Pet diningware collections that synchronize with human lifestyle and home décor are in demand.
By Cheryl Reeves
Many pet owners adore their animals to the point that they’re willing to shower them in luxury, increasingly selecting boutique pet dinnerware collections that harmonize with their homes’ décor. Savvy retailers who think outside the bowl can capitalize on the sales of collections that include everything associated with food and treats: storage containers, scoops, treat jars, placemats—even party hats and bibs.
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|Dog owners still show interest in buying high-end products for their pets, across the market. Manufacturers who offer full, coordinated product lines can capitalize on consumer interest. Courtesy of the American Pet Products Association’s 2009-2010 National Pet Owners Survey|
Main selling points in this category include: functionality, eco-friendliness (organic fabrics, recyclable plastics) and personalization.
According to the 2009-2010 National Pet Owners Survey by the American Pet Products Association, about 25 percent of pet owners surveyed said they buy designer pet products. There’s room for tremendous growth as the pet market continues to boom.
Gerardo Herrera, designated the Chief Creative Cat at Yep Yup, a manufacturer in Agoura Hills, Calif., said his company’s dinnerware “is a holistic experience between people and pets. This is why Yep Yup’s dinnerware is designed as part of a collection of products. The consumers don’t just purchase dinnerware products, they embrace a lifestyle.”
Herrera said the company’s Sasha & Tasha collection—which features a matching bowl, place mat and treat jar—is a strong seller.
“The Sasha & Tasha collection has a universal appeal, as it creates a playful environment with a plum and pink color palette,” he said.
Mike Maida, owner of Pawsh Dog Boutique & Salon in Boston, Mass., said that based on his customers’ preferences, color is the big trend, especially in bowls.
“People love a colorful bowl that looks nice and is high quality,” he said. He added that he sees people splurging on dinnerware items that are prominently displayed, such as bowls and treat jars, but that designer storage containers are not moving at his store.
“I think it’s the recession,” he said, “and because people usually keep storage containers in a closet out of sight.”
It’s all about outstanding visuals and eco-friendly material at United Pets, a manufacturer in Milan, Italy.
“Our company’s mission is to merge two worlds: man and animal,” said Manuela Roma, export manager. “Our best-selling bowl is the Pappy, made of polypropylene, and it is available in 13 colors and three sizes.”
|Many manufacturers are thinking in terms of collections when designing new pet accessories, especially for dining products. Courtesy of Yep Yup|
He added most of the collections work well together so consumers can mix and match storage containers, place mats and serving spoons.
In the current celebrity-worshipping global culture, the rich and famous lead the pack in style trends.
Christian Velasco, vice president of marketing and public relations at D.O.G. Boutique in West Hollywood, Calif., said his store is a magnet for A-list pet parents.
“Our store is located in the heart of L.A., and is a dog lover’s dream,” he said. “We even have celebrities who ask us to visit their residence so we can see for ourselves their personal design style. Everything has to be perfect, right down to the pet’s placemat.”
Velasco said his store carries a chic silver placemat with black whip-stitching from an accessory line manufactured by Fab Dog that “is a favorite of many celebrities.” He added, “Simplicity at its finest is what the modern dog owner looks for now.”
Taking cues from a broad range of inspirations, designers are focused on appealing to a plethora of tastes, ranging from conservative to contemporary. Herrera said his inspiration comes from everyday experiences and from travels around the world.
“We are inspired by the people we meet, nature, architecture, art, fashion, books and food,” he said, noting that function and aesthetics are important considerations.
At Dog-A-Holics, a boutique in Chicago, customer requests can be very specific.
Michael Sheets, the manager, said, “We had a customer who re-did the kitchen and wanted their pets’ dinnerware collection to match the new moldings and cabinetry.”
Rebecca Volandt, creative director at Melia Luxury Pets in Atlanta, said, “I actually developed a new signature design for Melia from a designer blouse. The unusual color combination was striking, and I interpreted this in what we call a Triple Paw design. It’s selling extremely well.”
With its recent launch of a dining table and tray, Richell USA, a manufacturer based in Grand Prairie, Texas, offers function that grows with the pet. Barbara Button, the company’s senior manager of marketing and product development, said the table “is designed to adjust to different height levels as the pet grows from puppy/kitten to adult.”
Volandt also emphasized the appeal of function.
“We are also offering a variety of shapes for bowls, such as our Eclipse,” she said. “The shape has a natural handle built in where the back of the bowl slopes upward; this slope shape also keeps kibble from being ‘nosed’ out of the bowl when the dog or cat is eating.”
When many of his customers said they’d like to have versatile, human bowls as pet bowls, Josh Guyot, CEO, designer and owner of Guyot Designs in Deer Isle, Maine, created the Squishy Bowl. Made of flexible silicone, the bowl fits people’s active lifestyles, as it can be “squished” into a backpack or suitcase on the go.
Every new design begins with research at Harry Barker, Inc. a manufacturer located in North Charleston, S.C. Carol Perkins Rawle, the founder and owner, finds what’s popular in the human market before incorporating the styles into her pet products.
“I’ve researched the latest fashion in kitchen colors [and] trends, and read lots of fashion magazines,” Rawle said. “The Pantone website is wonderful.”
Her company just launched the Windsor Collection, which features two-tone punchy colors. “The color red is important now, and spring is all about a brighter palette,” she added.
Renowned for her artfully conceptualized treat jars, Alyson Whitney, founder and creative director of her design company Chowtime Productions in The Woodlands, Texas, said “I’m always with my sketchbook.
“We try to get a new design out each quarter for all our products. I even have consistent sales from collectors who buy a new piece every three months,” she added.
Whitney reported that 98 percent of the pieces she creates are personalized.
“There’s an additional fee, but people are more than willing to pay it,” she said.
Voldant has seen the same trend in accessories at Melia Luxury Pets. Her company’s new Custom Program capitalizes on the trend.
“The stores that have taken advantage of this option have been thrilled,” she said. “A retailer can choose any of our ceramic items and then add their store name, the neighborhood, town, etc., to the pieces for free. It’s a great advertising tool for the store, but it also differentiates the retailer from the next.”
At Pamper Me Puppy, a reseller in Long Island, N.Y., owner Vince Albanese said, “Everyone wants their treat jars personalized.”
Affordability also figures into the design equation.
“When I look for the bowls, treat jars and place mats, I usually bring in contemporary designs that can go with a variety of home decors,” said Kelly Duteau, owner of PawBella Pet Boutique in Burlington, Vt. “But I make sure the price points are on the low end and offer to special order anything for someone looking for something a bit nicer.”
To inspire more sales, properly displaying pet dinnerware collections in stores also proves vital.
“Display is what makes or breaks your store,” Velasco said. “We take that very seriously and make sure to have our pet bowls at eye level and always add something in the bowl or around the bowl to attract attention.”
Herrera encouraged retailers to consider displaying based on collection when able, rather than by individual product.
“The ability to tell a story with a collection of products leaves a strong image in the consumer’s mind,” he said. “That can create the need for the entire collection.” <HOME>
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