When the winter holidays roll around, pet owners are on the hunt for the perfect gift—one that will delight their pet or keep them cozy, warm and fashionable.
"The holidays offer a great opportunity to spoil the four-legged set," said Kathryn Anderson, marketing manager for RC Pet Products in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. "Toys continue to be perfect stocking stuffers, while seasonal collars and leashes are also fun gifts."
Products featuring holiday prints and colors, including those themed with snowmen, Christmas trees or Hanukkah menorahs, are in demand, said Rebecca Gadd, president of Goldpaw Series in Gresham, Ore.
At Dee-O-Gee, which has stores in Montana, co-owner Holly Allen said festive gifts for pets include canine beer, dog and cat wine, and other seasonal treats and goodies.
"Bocce’s Reindeer Fuel or Lumps of Coal gourmet dog treats are super-cute gifts," she added. "For people, we carry Buzz Hound Coffee paired with animal-themed mugs."
Dee-O-Gee’s locally brewed coffee has a charitable component: For each pound of coffee purchased, one pound of pet food is donated to a local animal shelter.
At Healthy Pet Products, which has stores in Pennsylvania, owner Toni Shelaske said plush holiday toys are in demand.
"We also carry holiday cards and keepsake ornaments, the type that customers can write their pets’ names on," she said.
In addition, a selection of human gifts joins the holiday mix.
George, a retailer with stores in California, designs its own broad selection of pet products, including coats and sweaters, quilts and apparel.
"During the holidays, we concentrate primarily on the pet category, producing some holiday-specific items such as collars or treats for pups, but we also bring in a few things for the bipeds," said owner Bobby Wise. "We will be introducing a lot of new jackets and sweatshirts this season; however, rather than [holiday]-themed products, we find customers are more interested in high-ticket items that are not holiday oriented."
Dog sweaters are extremely popular as gift items, Anderson said.
"We find consumers purchasing sweaters for their cats as well," she added.
Protecting pets during frigid months is essential, and consumers are looking for everything from heavier parkas or puffer-style jackets to lightweight T-shirts to keep dogs warm at night, said Michael Dagne, president of Pet Palette in Sykesville, Md.
Several trends impact winter products for dogs. One is the need to nurture dogs as they age, making a winter jacket in chilly weather particularly important for older dogs, said Mary Morgan, marketing and communications director at HuggleHounds, a division of Denville, N.J.-based Allure Pet Products.
Another is the large number of dogs that are living in urban settings and exposed daily to the effects of cold, such as windblown concrete sidewalks, she said.
Paw protection is a concern, as ice and the chemicals or salt used to melt ice can be very irritating to a pet’s paws, Anderson said.
At Dee-O-Gee, winter items include a selection of booties and a variety of coats and sweaters.
"We have display items that allow customers to see a coat and booties on a dog," Allen said. "We usually put seasonal items on an endcap with very clear signage—for example, ‘Let it Snow,’ or other cute winter phrases."
’Tis the Season for Giving
Pet owners are seeking fresh products as gift ideas and for protection against winter weather.
Pet Palette, a Sykesville, Md.-based distributor, is a one-stop shop for holiday items, with more than 350 items on sale, said Michael Dagne, president of the company.
"Each year, we bring in new products and expand on the ‘hit’ categories from last year," he said. "We have new toys from Lulubelles, lots of new neckwear, stockings, Santa, elf and buffalo hat/scarf sets from Huxley & Kent, new treats from Polkadog, and toys from Charming [Pet], ZippyPaws and more."
HuggleHounds’ holiday 2018 collection follows trends seen globally in fabrics and home décor.
"Lush jewel tones imbued with rich colors and heartwarming, personalized greetings have every pup making his or her own ‘statement,’" said Mary Morgan, marketing and communications director for HuggleHounds, a division of Denville, N.J.-based Allure Pet Products.
The company’s Holiday Jewel Collection Scarf comes in three versions; the small version is embroidered with the word "Merry," the medium size is embroidered with "Jolly," and the large is embroidered with "Believe."
The HuggleHounds Holiday Jewel Collection Knotties toys are all available in large and small, while Jolly Reindeer and Merry Moose are also available in the company’s Wee size, and Believe Sock Monkey also comes in "super size" and a store display size.
