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Solo Sanctuaries

Posted: May 24, 2011, 6:40 p.m., EDT

Retailers are seeing a rise in pet bed and furniture sales as the economy continues to improve.

By Maggie M. Shein

While some retailers experienced a decrease in high-end pet bed and furniture sales with the slowing economy, retailers and manufacturers alike reported that they are now seeing an upswing in this area of the market.

“Bed sales definitely slowed due to the economic downturn, but they didn’t completely stall,” said Kade Kimber, owner of online retailer Bark Slope in Raleigh, N.C. “We did notice a shift toward more practical beds instead of those that hold a higher novelty appeal. But that trend seems to be reversing.”
 
Another industry member who saw a slowdown was Lori Dotterweich, owner of Natural Paws, a brick-and-mortar retailer in Reno, Nev., and the online store Tails by the Lake.

“Unfortunately, beds aren’t selling as well as before the recession, as it’s considered a luxury item,” she said. “However, we noticed a slight increase in bed sales this winter.”

 

Consumers often look for pet beds that match their homes’ décor, with brown being a top-selling bed color for many manufacturers.
Consumers often look for pet beds that match their homes’ décor, with brown being a top-selling bed color for many manufacturers.
Photo courtesy of Poochie of Beverly Hills
Designer beds are starting to make a comeback as consumers are becoming more comfortable with buying luxury items again, Kimber noted.

“Consumers are still hesitant to spend without restraint, but they’re becoming more comfortable with buying items that are a little less practical and a lot more fun,” he said—as long as the product offers both pleasing aesthetics and quality in one.

Options Aplenty

Choices for high-end beds and furniture include mats, circle and square beds, doughnut beds, wooden furniture pieces, canopies and tents, as well as coordinating items such as dressers.
 
“Bagel or doughnut beds are the most popular due to their circular outer ring,” said Dotterweich, who carries Bowsers and F.Y.D.O. (For Your Dogs Only) beds. “Most dogs really love the security the ring provides, and the beds are also covered with quality fabrics that are easily washable.”

Doughnut beds also are most popular for Bark Slope, followed by square beds and then mats, Kimber reported. He said the support doughnut beds offer pets, along with an array of fabric options and styles,  

Creative Bedding Displays

Sales in high-end beds and furniture often require savvy displays and marketing help from the manufacturer. If a retailer has the floor space, putting a few beds and furniture items where they are accessible for the customer to touch them and try them out can be a worthwhile tactic.

“It’s really important to leave a couple of beds low so that the customers can get their hands on them,” said Stefanos Tsartsalis, general manager at Pet Central NYC, a retailer with seven locations throughout Manhattan. “It’s all about feeling them and seeing if the animal will be comfortable on them.”

Since pet furniture is often an impulse buy, eye-catching displays can help lure in the buyers.

“If you market dog beds properly, you will make more money in your store,” said Vickie Wagner, owner of Eloise Pet Accessories, a Los Angeles-based manufacturer.

 Retailers can be creative with their displays by taking a twin bed minus the mattress, and filling the frame with dog beds, Wagner suggested.

For retailers that don’t have the floor space to display full product lines, manufacturers can help by sending fabric swatches, images or catalogs of available products to entice sales.

“Something that has been really helpful is to include a little catalog of all of our beds,” said Amanda Collins, owner and designer of Poochie of Beverly Hills in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Retailers can then lay it out with a bed or two, and it can help to sell the others.

Harry Barker advises retailers to ask for sample swatches of its bedding.

“We encourage retailers to ask for swatches because beds are investment pieces,” said Carol Perkins, founder of the Charleston, S.C.-based company.

Perkins said retailers can encourage customers to bring in paint samples or pictures to make sure that the product matches with their décor.

“Beds are a piece of furniture, and you want them to be harmonious to your environment,” she added. 
—MMS

keep them in the lead in terms of sales.

For design, color and fabric, many consumers look for pet beds that match their home’s décor, including furniture, paint and flooring.

“People want anything that will go with their upholstery in their house,” said Vickie Wagner, owner of the Los Angeles-based manufacturer Eloise Pet Accessories. “That’s what they’re looking for.”

Eloise Pet Accessories produces square beds in several different designs and sizes for thousands of retailers and hotels worldwide, including Westin, St. Regis and Hyatt, she reported.

