Pet Age

April 2, 2014

For most of the country it was a difficult winter for outdoor activities, so a store’s active customers will be itching to get outside with their dogs this spring. One major trend drives success in the outdoor lifestyle category: Pet owners are increasingly likely to incorporate their pet in their favorite activities.

“I think the outdoor product market for pets is going to continue to trend upwards as more pet owners look to incorporate their pets into all of the outdoor recreation that they enjoy and participate in themselves,” Brenda Isaac, marketing director for Nite Ize, which manufactures the PetLit LED Collar Light and MeteorLight K-9 LED Ball, said. “As more manufacturers recognize this market, the product options available will allow them to seamlessly incorporate their pet into their hiking, camping and outdoor recreation of all kinds.”

She finds both of her items are popular among pet owners who like to get outside with their dog, particularly after work.

According to Chris Onthank, founder of Dog Gone Smart Pet Products, this lifestyle category is growing alongside other 21st century trends.

“Boarding is becoming less common because more hotels are becoming pet friendly, more people are bringing their dogs with them,” he said. “There are more outdoor dog parks than we’ve ever seen before. People are more active with their dogs than they’ve ever been.”

Dog Gone Smart Pet Products keeps its products relevant to an outdoor lifestyle by incorporating unique technology. According to Onthank, the company’s products, such as the NanoBreaker and the NINJA Bed, utilize nanotechnology that prevents bacteria, mold, mildew and fungus, makes them well-suited for an outdoor lifestyle.

Safety First

What has worked for Amber McCrocklin of Paws Aboard, and another major driver of success in the outdoor category, is a focus on safety.

McCrocklin’s line includes water-safety products like PoolPup Steps, which enable a dog to climb in and out of a swimming pool safely, and the comparable Doggy Boat Ladder. The brand’s life jackets are its most popular items.

“People like our jackets because they’re well constructed, and they are in happy colors,” she said. “The handle on the back is a safety feature for the dog and the owner. If the dog falls overboard, you can quickly grab the dog by using the handle.”

Jason Grossman of K9 Field Kits, Inc. said safety drives his product innovation, too. The company manufactures field gear designed for working dogs, like police K9 units, and its WagletWorks brand produces outdoor adventure gear for hiking, walking and camping.

Popular products include the System Belt, which holds accessories like a fold-up water bowl and a poop transport pouch, among others. Additionally, the line includes safety-specific products like the emergency BloatStop! probiotic paste, protective eye wear and a pet oxygen mask.

Comfort and Protection

“Among our most popular outdoor products are our Grip Trex Boots, Roamer Leash and K-9 Float Coat,” Susan Strible, director of marketing at Ruffwear, said. “The overarching theme here is functionality and protection.”

The brand’s Grip Trex Boots protect a dog’s paws throughout the year, from ice melt in the winter to hot pavement in the summer, and offer slip resistance when walking on smooth surfaces like hardwood floors and concrete.

Ruffwear launched the Kibble Kaddie, a portable 42-cup food storing and dispensing travel bag, and the Mt. Bachelor Pad bedroll for spring/summer. In the fall, the brand will be launching additional outdoor products like the Hi & Dry Saddlebag Cover and an ultralight Ridgeline Leash that is durable yet weighs only 1.6 ounces.

Likewise, PAWZ dog boots are a reusable waterproof boot that fits without zippers or straps. According to Andrea Friedland at Pawz Dog Boots, LLC, the product protects a dog’s pads from a variety of elements at a reasonable price point.

“It’s great for retailers because it’s a product they can leave on their shelves year-round,” she said.

Safety is also critical in outdoor containment and barrier products like Advantek’s Pet Gazebo. The Pet Gazebo is an outdoor kennel that can be set up quickly, which has enhanced its popularity. It’s the company’s second-best selling item, and they are launching additional accessories like automatic waterers and feeders.

Jason Hart, director of marketing at PetSafe, also sees that category as strong.

“Our No. 1 product line and the impetus for the founding of the company is our containment line, which has also branched into barrier products,” he said. “The fencing products, which can be in-ground or wireless, provide your pet freedom to run and you the peace of mind that your pet will not run off.”

PetSafe’s containment innovation is the addition of a wireless mapping fence, which allows pet owners to create a customized outdoor space for their pet.

Looking for Inspiration

To ensure that their products are relevant to the market, in addition to being safe, Grossman said they look at the market trends from magazines targeting the pet industry or the sports and adventure markets.

“We do a lot of competitive shopping to see what the other types of things are being carried in stores, and we look to see what’s missing from those things,” he said.

Grossman’s approach to product development is a sound one for merchandising, too. Because outdoor is a lifestyle category, stock products that appeal to your geographic and demographic market. Then, use that lifestyle appeal to drive sales.

The most important thing is to remember why consumers purchase outdoor products.

“People are trying to enhance the quality of their dog’s life the same way they’re enhancing the quality of their own life,” Friedland said. “Making sure your dog is safe and happy is really the trend.”

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