Trends in the pet fashion segment mimic human fashions exactly, though often several months behind. Just as humans use their fashion choices to reflect their uniqueness and sense of style, many dog owners are choosing fashions for their pets that do the same.
“This category is one where growth should be strong as pets become more and more a part of the family as well as an extension of our own personalities in terms of fashion,” said Stephanie Davis, director of sales for Mirage Pet Products.
At Hip Doggie, Sue Kim said that pet owners are purchasing fashion products “because we are continuing to humanize pets and accessorize with them or through them.”
While that over-arching trend is driving product development and sales for this category, several smaller trends are emerging. Kim reported that licensed products are performing well at Hip Doggie.
“Probably our most popular items are our new NFL licensed products,” Kim said. “They are very high quality and have the built-in demand of dog fan nation and their football fanatic owners, of course. We have released NFL Puffer vests, NFL harness vests, and we just recently launched NFL retractable leashes, hoodies and knit hats, all arriving for this fall football season.”
Another emerging trend in dog fashion is the increased demand for products manufactured in the USA. This trend first cropped up in the pet food and treats segments but is trickling into other areas, most notably in apparel.
“Made in the USA is huge right now, and we have a great upper hand since we produce so many of our products here in Missouri,” said Davis. “We are constantly adding to our capabilities here to include new Made in the USA items.”
One way to leverage the success of this trend is through a Made in the USA display that incorporates a range of items across segments, including fashion choices.
For the upcoming fall and winter seasons, dog fashion isn’t all about the “bling” anymore. Instead, while fashion products like designer coats and sweaters still perform well, Kim said that there’s a shift toward functional items that are also fashion-forward. This trend was reflected exactly in the human apparel market when Vogue UK reported on the emergency of fashionable weatherproof apparel for the 2014/2015 fall and winter seasons.
“Instead of playing dress up, owners want to purchase something they feel provides a function, typically something that keeps their pup warm and dry, comfortable and cozy, safe on a walk, and so on,” Kim said. “We like to combine function with fashion, and I think that is where the market is at these days.”
Likewise, at Ultra Paws, they focus on function with a fashion twist.
“Our customers want products that are more than cute; they also serve a purpose in improving a dog’s – and owner’s – quality of life,” said Lisa Paxton, the brand’s president.
She provided examples from new pieces in their line. The safety vest, for instance, incorporates a mesh panel on the back for cooling, a decorative reflective swirl and hooks to attach clip lights for visibility.
The brand’s T-shirts started as “fun, flirty fashion with embroidered messages,” she said, but are now evolving to provide function as well.
However, it’s important to remember that not all dog owners want to dress their pet.
For those customers, focus on stocking accessories that can still help them express their – and their dog’s – personalities without feeling too over-the-top.
For instance, Davis reports that fashion nylon collars are successful for Mirage Pet Products. Designed collars and leashes, bandannas and licensed products are fashion choices that appeal to a wide dog owning audience.
The key to success in this category is anticipating what customers will be looking for by following what’s current in human fashion.
According to Davis, being able to stay on top of what’s current in fashion enables their success.
“We believe that our ability to move fast in bringing aboard products that fit in with the latest fashions and trends propels our growth in these areas,” Davis said. “It helps our customers keep fresh inventory on their shelves to entice repeat customers to buy.”
Bringing the latest runway fashion to pets is something at which Legitimutt succeeds. Created by supermodel Kristy Hinze Clark, Legitimutt provides luxurious and glamorous products that reflect the high-flying life of celebrity pets while still maintaining an affordable appeal.