Many pet owners have prioritized taking better care of themselves and their dogs. Wellness continues to be a focus for dog owners in 2020, and they increasingly expect manufacturers to deliver collars, leashes and harnesses that encourage an active lifestyle and put function first.
While dog owners are looking for sustainable brands with eco-conscious designs, they also demand high-quality and odor-resistant materials, reflective items and seamlessly integrated fitness-tracking technology. These trends were reflected through the product launched this year, and manufacturers report that in the past six months, health and wellness have been a big focus of the new product lines that have come to market.
Industry insiders report that dog owners want to see their own personal style reflected in the collars, leashes and harnesses they choose for their companions—even if their first priority is still function.
"In this category, it’s important to create functional products that are also fashionable," said Leah Angelos, sales manager for ZippyPaws, a Chino, Calif.-based manufacturer. "Safety and comfort are, of course, a priority for these products, but that doesn’t mean one must sacrifice on style.
"Pet owners are looking for leashes and collars with eye-catching designs with the added benefit of comfort and functionality," Angelos added. "Owners who lead more active lifestyles usually look for more than just fashionable products. Important factors to these customers include material, breathability, adjustability and durability."
Lindsey Argenti, marketing manager for Coastal Pet Products, an Alliance, Ohio-based manufacturer, agreed.
"Active lifestyles look for more durable hardware and rugged construction. If that active lifestyle revolves around water activities, then the material becomes key," Argenti said. "Our waterproof collars, leashes, and harnesses are easy to clean, resist bacteria and reduce odors, simplifying life for active pet owners."
Up Country, an East Providence, R.I.-based manufacturer, also offers high-quality, stylish products for active owners that want collars and leashes that are durable, easily washable and strong, said president Alice Nichols.
"Up Country’s collars are made of high-tensile-strength nylon webbing, and all of our hardware is cast—not welded—brass for extra strength," Nichols said. "Additionally, our buckles are Coast Guard approved for high weight hold. Active owners also want to be able to easily wash their collars often, yet still have them look new."
Something for Every Occasion & Breed
Many retailers note that active pet owners want long-lasting leashes and collars that will hold up to running in the forest and swimming in the river. Leashes made out of recycled climbing rope are always big sellers. They last a long time, are durable and feel good in your hand, said Nancy Fedelem, owner of Salty’s Pet Supply, a retailer in Portland, Ore.
"Collars that are odor resistant and easy to clean are great," Fedelem said. "Also, high-visibility colors so that other people can see your dog running by and not think it’s a bear."
Collars, leashes and harnesses that help with visibility are also important to customers at Bend Pet Express, which has two stores in Bend, Ore., said Kim McCohan, chief happiness officer. She noted that because streetlights aren’t available everywhere in the area, people want reflective items to keep the visibility of their pets as high as possible.
While dog owners often seek similar attributes in collars, leashes and harnesses, breed size also factors in to their purchasing decisions.
"Dog owners of all kinds do value the same qualities in collars and leashes," Angelos said. "However, for a larger dog, owners will have to be more weary of which products they decide to use in case the dog has a stronger pull."
Argenti said it’s a mistake to lump all dog owners into one group.
"We all love our pets, but what we look for in collars, leashes and harnesses is as different as we are," Argenti said. "I have two large dogs in a suburban neighborhood, so I focus on products that create good walking habits. But if you own a petite pup in an urban apartment, your needs change significantly."
Retailers have noticed these differences at their stores.
"Small-dog owners usually are looking for fashion versus function, while larger-dog owners are looking for function over fashion," McCohan said. "When it comes to matching collars to a leash, then big-dog owners care in a ‘fashion’ way. Smaller-dog owners also tend to get the retractable leashes."
Laura Amiton, owner of The Filling Station Pet Supplies in Tigard, Ore., said that style and function are equally important.
"Bigger-dog owners seem to want to balance affordability with quality."
Manufacturers aim to build product lines to contain a wide assortment of styles to fit every personality.
"We believe our consumers are looking for a variety of things," Nichols said. "First of all, what we are most known for—fashion and quality. Our line contains a wide assortment of styles to fit every personality."
Nichols said that when Up Country considers the design of a line, the company looks at a variety of factors, such as: what’s trending, what can be associated with a dog’s personality and what can be associated with their owner’s personality.
"For example, one of our newest best-sellers is the avocado design in our leash collection," she said. "Not only are they delicious, they’re everywhere!"
The Latest Designs
With dog owners focused on maintaining an active lifestyle with their dogs, manufacturers are debuting new collars, leashes and harnesses to meet their needs.
