Considering the fact that many dogs lead active social lives, crates and carriers are a well-established category in the market place. However, interestingly, there isn’t much new to be found in this category. Instead, it’s a case of the best-selling products continuing to pull in the big bucks. It may also be a question that, apart from a few tweaks here and there, manufacturers have pretty much thought of it all—for now.
“We do not have information on how long people keep their crates and kennels, but most do tend to keep them a long time,” said Courtney Landry, senior product manager for the kennels and carriers category at Petmate. “We attribute this to the tried and true design of our products, based on consumer insight and advanced trend research.”
“We have no plans to release any new items this year in this category,” she added. “However, we continue to see much success in our Ultra Vari Kennels that were originally launched at Global Pet Expo many years ago. They continue to be a consumer favorite, featuring tough durable construction with an easy-open squeeze latch and an interior moat to keep pets dry. The tie down strap holes on the perimeter make an ideal kennel for zip-tie installation and extra security during airline travel. The kennel was designed with 360-degree ventilation, while providing safe haven in the home for pets.”
The Tried and True
When it comes to best sellers, Sleepypod is also not adding to its bestselling carrier line-up.
According to Michael Leung, Sleepypod’s lead product designer and co-founder, the airline-approved Sleepypod Air is their top selling model. It’s available in six colors with the most popular color being black.
“One of its key features is that the compressible ends fold from 22 inches to 19 inches and finally to 16 inches to fit the requirements of all under-seat airline requirements,” Leung said. “Further, the top compresses down to eight inches if required and it has large mesh windows on the top and both ends for excellent ventilation.”
The rest of the bag is made from tough ballistic nylon and the whole top unzips for full access, which makes it easy to place a pet inside and zip them in comfortably.
“The carrier has been crash-tested in tests comparable to crash-testing a baby seat at 30 miles per hour,” Leung said. “And these days, pet parents are looking at high industry safety standards to give them piece of mind.”
Kurgo, the Massachusetts-based company that has a large footprint in the pet travel market, also has no new additions to their carrier line-up. The company’s Wander Carrier continues to be a top seller because of its versatility.
“It’s a pet carrier, booster seat and travel dog bed all in one,” said publicist Kerry Sutherland, whose company K. Sutherland PR recently acquired the Kurgo account.
“It’s popular because it’s so versatile,” Sutherland said. “It’s great for walking, driving or biking, as all you have to do is slip the strap over your shoulder and off you go. The lower waist strap provides stability at your lower back area.
“When you need to switch to your vehicle for longer trips, the bag can be set up in your car, acting as a booster seat,” she added. “The same straps that helped you carry the bag now attach around your car seat.”
Recently, Sherpa, now part of Worldwise, Inc., conducted an in-depth research survey on pet travel to better understand what consumers are looking for in soft sided carriers and what types of quality, features and benefits are most important to them.
“The results were very important to review and have served as a very important guide for our company to continue to innovate and be a leader in this category,” said Sarah Stone, director of marketing for Worldwise, Inc. “We found that the airline approved and guaranteed on board feature [of the Sherpa Original Deluxe Carrier] was the most important feature for consumers in choosing a soft-sided carrier. Next, removable and washable inserts, mesh ventilation windows and multiple entry points for easy access, loading and unloading were ranked the most important.”
“Further, respondents indicated that they use their soft-sided carrier the most for trips to the vet, but in-car travel and airline travel were almost equal in the second position of popularity,” she said.
Building on the popularity of the Sherpa Original Deluxe Carrier and the in-car SHERPA Safety Suite that keeps any soft-sided carrier securely in place inside a vehicle, the company launched the newly upgraded and redesigned SHERPA Ultimate On Wheels this year.
On the topic of road trips, Solvit Pet Products continue to have success with their popular Tagalong Dog Booster Seat that comes in three sizes with the extra-large size designed to hold pets up to 25 pounds.
“Giving pets a window seat eliminates the danger of them traveling while sitting on a passenger’s or driver’s lap,” said Patrick Hoffman, Solvit’s president and owner. “It’s designed for easy installation and can even be secured in a back seat position.”
While new ideas for carriers and crates may not be on the drawing board right now, there is fresh focus on accessories such as crate cushions.
“We offer a variety of different crate cushions in universal sizes,” said Ian Weiss, vice president of sales for Arlee Pet Products. “People are beginning to address the specific comfort needs of their pets while they are crated. Our Rover crate mattress offers overall comfort similar to a pet bed. It’s our top seller. However, there is growing interest in memory foam crate mattresses and those with thicker orthopedic cushioning. Our Lucy bolstered crate cushion has Thermatic self-warming technology as a special feature. Most people think that self-warming is only important in the winter months but dogs can be sensitive to drafts from air conditioning in the warmer months, too.”
While there may not be a lot of innovation in the carrier and crate category, it is still an important segment for dog owners and, therefore, for your store.