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From traditional metal tags to microchips and GPS collars, today’s consumers have an abundance of options to choose from when it comes to identification products for the furry set, and manufacturers are continuing to come up with ways to please these pet owners—whether it’s with new, on-trend styles or convenient web-connected products.

iMARC Engraving Systems in Phoenix has been selling pet tag engraver systems since 2002. The company, which is a division of Western Engraving Supply, has seen year-over-year growth and also experienced the spike that many pet product manufacturers saw in 2019 and 2020.

“As we approach 20 years of building this amazing machine and supplying millions of blank tags and related pet products, we are expanding our iMARC production line in 2022 to better accommodate the growth we’ve experienced in recent years and our forecasted growth for the future,” said COO Ron Zydonik.

The company is constantly evolving to stay on top of trends in colors, shapes and styles.

“Popular color trends and culturally relevant shapes and styles come and go,” Zydonik said. “With all the shapes, styles, licensed products, ‘bling tags,’ veterinary, service animal tags, equine, military and luggage tags, and so on, we see seasonal and annual fluctuations in them all.”

Lately, one major trend has been adding custom retailer logos or business-branded engravings to tags.

“This has created a greater brand awareness and loyalty between our business partners and their customer, the pet owners,” he explained. “Personalization and identification labeling driving consumer loyalty is at an all-time high.”

In addition to ID tags, microchipping is another industry standard that pet owners rely on to help them be reunited with lost pets, but microchips do have limitations.

“Some older scanners can’t scan the newer chips and vice versa,” explained Tracy Young, founder and CEO of Wellington, Fla.-based Undercollar, which manufactures a stretchy slip-on digital pet ID collar. “Sometimes owners forget to update all their information [in the databases], and you can’t find your pet. … [Microchips are] not 100 percent, but it is a protection for them, and if you want to keep your pet exceptionally protected, have a secondary ID.”

In addition, someone who finds a lost pet may not know whether that pet is microchipped, or may struggle to find a vet, shelter or police station with a scanner that is compatible with that pet’s particular chip, said Gina Fusco, chief marketing officer for Orchard Park, N.Y.-based ZuluTails, which makes a smart tag that instantly connects owners with their pets and allows finders of lost pets to anonymously connect with the owners.

“It’s a pretty complicated proposition, and it requires you to stay with that lost pet for sometimes days,” she said. “And if you finally actually get a scan on the chip and the information isn’t recent and you can’t get ahold of the owner, then you’ve got to actually give the pet up to a shelter. And that happens a fair amount, where these chips are no longer accurate and the pet is given up to a shelter because they can’t find the owner.”

According to Fusco, while tech-savvy pet owners may opt for GPS collars that offer perks like tracking calories, distance ran and other health metrics, GPS trackers come with their own set of limitations. They are pricier, rely on batteries that need to be charged, may lose connection if the pet runs out of range and are also fairly heavy. Because of their weight, GPS collars are best suited for large dogs but not ideal for small dogs or cats, she added.

New Products

Identification Options Expand

From traditional pet tags to QR code-enabled identification products, pet owners have options when it comes to keeping their furry family members safe.

Phoenix-based iMARC Engraving Systems, which is a division of Western Engraving Supply, plans to expand the offerings of its pet tag engraver system by adding eight new tag colors and shapes to its Bling line this spring.

iMARC offers more than 2,000 tag SKUs and constantly seeks to update its assortment with different shapes, styles, colors and customization options, said COO Ron Zydonik.

“In the fall of 2020, we launched four new colors: pewter, oil-rubbed bronze, turquoise and rose gold,” he said. “These products have been extremely successful for our business partners. … We have heard the feedback from our distribution channels domestically and internally, along with our business partners, and are responding in kind.”

Undercollar in Wellington, Fla., introduced its redesigned, patent-pending Undercollar elastic bands in January. The soft, stretchy bands are meant to be worn at all times and to ensure that pets never go without ID, said founder and CEO Tracy Young.

