Many owners embrace the idea that dogs and cats need their own dedicated sleeping spaces, and they are seeking beds that feature neutral, modern designs and high-quality comfort.

“A dog bed is an essential item for most pet parents, and many even have more than one dog bed in their home, so we believe the demand for the category is consistently strong,” said Deborah Feng, director of operations for P.L.A.Y. (Pet Lifestyle And You), a pet toy and bed manufacturer in San Francisco.

Linda Brown, general manager of Bowsers Pet Products, a pet bed maker in Toronto, said trends in beds are moving away from bright, contrasting prints toward grays, earth tones and neutral colors.

Feng has noticed a move toward less bold colors as well.

“We’re seeing a lot of interest in more neutral, modern patterns, colors and prints,” Feng said. “Blues, grays and blacks that fit in with a variety of clean décor are popular.”

Throughout 2019 and 2020, Nashville, Tenn.-based manufacturer Walking Palm has focused on releasing several “mod” colors, including its popular heather gray and ombré gray designs. However, designs that pair bold, fun colors such as blue with turquoise and maroon with teal are consistent best-sellers, said co-owner Alonzo Guess.

Feng said it is important for retailers to gauge their target market’s preferences when it comes to colors, prints and materials.

“Timeless styles like P.L.A.Y.’s Houndstooth and Urban Denim are always great crowd pleasers for any store,” she noted.

Feng said P.L.A.Y.’s Lounge Bed style is the company’s most popular among dogs of all breeds and sizes, while its California Dreaming Memory Foam Beds are good options for larger and older dogs.

For smaller dogs and cats, the company’s best-sellers are its Pet Teepees and its versatile Snuggle Bed, which can be converted into four different shapes.

At Wag Heaven Pet Supplies and Self-Serve Dog Wash in Georgetown, Texas, tent-style beds are best-sellers with cat owners, as their furry charges enjoy having a private space to curl up in, said co-owner Jusak Yang Bernhard, though he noted that the store generates more bed sales for dogs than cats. The store’s customers are receptive to cuddler and bolster beds in addition to orthopedic options, which are especially popular for arthritic and senior dogs, he said.

Environmental considerations also play a part in bed purchases, he noted.

“We are seeing more and more of our customers looking for beds that are environmentally friendly, using recycled materials,” Yang Bernhard said.

The abundance of cheap, low-quality beds available online continues to be a challenge for the pet bed market, Feng noted.

Guess agreed that the category is flooded with options.

“There’s a million pet beds out there,” Guess said. “And there are some that are less expensive that are mass-produced, Chinese factory-made pet beds that are stuffed with polyester fiber builds. There’s nothing wrong with those; they’re just sort of a dime a dozen. Those types of beds may have a suitable spot in the same home of someone that also owns some of [Walking Palm’s] felted wool Cat Caves.”

On the Market

New Colors to Cuddle

From brand-new designs to fresh palettes and fabrics, manufacturers are offering a variety of designs to refresh retailers’ bed assortments.

Last summer, P.L.A.Y. (Pet Lifestyle And You), a toy and bed manufacturer in San Francisco, added new patterns and colors to its existing bed lines.

Leopard brown and graphite black joined the company’s Snuggle Beds lineup, and Big Sur brown and Alcatraz black were added to its California Dreaming Memory Foam Bed Collection. In addition, P.L.A.Y.’s Lounge Beds line now offers new Mosaic, Celestial and Solstice options, said Deborah Feng, director of operations.

At press time, the company was planning to launch five new colorways of its bestselling Chill Pads line this summer. The new shades are aqua, indigo, plum, pebble and anchor.

“Our Chill Pads have always been a customer favorite due to their ease of use and super soft, luxurious texture,” Feng said.

Just before Christmas last year, Bowsers Pet Products, a pet bed manufacturer in Toronto, launched its Dream Fur collection. The soft faux fur fabric is available in winter white, breeze, cloud or galaxy.

And this spring, Bowsers introduced a collection of outdoor beds using Sunbrella fabrics.

“Sunbrella is a brand that people know like Bowsers,” said Bowsers’ general manager Linda Brown. “They know Sunbrella fabrics are durable; they’re washable. They’re all solution-dyed acrylics. They’re almost indestructible.”

Nashville, Tenn.-based Walking Palm, which specializes in hand-felted wool beds, introduced new Cat Cave designs at Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., in February, including a three-dimensional panda, mouse, whale and mushroom.

“The crowning glory of that fancier collection is the Fairy Cave,” co-owner Alonzo Guess said. “The Fairy Cave has been fantastically received. It’s a pricier cat cave because there’s just a tremendous amount of work that goes into it. It’s so cool looking. It has little windows where cats can look out.”

Walking Palm also showcased its felted wool rugs, which are comfortable for both dogs and

cats and feature animal-themed designs including Shelly the Sheep, Leo the Lion and Billy the Bear, among others.

Product Development

Quality Craftsmanship

When it comes to making beds, manufacturers seek to please by carefully studying design trends and incorporating features that appeal to both people and pets.

P.L.A.Y. (Pet Lifestyle And You), a toy and bed manufacturer in San Francisco, focuses on creating beds with a distinct style and modern look. Beyond the beds’ outward appearance, the company also pays attention to less obvious features, like using azo-free dyes, lead-free zippers and its eco-friendly PlanetFill stuffing, which is made from recycled plastic bottles.

