Dog collar, leash and harness manufacturers are winding down the year feeling satisfied with how they have weathered the storm thus far and remain optimistic about long-term category growth.
“Collar and leash sales are trending upward and showing no sign of slowing down,” said Grant Jape, assistant marketing manager for ZippyPaws, a Chino, Calif.-based manufacturer of dog accessories and toys.
Jape said the COVID-19 pandemic has not stood in the way of ZippyPaws’ performance.
“Here at ZippyPaws, we took actions to make sure our employees were safe, but also made sure to still provide the best service for our customers,” he said. “As we reach the last quarter of 2020, we have accomplished all of our goals, and ZippyPaws is looking forward to 2021.”
Representatives from Knoxville, Tenn.-based PetSafe, a brand of Radio Systems Corp. that offers pet lifestyle solutions; Ruffwear, a Bend, Ore.-based manufacturer of performance dog gear; and 2 Hounds Design, an Indian Trail, N.C.-based manufacturer of collars, leashes and harnesses, all expressed similar sentiments.
“Overall sales are up for collars, leashes and harnesses,” said Tyler Johnson, PetSafe’s product manager of toys and behavior. “PetSafe has had consistent year-over-year growth, and we look to continue that trend.”
Like PetSafe, Ruffwear reports that category demand is up year-over-year.
“We expect to see a continued increase in overall demand for high-quality outdoor dog gear,” said Susan Strible, Ruffwear’s director of marketing.
2 Hounds Design president Alisha Navarro said the manufacturer is “hold[ing] on for the ride.”
“Consumers are still spending money, and their mindset seems to be positive,” she said. “We can’t control what is happening or what may happen; all we can do is control our mindset, keep a positive outlook and do our best. Honestly, we aren’t even trying to project for Q4 right now.”
Increased adoption rates are a good sign for the category, Navarro and Strible agreed. Comfortable weather helps, too, because it encourages owners and pets to get outside and go for walks, Jape said.
At the retail level, resuming in-store events such as puppy socials and dog trainings has helped lead to an uptick in harness sales, while collar and leash sales have stayed consistent, said Sue Hepner, co-owner of Cool Dog Gear, a pet store in Warrington, Pa.
The category’s stability can also be partially attributed to necessity. Collars, leashes and harnesses are must-haves for dog owners regardless of the pet’s age, breed, size or training level, Johnson said.
Conversely, Cinda Conison, owner of The Quirky Pet in Montpelier, Vt., said this category isn’t one of the store’s best-sellers because the products are durable, and The Quirky Pet is more well known for consumables, including natural dry chews.
“My collar, leash and harness sales are never one of my big top-sellers,” Conison said. “I only buy a few kinds now. When I first opened, I had a whole bunch of different collars and leashes, and that wasn’t working.”
Now, she has narrowed down the store’s selection to prints from Up Country, rope leashes from Rocket Dog and products by Cetacea.
On the Market
Styles for the Street
The pet market is chockfull of collars, leashes and harnesses that aim to offer solutions for a variety of dog owners’ needs.
ZippyPaws released its Mod Essential Rope Leash in summer 2019. The 5-foot leash is built tough and tested with up to 352 pounds of pulling. It is available in black, pink, navy and teal, and it features durable silver zinc hardware and leather accents.
“The versatile Mod Essential Rope Leash is guaranteed to turn heads, from the trails to brunch,” said Grant Jape, assistant marketing manager of the Chino, Calif.-based company. “The brightest new accessory for your pup also pairs well with ZippyPaws’ Leather Collection collars.”
Ruffwear, a performance dog gear manufacturer in Bend, Ore., released its redesigned Crag Collar and Crag Leash in February.
The Crag Collar is an everyday collar with reflective Tubelok webbing, a side-release buckle, an aluminum V-ring, a separate ID tag attachment point and a silicone tag silencer.
The Crag Leash, formerly known as the Slackline Leash, extends up to 6 feet and can be handheld or worn on the waist. It can be easily adjusted on the go and includes a padded handle and accessory loop for waste bags or other clip-on items.
The matching collar and leashes are available in solid colors and patterns inspired by how light naturally occurs in some of the company’s favorite landscapes. Sunset is inspired by how the sun dips behind the Three Sisters mountain-scape as seen from Bend, Ore.; Green Hills evokes stars above the ridgelines of the Appalachian Mountains; and Seafoam reflects the bioluminescent phytoplankton found along Pacific Northwest coastlines, explained Ruffwear director of marketing Susan Strible.
2 Hounds Design in Indian Trail, N.C., launched its brightly patterned Earthstyle collection earlier this year. The collection includes collars, leashes and harnesses with recycled polyester webbing made from plastic bottles.