The new HuggleWear line features jackets made with real wool and manufactured by a leading supplier of equine products, Morgan said.
"HuggleWear jackets are lined with cozy, comfortable fleece and trimmed with coordinating webbing," Morgan said. "They’re soft, warm and snuggly, and feature simple, adjustable hook-and-loop fastenings at the neck and underbelly for easy on and off."
Goldpaw Series recently debuted its Winter Paw coat, created to keep pups warm, dry, comfortable and safe from the harsh effects of winter, said Rebecca Gadd, president of the Gresham, Ore.-based company.
"The coat features an exclusive stretchy fabric that’s water- and windproof, with a contrast, thick fleece lining," she said. "The extra-long snood-style collar is invaluable for protecting tender ears and keeping out drafts."
For chilly weather, RC Pet Products offers the Polaris, a highly reflective sweater that sparkles for maximum visibility in low light. A two-way harness zipper makes it easy to put on and take off for nighttime walks, said Kathryn Anderson, marketing manager for the Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada-based company.
Direct Shoppers to the Perfect Gifts for Pets and People
Helping consumers to think outside the box is a beneficial factor in holiday sales, said Michael Dagne, president of Pet Palette in Sykesville, Md., and that includes offering gift ideas for shoppers’ family, friends and associates.
"It is important to recognize that this is a season for entertaining, and a shopper might want to purchase hostess or host gifts," Dagne said. "Grouping ‘people’ gifts together with signage will remind shoppers of the dog sitter, dog walker, dog lover and cat lover in their life."
Further, a busy consumer might be more apt to buy pre-wrapped items as a timesaver, he added.
During the holiday rush, offering ready-to-give presents can make shopping less stressful for pet owners, said Rebecca Gadd, president of Goldpaw Series in Gresham, Ore.
"A preselected and pre-wrapped gift featuring a small selection of pet treats and toys could be an easy win for so many people on a customer’s gift list," she said.
However, Toni Shelaske, owner of Healthy Pet Products, which has stores in Pennsylvania, recommended assisting customers in making their selections.
"I have never sold the pre-made type of gift items," she said. "Instead, if a customer walks in saying, ‘I need a gift for my neighbor’s dog,’ we will ask how much they want to spend and walk with them through the store and help pick out two or three items."
Selections are packaged in brown paper bags.
"For an extra dollar, we offer holiday bandanas," she said. "Tie it around the bag, and you’re done."
Show Some Holiday Sparkle
"From mid-November on, every store surrounds the shopper with the look, sound and smell of the holiday season, and creative merchandising will add the same seasonal sense of wonder for pet retailers," said Mary Morgan, marketing and communications director for HuggleHounds, a division of Denville, N.J.-based Allure Pet Products.
Holiday shopping can be stressful, so anything that lightens the mood and easily highlights gift-giving solutions is sure to please, said Kathryn Anderson, marketing manager for RC Pet Products in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Utilizing holiday décor in displays can also be effective.
"We suggest erecting a tree with hanging ornaments that are for sale, or a fake mantle with stockings ‘hung by the fire,’" said Michael Dagne, president of Pet Palette in Sykesville, Md.
A photo day with Santa sets a festive atmosphere and brings customers in, he added. Further, offering small accessories such as holiday bow ties, scrunchies, hats or bandanas will complete the photo-op and can be used throughout the season, he noted.
At Dee-O-Gee, which has stores in Montana, holiday items are displayed on a front entry table and on endcaps.
"We will often put together gift ‘baskets’ for the dogs at different price points for grab-and-go gifts," said Holly Allen, co-owner.
The baskets include a holiday toy, treat, can of food and chew, and are decorated with red and green tissue or crinkle paper and bows.
At Healthy Pet Products, which has stores in Pennsylvania, holiday decorations spotlight gift ideas.
"I have these cool stars that I hang from the ceiling over my displays," said owner Toni Shelaske.
A festive table, placed front and center near the store entrance, along with a dedicated display wall, beckons with an array of holiday delights for pets and humans.
Bobby Wise, owner of George, which has stores in California, noted that holiday displays follow store design.
"We display products in a similar way to what we always do—for example, baskets and jars, except they are grouped together in a holiday setting," he said.
George also offers holiday-themed grab-and-go treat packages.
"But that’s about it for pre-wrapped items," Wise added.