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Dog Marketplace: Splash Into Summer

Posted: June 18, 2012, 4:30 p.m. EDT

Rising temperatures make water-friendly toys, accessories and safety gear cool products to stock.
By Sandi Cain

Summer is just around the corner, and that means people will be heading to rivers, lakes and oceans in droves. Many of them will take their dogs along—and not just for the ride. Retailers can encourage summer fun by stocking a variety of water-friendly toys and accessories.

“We see a trend of owners expecting to spend more time with their pets and even take them on vacation,” said Mark Pasco, vice president of sales for Mammoth Lakes, Calif.-based Mammoth Pet Products.

Dog toys and safety gear for the water
Water-themed displays can help draw customers to seasonal merchandise. Katie Ingmire/BowTie Inc. at Passionate Pet Superstore
“That encourages a lot of toy sales,” he added.

The Brighter the Better
Pets won’t be left behind when the rest of the family climbs aboard the boat or goes for a dip in the surf. Along with Frisbees and footballs, new and expanded lines of floating toys, float coats and float ropes for the canine set are becoming a standard part of family beach gear.

“Anything that’s highly visible and floats is important to owners,” said Kevin Carey, owner of Outer Barks in Duck, N.C.

He carries a range of toys designed to float, including Ruff Wear’s Hover Craft flying disk, West Paw Design’s Zisc and Kong Co.’s Wet Wubbas for their durability.

At Pets in the City, Melissa Debus gets a lot of requests for floating balls and soft flying disks as last-minute purchases when people head for the water.

“Toys are an afterthought to keep the dog busy while the customers are on the river,” said Debus, marketing and events coordinator for the St. Louis retailer.

Other products that retailers recommend for dogs active in the water include EzyDog’s new neoprene collars, which Janene Zakrajsek, owner of Pussy & Pooch in Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., said are “highly recommended for the beach because they dry quickly and are lightweight.”

What’s New
Manufacturers have come up with a variety of new, water-friendly toys and supplies ready to hit the stores for this summer season, including the following:

• West Paw Design, based in Bozeman, Mont., reported that its new floating, durable Jive ball is made of the company’s signature Zogoflex material, bounces and floats and comes in this year’s trendiest colors.
“They’re buoyant, durable and recyclable,” said John Granquist, proprietor of The Grateful Hound, a retailer in Savannah, Ga.

• The Cannoli from Modesto, Calif.-based GoughNuts is an interactive toy designed with durability, flotation and safety in mind. GoughNuts products are sold in the U.S., Canada, France, Spain, the Netherlands, the U.K. and Australia.

• Wichita, Kan.-based Hyper Pet offers a new interactive, floating flying goose retrievable toy that’s part of the company’s squeaker and slingshot toys line, said Sarah Bell, director of marketing.
“Our best-sellers are the flying series of toys,” Bell said, adding that the line is available in the U.S. and Canada.

• Planet Dog’s Orbee-Tuff and Fetch toy lines are among the company’s best-sellers for water sports, according to the Portland, Maine, company’s brand ambassador, Kristen Smith. It’s a primary line carried by Pussy & Pooch in Los Angeles.
“We carry toys that are buoyant year-round, including Planet Dog’s Orbee-Tuff,” said owner Janene Zakrajsek, who also has a store in Long Beach, Calif. “The biggest request for toys is for something indestructible.”

• This year Mammoth Pet Products of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., will feature a line of Flossy Chews Poli-Dri Rope items designed for play as well as chewing—and floating. Mark Pasco, vice president of sales, said the larger tugs and those with balls are the best-sellers in that category.

• Carlsbad, Calif.-based Dog’s Nite Out is set to launch its best-selling wetsuit in smaller sizes due to consumer demand, according to owner Michael Drentea. He also plans to change the style on the larger wetsuits.
“It’s a niche product,” he said.—SC

Sandpoint, Idaho-based EzyDog also has a new Micro Dog Flotation Device Harness for small dogs to complement its larger sizes already on the market. Zakrajsek said customers at her Long Beach store who purchase these flotation harnesses are typically those who have pets that compete in surf dog contests.  For more information on water safety gear for pets, click here.

Meanwhile, manufacturer Surf’s Up Dog specializes entirely in water-friendly, U.S.-made dog gear inspired by the surf industry, including leashes, collars and harnesses.

When promoting water-friendly products, retailers can recommend quick-drying materials, colors that won’t run, and rust-resistant metal, said Charlotte Trusty, founder of the San Diego company. Trusty added that all of Surf’s Up Dog’s products incorporate materials that are used for human surf gear and water equipment.

Fun Summer Displays
A plethora of toys and limited display space challenges many independent retailers to be at their creative best when trying to draw customers to seasonal merchandise.

At Outer Barks, Carey creates an “off to the beach” window display that features a stuffed dog wearing a life vest. He also hosts weekly “yappy hours” during the summer to showcase seasonal merchandise.

Likewise, Pets in the City partners with a neighboring business to host yappy hours, and Debus provides treats for the pooches and displays merchandise for the owners.

Last year, Pussy & Pooch experimented with an outdoor activity section as a companion display to seasonal beach and nautical themes that focus on fun in the sun, Zakrajsek said. One included a nude beach featuring dogs playing au naturel—in their fur.

For those who need a little help, Planet Dog offers free signage to retailers, a spinner to feature a particular line of toys, and a small table-top display that Smith said is an easy way to showcase all of the company’s Orbee-Tuff products in a small space.
Pasco noted that some of Mammoth Pet Products’ clients display items in a pool of water or put sand on the base of a shelf to suggest beach uses.

“The more creative you are, the more the items will fly off the shelves,” he said. 



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