Dog acquisition rates surged during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, more pet owners are on the hunt for diverse collars, leashes and harnesses to best fit the needs of their new companions, driving higher demand for these products.
The dog collars, harnesses and leashes category has experienced a “huge increase in sales,” said Savannah Lyell, marketing coordinator for ZippyPaws, a manufacturer in Chino, Calif.
“Some factors that likely contributed to this include the increased pet ownership during the pandemic as well as the increase in outdoor activities,” Lyell said.
Premier Pet Supply, a retailer with nine locations in Michigan, has observed a significant rise in purchases of dog collars, harnesses and leashes over the past six months, reported owner Steve Shamou.
“An increased number of new pet parents, the ability to train independently via YouTube or other online outlets, and more innovative products have made this category progressively successful,” Shamou said.
New pet owners tasked with finding the right collar, harness and leash for their furry quarantine friends are helping drive demand in the category—but their needs are varied.
“[Collars, harnesses and leashes are] a growing category, and consumers are becoming more and more distinct on the features they desire,” said Bryant Baxter, marketing sales coordinator at EzyDog, a Sandpoint, Idaho-based manufacturer of dog gear. “A single harness design or leash is not enough to encompass all breeds nor the needs of their humans. For this reason, it’s important to carry a wide variety of products within the category to make sure you have the specific solution for every customer.”
Shea Russo, marketing manager at Boss Dog Brand, a manufacturer in Duvall, Wash., said that “consumers have been looking for innovative collars and leashes” that incorporate durable military-grade materials with a “standout tactical” style at a competitive price.
Newton said customers prioritize and purchase products that are functional, durable, comfortable and affordable. People also look for products that complement and reflect their own values or animals’ personality.
At Just Dog People, a pet store in Garner, N.C., customers continuously request gray collars, leashes and harnesses, said co-owner Katie Ast. One of the company’s most popular in-store displays features Up Country’s gray plaid collar with EzyDog’s gray Quick-Fit Harness and Leash combination, Ast added.
On the Market
Manufacturers of collars, leashes and harnesses are paying attention to what dog owners want, and the products on the market reflect these desires.
ZippyPaws offers accessories to meet consumer demand for functionality and style.
“Our Climber’s Rope Leashes have been a top-seller for ZippyPaws over several years,” Lyell said. “Customers love our bold colors, comfortable designs and durability.”
Lyell described ZippyPaws leashes as “incredibly strong,” adding that pet owners are also attracted to the company’s eye-catching designs. The newer Mod Essentials leashes offer the “perfect combination of functionality and style” shoppers strive to find, she said. They come with durable silver zinc hardware and feature top grain leather accents.
Coastal Pet Products offers a wide variety of products that can appeal to store owners’ varied customer bases, said Lori Scroggins, category manager for the Alliance, Ohio-based manufacturer. The company’s popular K9 Explorer and K9 Explorer Brights lines are designed to match “consumers’ active lifestyles with reflective stitching and durable, woven material,” she said. The color schemes reflect mountains, meadows, lakes and oceans—each matching a potential outdoor adventure.
“In addition to coordinating colors, consumers really enjoy the durable hardware that they know they can trust—something they need when they’re out on adventures with the pet they love,” Scroggins said.
EzyDog’s EShock absorption made the company famous when it launched in 1995, according to Baxter. Today, the Zero Shock dog leash is the latest adaptation of EzyDog’s patented shock absorbing technology and is “one of the best-selling leashes” Baxter said. He added that all of EzyDog’s harnesses perform exceptionally well because they are “unique and innovative compared to others on the market.”
Assortment Optimization & Merchandising
Selecting and displaying a variety of collars, harnesses and leashes that meet dog owners’ needs can be a tall order for pet retailers.
It is important to consider customer preferences when curating assortments in this category, said Savannah Lyell, marketing coordinator at ZippyPaws, a manufacturer in Chino, Calif. Aligning with customer demographics and feedback can also assist in creating successful displays for shoppers without overwhelming them with products, she added.
Lori Scroggins, category manager of Coastal Pet Products, an Alliance, Ohio-based manufacturer, suggested grouping products together in a “shopping-friendly” manner.
“We see that by brand or by function is successful,” Scroggins said. “We’ve also seen an increase in sales by color-blocking collars and leashes. We’ve done cross-merchandising
by using marketing materials, like danglers and aisle violators, to draw people to complementary products.”
In-store signage and strategic placement can also help, said Shea Russo, marketing manager at Boss Dog Brand, a manufacturer in Duvall, Wash.
“Eye-catching hanging banners or endcap gondola displays are a great way to draw attention to any section in a store,” Russo said. “Another tool [retailers] can use is floor-standing displays such as wire racks to showcase certain brands of collars and leashes. We offer retailers a wire rack display for any combination of Boss Tactical premium collars and leashes.”
At Just Dog People, a pet store in Garner, N.C., co-owner Katie Ast aims to create collar, harness and leash displays that are entertaining and interactive, and incorporate themes or color palettes.
“We really enjoy spending time and money on creating monthly and seasonal thematic displays around our store,” Ast said. “These are great ways to pair products together and show customers the variety of offerings on the market. A leash can be, and do, so many things; however, most dog owners simply are not aware of what is available. Displays help your customers identify and become aware.
“Thematic displays work well for us,” Ast added. “Humans like to shop—not go up and down aisles—they want to be engaged and, to some extent, entertained. Why else would you put pants on and leave your house to purchase anything in the age of internet shopping?”
Try Before You Buy
Retail locations that deliver a unique and superior customer experience can notice increased sales of dog collars, leashes and harnesses, according to industry insiders.
Katie Ast, co-owner of Just Dog People, a pet store in Garner, N.C., said she believes “fit and lifestyle is key” to successful sales and returning customers.
“We have a customer harness fitting section at [Just Dog People] with 15 or so different harnesses,” Ast said. “We train each of our team members how to identify a particular customer’s goals and their dog’s needs to help them find the perfect harness for their lifestyle. No two dogs are shaped alike, and [collars/harnesses] must be fit correctly—too many dogs get loose due to poor harness or collar fits.”
The “try before you buy” method gives a customer confidence they are making the right choice, said Melanie Newton, buyer for Pet Expo, a pet store in Mankato, Minn.
“We do [collar, leash and harness] fittings in our store, and it can be a very hands-on process,” Newton said. “This practice allows for natural conversation to develop between the customers and sales staff. We are then able to follow up on communication to make sure we are [meeting] the wants and needs of our in-store shoppers.
“Product selection and customer experience is why there continues to be loyalty to our store,” Newton added. “Customers appreciate the fact that they can touch and see the items firsthand. They can bring their pet into the store, and a staff member will perform one-on-one fittings to make sure that the size, fit and style is the correct match for the dog.”