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Fall Emporium: Collaring the Holiday Gift Market

Posted: September 25, 2013, 9:10 a.m. EDT


Manufacturers keep close tabs on fashion trends in creating bold, colorful and functional collars and leashes.

By Arden Moore

Collars and leashes offering both style and function are gaining ground as popular gifts for the upcoming holiday season.

Sharon Herrman, owner of Zelda’s Song in Fairfield, Conn., caters to style-seeking customers by offering bracelets made with the same Italian leather as her signature collars and leashes, making it possible to gift both pet and owner at the same time.

When she launched her company in 2011, she initially offered a collection of keepsake jewelry for a targeted audience: "dog moms.” But she quickly expanded her brand to include fashionable dog leashes and collars.

"With the increasing importance of dogs in our lives, owners want a shared emblem to express the everlasting connection between them and their dogs,” said Herrman.

The leashes and collars all feature a Zelda’s Song Heart Charm and are handmade of soft, water-repellant and stain-resistant Italian leather, Herrman said. Leashes come in four-feet and six-feet lengths, and in raspberry, black and brown hues. The collars sport playful names, such as The Mutt, The Lap Dog and The Retriever.

Petmate also recognizes that collars are no longer just for brandishing identification tags—they’re also fashion statements. The company unveiled a new line of high-quality, attractive collars and leashes this year, said Angela Wharton, Petmate’s product manager for collars and leashes. The Arlington, Texas, company’s cat fashion collars and leashes are part of the Petmate Mix and Match line for specialty retailers, and part of the Aspen Pet fashion line for general retailers.

"Straight from the catwalk to the cat aisle, Petmate fashion cat nylon collars and leashes incorporate prevailing trends in color (pink, purple and blue) and print (zebra and arabesque),” said Wharton. "Featuring a patented breakaway buckle and silver bell, these collars provide both style and safety.”

To boost sales, Petmate’s research team stays on top of the latest fashion, lifestyle and home décor trends, and uses this information to develop new collars, leashes and pet bedding that complement modern home décor. The company also provides branded rack displays to showcase its collars and leashes for its retail clients.

Embracing the motto, "style never sleeps,” Nandog Pet Gear co-owners Nando Vergara and Mitch Klapow focus on catering to people proud to strut in style with their dogs that weigh 30 pounds or less. The Mission Hills, Calif., company creates stylish-but-sturdy custom-designed retractable leashes with comfortable rubber grip handles, Vergara said. The most popular sellers this holiday season, Vergara added, are the Executive White Quilted Retractable Leash (hand-wrapped in faux leather) and the Cosmic Bones Print Retractable Leash (in black, white or pink).

Primed to ring in the holidays starting with Halloween, 2 Hounds Design is making sure that medium, large and extra-large dog breeds are not overlooked in this season’s gift buying. Based in Monroe, N.C., 2 Hounds sources materials from all over the globe—including Swiss velvet, French jacquard and Asian silk—but all of its collars are made in the U.S., the company stated.
 
The newest collars in the line—called Foxes and Dragonflies—rank among the top sellers, said owner Alisha Navarro.

"For the first time, our collars are available with a hang tag that actually hangs from pegs,” said Navarro. "This gives stores more flexibility in displaying collars. They can hang them from pegs on a slat wall or grid wall, or they still have the option of folding the tag down and hanging from a jewelry bar or displaying on a table or on model dogs. The trick to selling collars is to make them accessible enough that customers can touch them and try them on their dogs to see how they look.”

At Rio de Janeiro-based Zee.Dog, fashion is bold and barked about in loud colors and patterns. Some of Zee.Dog’s hot holiday sellers are collars and leashes baring such trendy names as Driver (black-and-white checkered), Skull (cute white skulls on a black background) and Colorbless (blocks of bright colors).

"We also encourage retailers to buy a minimum in order to receive a Zee.Dog display,” said owner Thadeu Diz. "Having our products displayed in a Zee.Dog fixture helps to tell the story better, which in turn generates sales.”

For shoppers looking for a solutions-oriented gift, Kurgo has an answer: the Quantum Leash. The highly adaptable dog-walking restraint can extend fully to a six-foot-long lead or quickly adjust to being a shoulder or waist leash, and even to a double-dog walker. A simple carabiner adjustment helps the user switch styles instantly during a walk, the company added.

"The Kurgo Quantum Leash is a great universal gift because it works with any dog-walking style,” said Gordie Spater, president of Salisbury, Mass.-based Kurgo. "It offers hands-free options and easy tethering solutions, making getting out together simpler and more enjoyable all year ’round.”

Ruffwear’s new fall line includes the Top Rope Collar. Its single-piece, anodized aluminum V-ring provides a secure leash attachment point, and its Quick Ring feature allows dog owners to quickly and easily add or remove tags, according to the company. It also provides a separate tag holder from the leash clasp.

And, to produce "hush puppies,” the collar’s silicone tag silencer is designed to eliminate the noise generated by metal tags. The durable collar line comes in burnt orange, red rock, metolius blue and granite gray—all decked out in reflective trim for night-time visibility, said Susan Strible, director of marketing for the Bend, Ore. company.

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