“I’m seeing a lot of design ideas that keep up with Pottery Barn or anything in that realm,” Wagner said.

She added that for her customers, chocolate brown and blue, along with chocolate brown and pink, are by far the most popular colors for beds.

The color brown also is manufacturer Harry Barker’s best-seller, reported Carol Perkins, founder of the Charleston, S.C.-based company.

“I always tell retailers, make sure you buy extra brown,” she said. “I think the neutrality of it and the fact that it doesn’t show dirt as much make it popular.”

To keep up with the trend of neutral-colored, highly designed pieces, manufacturer PetZip of Corona, Calif., has added soft beds (which are set to go on sale this summer) to its existing line of wooden pet beds, cribs and other furniture, said Fernando Chang, international marketing. While PetZip’s wooden pet furniture does well in pink and blue, the newer soft-bed line “has a more grown-up theme” and includes neutral colors with skulls and pirate-themed prints, he said.

“The new line is more fashionable in terms of presentation,” Chang added. “Consumers want something they can put in their living room that doesn’t create a conflict with their current décor.”

The soft bed line consists of mats and square beds, and it complements the colors and designs of PetZip’s other existing products, including collars and leashes—a trend Chang said he’s hearing more demand for.

More Than Your Average Bed

In the pet furniture realm, while some consumers look for items that go beyond a soft-sided pillow, the rule of fabrics and styles fitting into a consumer’s home décor still applies. Poochie of Beverly Hills makes high-end furniture, which include loungers and sleigh beds. The company’s best-selling beds are those with faux fur and animal print fabrics.

“They accent a lot of décor that fit into people’s homes, and the fabrics are so soft—people really want luxury for their pets,” said Amanda Collins, owner and designer of the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based manufacturer.

Poochie of Beverly Hills recently debuted its Savvy Collection of furniture, which comes in pinks, browns and other neutral-colored faux fur and mink fabrics.

“We came up with the new collection because there is a need in the high-end market for a less expensive bed that stores can turn faster,” Collins said.

Other manufacturers have created their place in the high-end pet furniture market by focusing on alternative forms of beds.

Since its original launch in 1962, The Persnickety Pet’s Pet Tents have undergone changes in fabrics and colors, but the general furniture design of the canopied home has remained the same.

“Early in the market, there were just open beds,” said Dick Mueller, creator and owner of The Persnickety Pet in Omaha, Nebraska. “Pets are den animals, and a covered tent allows the pet its own sanctuary, so to speak.”

The company sells its patented Pet Tents for small to medium-sized dogs in four designs—the biggest seller being its Posh & Pink. Other colors include light and dark brown, along with white. The current line of circular tents are 21 inches in diameter at their widest part, though the company plans to release an even smaller, square-shaped Pet Tent in the fall of 2011, Mueller reported.

Other Selling Features

Aside from popular shapes and styles, many consumers are looking for other selling features in high-end beds and furniture. Current demands include machine-washable or easy-to-clean fabrics, orthopedic foams and mattresses, and accident-proof liners for the aging pet population.
 
“The machine-washable aspect of beds is very important,” said Stefanos Tsartsalis, general manager at Pet Central NYC, a retailer in New York. “Our customers like things to be easy and convenient.”

Current demands in high-end beds and furniture include machine-washable or easy-to-clean fabrics, orthopedic foams and mattresses, and accident-proof liners.
Current demands in high-end beds and furniture include machine-washable or easy-to-clean fabrics, orthopedic foams and mattresses, and accident-proof liners.
Photo courtesy of Harry Barker
One of Pet Central NYC’s most popular bed lines is West Paw Design’s recycled fiber-fill Bumper Beds. The beds are machine washable, and the replacement pillow inserts and outer bolster covers also can be purchased separately.

Perkins of Harry Barker said her company has gotten a lot of demand for accident liners and orthopedic foam options. The company has recently released a line of piddle-proof liners and mattress protectors to further increase the longevity of its machine-washable pet beds.

“We’re also bringing back our orthopedic foam futon,” Perkins added.

The plant-based, bio-foam-topped beds are U.S.-made, and at press time, had a projected release date of April 2011.
 
As luxury items such as beds and furniture continue to enjoy growth after an economic slowdown, manufacturers and retailers are poised to tackle the demand with new lines of products, new designs and functional features. 

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