The Undercollar can be worn alone around the house or underneath a traditional collar with buckles, rings and tags. Each one includes a unique QR code linked to an online profile as well as a waterproof paper where the pet owner can write their name and phone number. The new design is offered in four bright solid colors: hot pink, hot orange, hot blue and white.

“When most people pick out a collar, that’s more of a fashion thing,” Young said. “If they get a flower collar with pink, maybe they want a hot pink Undercollar to go with it, because they’re both worn at the same time.”

ZuluTails, a manufacturer based in Orchard Park, N.Y., released its smart pet identification system in summer 2021. Membership to ZuluTails’ online portal gives pet owners a place to create a profile with their pet’s name, any medical conditions it has, information on its temperament and other details to help whomever finds the pet if it becomes lost.

When a person scans the unique QR code on the pet’s tag, they are able to communicate with the owner anonymously through the portal, without revealing personal information such as home addresses and phone numbers, explained chief marketing officer Gina Fusco.

ZuluTails currently offers pink, purple, blue and red collars, and tag options in blue, red and purple.  

“It’s a very nascent space,” Fusco said. “It’s evolving in a really, really interesting way, so we’re excited to be a part of it.”  

At press time, both Undercollar and ZuluTails were direct-to-consumer only, but both companies plan to expand into the retail space soon.

Price Point

From Basics to Bells and Whistles

Pet identification products vary widely in price point depending on their features, and retailers will want to consider their clientele’s spending habits and needs when deciding what variety of products to stock.

Retailers looking to invest in a tag engraving system can purchase the iMARC in several different machine configurations that vary in tag packages, equine or veterinary add-on kits, point-of-sale displays and more. Depending on the exact configuration, the iMARC sells in the low $3,000s, said Ron Zydonik, COO of Phoenix-based iMARC Engraving Systems, which is a division of Western Engraving Supply.

“We have no hidden fees,” he added. “You buy it, you own it. We also offer additional creative finance and purchase options that lead to ownership if a business partner doesn’t have the ability to finance the equipment upfront.”

Depending on their specific market and clientele, as well as the style of the tag, retailers typically sell each tag for between $8 and $24.

“You are looking at a 700 percent markup on the low end,” Zydonik said. “These are fantastic sales margins and profits. … Some additional strengths of iMARC Engraving Systems are that they are compact, portable, ruggedly reliable and intuitive to operate, providing years of operation and high profit margins for our business partners.”

For pet owners looking for something other than a traditional metal tag, collars or tags that are more technology oriented range widely in their pricing and features.

The Undercollar, which is meant to be worn in addition to a pet’s regular collar, hovers in the low $20s and can be discounted as low as $15-$16, said Tracy Young, founder and CEO of the Wellington, Fla.-based company of the same name.

With the one-time purchase price of the Undercollar, owners also receive a free online profile on PetHub.com, where they can add their contact information and the pet’s name, information, medications, allergies and other details to be linked to the unique QR code on the pet’s Undercollar. PetHub also offers a free 24/7 lost pet call center.

Undercollar customers also have the option of purchasing a premium PetHub subscription, which ranges in price from $29 per year or $199 for a lifetime membership for one pet to $84 per year for three or more pets. The premium subscription includes the ability to send out lost pet community alerts, notifications with a GPS locator when someone scans a pet’s tag and more.

ZuluTails in Orchard Park, N.Y., charges around $37 to initially purchase its tag and collar, and then an annual membership to its online portal costs $19.99 for a single pet. A second pet can be subscribed for an additional $14.99, and a third pet for $9.99.

“It’s very nominal compared to the other competitive products, including the GPS trackers and smart collars,” said chief marketing officer Gina Fusco.

She compared the costs to Halo, a GPS collar listed for $999 on its website, and Whistle, a smart device that offers GPS tracking alongside pet health monitoring, fitness goal setting, access to a tele-vet and more. With the exception of promotional offerings, Whistle subscriptions are listed on the company’s website at $12.99 per month, or $99 per year.