retailers reported success selling various containment products. At Moore Pet Supply in LaCrosse, Wis., office manager Brian Aspenson said the PetSafe outdoor wireless system by Radio Systems Corp. sells well because it only needs an electrical outlet for consumers to set it up.
“It’s adjustable and portable so it can go on travels with the owner,” he said.
Aspenson added that electronically operated pet doors are popular for cats because they control which animals have access to the pet doors.
Tina Moreno, owner of Doggie Do Rite Hidden Pet Fence in Houston, an installation dealer for Pet Stop, said she sees similar trends, with demand primarily coming from people wanting to keep the dogs off the stairs or cats out of the garden.
Manufacturers are keenly aware that some yard containment products are too large for easy display in small retail shops and offer various solutions to help retailers sell this category.
Drop-shipping is a common solution. Carlson Pet Products and Play Safe Fence, among other companies, offer this option,. Carlson provides its pet yard in a master pack of two shipped in a folded box that Marketing Manager Shannon Bickel said is great for independents and e-tailers.
North States Industries’ Yager Grad said some retailers set up the company’s pet yard and use it for storage or for their own adoption events. The packaging itself has large graphics on the ends and sides to catch customers’ attention.
Catalogs, sales sheets, PDF files and POP displays are frequently available for yard containment products. Midwest’s POP shows five different pens and a header card, while NaturVet has shelf-talkers and shelf rail systems and is planning a series of online videos for retailers. Cardinal Gates offers stands at cost to better enable retailers to display the products.
Creative packaging that catches the eye also is a plus. Midwest Homes 4 Pets, which sells its products in the U.S. and Canada, uses full-color packaging with information in English, Spanish and French, along with images and talking points.
“No matter how it sits on the shelf, the consumer can get an idea of how it works,” Whitehead said.
Education for retailers also is key.
“We spend a lot of time and effort educating retailers on how to make it all work,” Paul Garmon said, noting his company provides educational articles written by dog trainers to help customers understand how its products can help them with cross-sales.
“It’s important to find out why the dog does that behavior,” Garmon added. “People need to be reminded about that; it’s a good opportunity to cross-sell.”
Seasonality counts, too. Blaine Bocker, vice president of sales for Perimeter Technologies in Morgantown, Pa. and Cincinnati, Ohio, said spring is when consumers realize they need help, so the company reminds retailers when it’s time to think about yard containment products. The company provides POS pieces to drive online sales, and provides customer support directly to consumers about the wireless fencing.
“Customer education prevents returns,” Bocker said.<HOME>
Industry Professional Site: Comments from non-industry professionals will be removed.