ZippyPaws recently launched the Mod Essential Rope Leash collection, which features top-grain-leather accents.
"In our Mod Essential Leashes collection, we focused on creating a strong, comfortable leash that includes pops of bold leather accent colors and durable silver zinc hardware to add fashion to the function," said Leah Angelos, sales manager for the Chino, Calif.-based company. "From bright teals and pinks to more subdued colors like navy paired with brown leather, this line is sure to please any pet owner."
One of Up Country’s newest designs is its avocado pattern, which is available in a collar and lead.
"We’ve been at this for 35 years and have perfected our products accordingly," said Alice Nichols, president of the East Providence, R.I., company. "While there is always room for growth and improvement, we stand out from the competition based on the variety of designs we offer—each one packed with personality, our tried-and-true quality, exceptional customer care, and the fact that we proudly make our collars and leashes in the USA."
Coastal Pet Products debuted a variety of new styles this year. Its New Earth line, which offers an eco-friendly, soy-fiber alternative to standard collars for pets, introduced colors mint, fuchsia and onyx, while the line’s rose and slate colors have been refreshed. The company also introduced the K9 Explorer Brights Reflective Front-Connect Harness and the K9 Explorer Brights Reflective Braided Rope Snap Leash. The K9 Explorer line, which features bold colors and rugged hardware, was also updated with a new color option: orchid.
"With so many lines, we’re watching the whole spectrum of options. There are some really interesting textiles out there today. Plant based, recycled—the options are endless," said Lindsey Argenti, marketing manager for Coastal Pet Products in Alliance, Ohio. "When it comes to patterns, we see some of the old standbys holding their own. Bold florals are a classic that we keep bringing into new lines because they just perform well. Bold geometrics are also having a moment."
Having the right assortment of collars and leashes is key to generating successful sales. With that in mind, industry insiders offered tips on how pet specialty retailers can display these products so customers notice them.
6 Tips to Making Your Collar & Leash Display Pop
"To make it easy for customers to shop collars and leashes, it’s important to pick a display style and keep with it," said Nancy Fedelem, owner of Salty’s Pet Supply in Portland, Ore. "I’m partial to having a display organized by pattern or color and put the smallest collar on the left and have the sizes go up from there. It’s easier for the customer to see the design, and then find their size."
Alice Nichols, president of Up Country, an East Providence, R.I.-based, manufacturer, pointed out that while manufacturers can give merchandising guidance, retailers often have great ideas of their own.
"We offer merchandising displays to our retailers but find that many of them already have their own developed sense of style and design aesthetic for their stores," she said. "Our only advice would be to merchandise our collars by theme such as nautical, seasonal, floral and the like, and to cross-sell matching leashes next to the collars to incentivize full-set purchases."
"People stop being able to see items in the store if they don’t get remerchandised. Catch a customer’s eye by adding some accessories to the area," Fedelem said. "Cute poop bag holders, bow ties and safety lights for nighttime walking. The store already has a lot to look at; make each section feel inviting and well thought-out."
"Data shows that whenever you reset your products, you will see a lift in sales, even if there is no new product introduced. It is important to keep your collar set looking fresh to catch the customer’s eye," said Lindsey Argenti, marketing manager for Coastal Pet Products, an Alliance, Ohio-based manufacturer. "This can be done by color blocking the collars or grouping them by season or theme. Don’t be afraid to mix different materials and textures on the same rack. It creates visual interest to make your display pop."
4. Be Creative
"We have all our collars and leashes along a flat wall. I’ve seen collars clipped onto dowel-type displays, and those look really pretty," said Kim McCohan, chief happiness officer for Bend Pet Express, which has two stores in Bend, Ore. "Our local collar and leash best-seller, Spindrift, uses our Eastside location as their showroom and their display. They have made a wood ‘Oregon’ cutout to bring attention [to the fact that] they are made in Bend and collars on dowels, but only one of each product is displayed on the wall. The rest will be in this dresser cubby-type pullout that’s underneath the wall display."
5. Optimize Placement
"We definitely work with our retailers to help optimize the set! We have the ability to create custom planograms to meet whatever the customer’s needs may be," Argenti said. "This can range from full inline sets to a small endcap or power-wing display. We are always willing to help suggest optimal store placement and adjacencies."
6. Consider Your Customers
"It’s always important to consider what your customers like before bringing products in," said Leah Angelos, sales manager for ZippyPaws, a Chino, Calif.-based manufacturer. "A nice collar assortment will give just enough diversity to satisfy different palates while not overwhelming the customers with too many options. Bold colors are always a favorite."