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11:40 AM   April 19, 2015
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Business Savvy: Mannequins

By Lori Luechtefeld

Today’s pet retailers are stocking an ever-growing variety of fashionable clothes and accessories, from the simple and chic to the elaborate and elegant. It’s no surprise, then, that pet clothing display options have kept pace with the latest style trends.


Nika Wynnyk, chief executive officer of BadSF Inc. in San Francisco, says that retailers need to focus on using pet mannequins and other clothing and accessory fixtures in a way that helps customers shop with ease.

“Signage and strategic placement of mannequins and product help define the shopping experience for your customer,” she says. “Try to tell a story in your windows and inside your store.”

LuLu & Luigi in Minnesota is one company that recognizes the value of such story-telling. The two-store retailer uses pet mannequins to set up themed, color-coordinated vignettes within its stores. These creative scenes are regularly rotated. For example, in March, brightly dressed, party-going dogs were positioned around a birthday cake, celebrating the seventh birthday of company mascot, LuLu. 

While such displays help draw attention to certain categories and styles of clothing, Karen Howe, president of LuLu & Luigi, notes that her store doesn’t rely exclusively on mannequins to show off the latest fashions.

“Every person who works for us can bring their dog into the store, and those dogs certainly work for their keep,” she says. “They wear clothes that are currently available in our store, and they have proven to be our best sales associates.”

LuLu & Luigi’s live floor models range in size from a Chihuahua to a boxer.

“Clothes fit breeds quite differently, and it’s a matter of educating our staff and customers so they don’t try to put a dachshund shirt—that is suited for a small barrel-chested dog—on a Yorkie,” Howe says.

Howe says her stores also make use of a variety of other clothing display options, including decorative wooden hangers. Some of the hangers are plain and simple, while others are shaped like dogs, cats and mice.

Kristie Lewis, merchandising coordinator for Moochie & Co., headquartered in Worthington, Ohio, says her company’s stores also use a wide variety of clothing display options. Clothing hangs on T-stands and lies flat in cabinets. Clearance items are placed in bins, mimicking the style of Victoria’s Secret stores. In addition, clothing and accessories are displayed on mannequins in every window and throughout the store. The stores display fashion items on three sizes of plush, canvas-lined mannequins, available in off-white and black.

Mannequin Madness
When it comes to pet mannequins, variety is limited only by a retailer’s creativity. From the simple to the elaborate—the basic to the high-end—there’s at least one mannequin to suit every store.

“You should never cheapen the appearance of your products by putting them on an inferior mannequin or fixture,” says Ron Rodrigues, vice president of sales and marketing at BadSF Inc. “Nordstrom, Macy’s and Saks have already proven this retail formula. You use quality mannequins and fixtures with your quality products.”

Charisa Antigua, owner of Oscar Newman LLC in Chicago, says that pet mannequins are valuable retail tools to help customers better envision how clothing will look and fit on their pets. In addition, clothing can be paired with matching collars, jewelry and other accessories, thus creating an entire look.

Courtesy of Oscar Newman

“Usually, the simpler the mannequin, the better,” Antigua says. “Mannequins that are complex in look, fabrics or patterns may be great decoratively, but not suited for showing off pet clothing or accessories, as it may detract from the product that you are trying to showcase.”

Antigua says the latest pet mannequins are sturdy—yet light—and easy to dress. Many contain wire frames in the legs and body that enable storeowners to pose the figures to their liking.

Roe Astuto, owner of Lush Puppy in Las Vegas, says she opted to have mannequins custom-made.

“We paid a premium, but it was worth it,” she says.

The mannequins at Lush Puppy come in a variety of sizes, all with removable heads—for easy dressing—and bendable ears. “We’re able to change a dog’s expression by changing the position of the ears,” Astuto says. The ears are also key to easy display of accessories, such as sunglasses.

All the mannequins at Lush Puppy are made of white vinyl, providing a clean uniformity that is well-suited to the rest of the store’s aesthetics.

Roni Di Lullo, president of Doggles LLC in Diamond Springs, Calif., says that, ultimately, mannequin selection should be based on the theme and color scheme of a particular store. Still, some general trends apply.

“Most of the mannequins available now are soft, typically made from vinyl for easy cleaning,” she says. “We offer a softer version of easy-to-clean smooth-finish mannequins in white.”

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