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Fashion Forward

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Owners who dress their dogs used to have a limited selection of Halloween costumes and holiday-themed pieces to choose from.

But, now, dogs have as many options as Paris Hilton: from bikinis to ball gowns, sweatshirts to sneakers, and an array of all-weather and seasonal apparel.

According to the National Retail Federation, pet owners spent about $330 million on Halloween costumes alone in 2013. The pet apparel category will expand further as more year-round trends become available. In fact, one of the biggest trend driving fun fashion for Fido is high fashion runways.

Kristy Hinze-Clark, founder of Legitimutt, said that pet fashion trends follow those in fashion apparel.

“You will see direct trends from the runways of New York City and Paris implemented in our dog wear such as ruffle tweed skirts, use of Faux Fur for trimmings and tartan wool coats,” she said.

At Ethical Products, Inc., Marisa Schmidt, fashion pet divisional manager, said she spotted the same trend.

“Most trends that happen in human fashion tend to happen in dog fashion,” she said.

There’s also a shift to incorporate the fun into the function.

“There’s a push towards more than just warmth in the clothing,” said Schmidt. “Maybe something with sunscreen or fabric that naturally repels insects. We want our pets to be with us all the time and having pet clothing that keeps them more comfortable in these environments seems to be on the rise.”

PetRageous Designs has a number of new pieces that capitalize on those trends.

“Some of our new dog apparel pieces include jackets with channel quilting, sweaters with heavier gauge knits and yarns, and an expanded collection of PJs,” said Gretchen George , the brand’s president. “PetRageous Designs’ jackets, sweaters, thermal PJs and waterproof socks are fun and functional and continue to be our bestselling apparel. We will be offering new styles, patterns and colors to all these categories for the upcoming dog apparel season.”

What’s Next

Retailers can expect to see expanded collections that incorporate new colors and textures across the category.

“We are introducing some new and exciting colors and textures to our line while keeping the function ability of the clothing,” said Schmidt. “We have a striped, vibrantly colored hoodie sweater with a fun paw print design and a reversible arctic coat in pink and red so dogs can be fashionable while still keeping warm. Our bestsellers tend to be our benchmark barn coats and fleece jackets.”

That combination of fun and function will show up in all areas of the market, including in hot- and cold-weather apparel. A fresh mix of colors and styles will appeal even to those customers who typically purchase functional gear.

“Certainly we see this continuing to expand especially in functionality and trends,” said George. “We feel that colors, patterns and fabrics will continue to parallel the functions and styles trending in human apparel.”

In nearly every pet product segment, manufacturers have seen a rise in products that incorporate or treat dogs as integrated members of the family. The fashion category will see the impact of that meta-trend, as well.

While an emphasis on fashion is critical to a successful product mix, retailers should include functional items that suit the local climate, as well. Dog owners who may not wish to dress their pet in the latest fashion finds might still be interested in purchasing winter-weather coats and boots, or slickers and jackets to combat rainy weather.

Regardless of the dog owner’s personal style, the right mix of SKUs will encourage a purchase.

“I feel that this category will continue to grow as folks are more and more treating the dogs as humans or family, and they will buy all the same items one would buy for their child,” said Hinze-Clark.

She said retailers can capitalize on that for increased sales.

“I think following real human life examples of how these items can be translated to dogs is a great way to promote,” said Hinze-Clark. “Show the parallels between human and dog life through styles and trends and pop culture.”

Just like in human apparel, fashion is seasonal. However, George said that they encourage retailers to take advantage of early season impulse buying by stocking seasonal items early.

“Merchandise the product front and forward so consumers see it,” she said. “Have a dog in the store modeling apparel so customers can see the fit. This can also trigger an emotional response where the consumer may imagine their own pet in the garment. Retailers can take this a step further and host a fashion show.”

To stay on top of fashion trends, look to mainstream fashion magazines, because featured items will soon trickle into the pet apparel category. Stock a variety of shapes and styles with a mix of traditional and trendy.

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