Product Development & Features
For the Wandering Pup
Collar, leash and harness manufacturers have lots of adventure gear options for pet owners ready to hit the trails and explore the great outdoors.
“Our first priority is always the pup, but for collars and leashes, the fashion and functionality is inspired by the parents,” said Grant Jape, assistant marketing manager for ZippyPaws, a manufacturer in Chino, Calif. “Pet owners’ No. 1 priority when it comes to functionality is durability of the collar and leash.”
ZippyPaws’ Climbers Rope is made of real mountain climbing rope and is durable for even the most powerful dogs, Jape said. While the manufacturer’s Leather Collection collars and leashes are more fashion-focused, its Mod Essential collars and leashes meet in the middle to combine durability with style.
“Our ZippyPaws Mod Essential and Climbers Rope leashes are built tough and ready for any adventure,” Jape said. “Both leashes have a very strong snap hook and a beautiful woven design that is comfortable to hold.”
Knoxville, Tenn.-based PetSafe, a brand of Radio Systems Corp., designs collars, leashes and harnesses that provide solutions to pet owners’ problems, said Tyler Johnson, toys and behavior product manager. For example, PetSafe offers the Happy Ride Safety Harness to keep traveling pups secure on car rides.
For strong pullers, PetSafe recommends its 3 in 1 Harness with its Two Point Control Leash.
“All of our no-pull solutions are designed with the well-being and safety of dogs in mind, and none use prongs or chokers to gain control,” Johnson said. “[The Two Point Control Leash] clips onto both the back D-ring and the front D-ring … having control in two points can give pet owners much more control of a dog that loves to pull.”
Ruffwear, a manufacturer in Bend, Ore., also features a front attachment point on its harnesses to discourage pulling. Director of marketing Susan Strible said Ruffwear’s waist-worn leashes are popular with those who like to run, walk or hike hands-free.
“We build our products to be comfortable and safe for the dog as well as the human,” Strible said. “Our harnesses feature ergonomic designs that enable dogs to move freely and without restriction, particularly across the chest and shoulder area. Our leashes feature padded handles for comfort on the human side and metal hardware on the dog side for a secure connection to a collar, harness or pack.”
The Freedom No-Pull Harness by 2 Hounds Design in Indian Trail, N.C., is another option for pullers. It features a control loop that tightens around the dog’s chest to discourage pulling and a front attachment point for use with a double leash. It is available in a variety of colors, including reflective options for safety on low-visibility walks or hikes.
“All Freedom Harnesses come standard with a Swiss velvet lining that keeps the harness comfy and prevents rubbing and chafing behind the front legs,” added Alisha Navarro, president of 2 Hounds Design.
"Collar and leash sales are trending upward and showing no sign of slowing down."—Grant Jape of ZippyPaws
Marketing & Merchandising
Strategies for Retailers
Finding creative ways to highlight collars, leashes and harnesses in-store and through strategic marketing can help retailers boost sales in the category.
At Cool Dog Gear in Warrington, Pa., co-owner Sue Hepner displays collars, leashes and harnesses using mannequins to give owners a visual of the products.
“We will fit the dog to ensure they have the right size,” Hepner said. “Customers are appreciative of that.”
Cindra Conison, owner of The Quirky Pet in Montpelier, Vt., said she is candid with customers while they are shopping for collars. For example, she steers puppy owners toward collars made by Cetacea.
“They’re a lower price point,” Conison said. “I sell a lot of those for puppies. I encourage [customers] not to spend $23 on a collar that the dog is going to outgrow in a month. People really appreciate that.”
The Quirky Pet is just 700 square feet, so Conison gets creative with her displays. She hangs leashes near the door to catch customers’ eyes and saves space by hanging collars from an old ladder.
As for marketing outside of stores, a picture tells a thousand words.
“The best marketing tactic for our ZippyPaws collars and leashes is lifestyle photos with the products,” said Grant Jape, assistant marketing manager for ZippyPaws, a manufacturer in Chino, Calif.
Alisha Navarro, president of 2 Hounds Design, a manufacturer in Indian Trail, N.C., agreed.
“Pictures on social media always do great,” she said. “When you get a new shipment in, show what is new in the store.”
Retailers looking for social media content to share can also check out manufacturers’ blogs. Susan Strible, director of marketing for Ruffwear in Bend, Ore., suggests retailers share tips and tricks for spending time outside with dogs.
“Ruffwear’s blog is a helpful resource for retailers looking for in-depth product information or how-to articles on how to recreate outdoors with dogs,” Strible said. “Retailers can also connect Ruffwear’s [outdoor scenery-inspired] collar and leash patterns to familiar outdoor spaces and emphasize the quality and performance of Ruffwear’s harnesses.”