“We take extra care in the little details that you won’t find in cheaper mass-market bedding,” said Deborah Feng, director of operations. “All these pieces come together to make a dog bed that we offer at a great value to our customer.”

Feng said pet owners are increasingly interested in sustainable materials and brands that are environmentally and socially responsible.

“People are looking more closely at the materials of the beds they buy,” she said. “They want to be assured that all materials are totally safe and increasingly favor beds that offer some level of eco-friendly, sustainable materials.”

Bowsers Pet Products, a pet bed manufacturer in Toronto, takes inspiration from pieces of human furniture and considers ways their design elements can be modified into a pet bed, said general manager Linda Brown. The company has an onsite interior designer and works to combine colors, textures and fabrics that are both functional and stylish. Bowsers even custom designs many of its own fabrics.

“We spend days and days scouring different fabrics literally from all over the world, and we try to bring them all together,” Brown said.

Customers are typically either looking for soft fabrics that they think their pet will love or fabrics that will match the décor in their homes, she said. All of Bowsers’ beds are machine washable and manufactured in Toronto.

“A lot of companies, they just buy cheap fabric and throw things together,” Brown said. “We really take our time to choose fabrics and styles that work for dogs, that are functional, that people want to buy and want to have in their homes, and that their dogs really love.”

Walking Palm’s felted Cat Caves are works of art that appeal to both cats and humans, said co-owner Alonzo Guess. The Nashville, Tenn.-based company uses New Zealand sheep’s wool, which carries a scent that is attractive to cats and dogs but subtle to humans.

Each Cat Cave is made by hand in Katmandu, Nepal.

“The style is really artisanal,” Guess said. “It is truly handmade. It takes forever for one of our felting ladies to make one of these cat caves. It’s a very arduous process. A lot of personality and care goes into each one. … A person with a name made that particular cave.”

Guess said he and his business partner fell in love with Nepal during a backpacking excursion, and, over the past 10 years, they have created a small “cottage industry” in Katmandu.

Because of the reduced expenses this business model affords, Walking Palm is able to pay its workers 200 percent of the Nepalese standard wage while providing a comfortable, relaxed work environment. It also allows the company to sell its Cat Caves for lower prices, Guess said.

“If we were felting these things here, we would probably have to charge three times as much,” he explained. “But it’s also cool because we’re able to bring some strength to a tiny little industry in a country that is landlocked and doesn’t really have much industry.”

Assortment Optimization

Something for Every Pet

The ideal bed assortment for each retailer varies based on their location and clientele, said Deborah Feng, director of operations for P.L.A.Y. (Pet Lifestyle And You), a toy and bed manufacturer in San Francisco.

“Some things to consider when looking at customer base is the size of most pets that customers have,” she said. “Next is the region of the store. Is it a warm weather area in which beds like P.L.A.Y.’s outdoor UV- and weather-resistant beds are perfect for boats and the beach? Or is it a colder region, where cuddly, soft beds like P.L.A.Y.’s Snuggle Beds are perfect for those chilly nights?”

Location plays a role in what beds sell well at Wag Heaven Pet Supplies and Self-Serve Dog Wash in Georgetown, Texas.

“As we are located in a warmer climate, elevated dog beds do well, with our customers wanting to be outdoors with their four-legged best friends,” said co-owner Jusak Yang Bernhard.

Tammy Eugenio, co-owner of 3 Dogs 1 Cat, a pet store in Detroit, said she tells owners to imagine how their pet sleeps when shopping for a bed.

“‘Does your dog sleep in a circle?’” she asks. “‘Sprawled out? Hiding under blankets?’ There’s a bed for each kind of dog.”

When it comes to stocking her store, Eugenio tries to carry a bed to meet the needs of each pet size and sleeping style.

“We try to give enough variety but without being overwhelming,” she said. “We’ve taken the best of what our customers have told us, and we’ve stuck to those brands. And it does take time to know what your customers’ needs and wants are, because every shop is different with their target market.”

The store’s owners also take beds home to test them with their own dogs.

“There’s nothing worse than ... us bringing home [a product that claims to be durable] and our dogs ripping it apart,” Eugenio said. “You never want to be that store owner that sells something to somebody, and then they come back [with a chewed-up bed]. … If that does happen, we always fully refund.”

Retailers should keep their eyes out for quality products and customer service when building their assortments, said Linda Brown, general manager of Bowsers Pet Products, a pet bed manufacturer in Toronto. Over the years, Bowsers has fleshed out all the little details and found the best-quality materials, all the way down to its thread, she said.

“People know we’ve been around for 22 years and we’ve always had great-quality beds, great designs,” she said. “There’s a lot of companies that come and go, and we’ve seen them over the years.”

For Just Dog People, a retailer in Garner, N.C., display space is a big hurdle, said co-owner Jason Ast.

“Beds need to hang high enough so as to not be peed on, but still easy for the customer to reach, touch and feel,” Ast said.  

Stores that don’t have room to display a large assortment of beds should ask the brands they carry for a swatch book or catalog so customers can browse for more options, Feng noted.

“This will go a long way in fostering a more interactive shopping experience,” she said.