Roughly 30 million people travel with their pets annually, according to the Travel Industry Association of America, making it a booming category within the pet industry.
Whether your customers take cross-country flights with their pup in tow, or drive across town to visit family for the weekend, or something in between, there are products essential to successful, pet-friendly travel.
The first essential is a containment product. Customers need to be aware that the proper carrier for plane travel and car travel probably won’t be the same, and it may not be the right option for containing a pet in a hotel, either.
For drives where the destination will require containment, a collapsible metal crate like those from Midwest Homes for Pets or Prevue Pet Products would meet a customer’s needs. For flights or for small pets, direct them toward TSA-approved options like the choices from Sherpa’s Guaranteed on Board line.
Once a customer has a plan for keeping their pet contained, the next essential is a hydration solution.
“Most essential travel items are the ones that can reliably keep the pet hydrated when they are going through the stress and excitement phases of travel,” said Jeff Logan, director of marketing at Dexas International, Ltd.
The company’s Popware for Pets includes a handful of functional items.
“All of our collapsible travel cups, including the one that hangs from a water bottle, could be considered essential delivery devices for water or snacks,” he said. “I particularly like the insight of H-DuO in that the active pet owner might prefer a Gatorade or energy drink while exercising while the pet should just have good old cool water.”
Hitting the Road
For car travel, retailers need to be aware of their state’s laws for pet restraint.
“As more states adopt laws requiring pets to be safely restrained while riding in the car, seat belt safety restraints and car harnesses are vital to use while traveling,” said Katie Pusateri, communication manager at Coastal Pet Products.
Coastal Pet Products offers several options. The seatbelt can loop through the Easy Rider car harness, which doubles as a walking harness by attaching a leash.
The Travel Right! Seat Belt Safety Loop is a limited freedom safety restraint that makes a car safety harness easy to connect to the seatbelt, and the Travel Right! Seat Belt Safety Anchor has an adjustable strap that controls the mobility of the dog. The Travel Right! Seat Belt Safety Tether attaches to the left and right seatbelt clips in the rear seat.
Pusateria said that Coastal Pet Products provides QR codes on the back of the packaging that links to demonstration videos as a resource for the customer and the retailer.
Keep Them Calm
Many pets experience stress during travel, but there are numerous product options retailers can direct their customers toward to treat that anxiety.
“While we offer the most comprehensive pet anxiety and stress solution product line in the industry, still our most popular product, the ThunderShirt, is a perfect solution for dogs and cats who suffer from fear and anxiety related to travel,” said Phil Blizzard, inventor of the ThunderShirt and CEO of ThunderWorks.
He also recommends the brand’s ThunderSpray, which is a natural pheromone spray, or the ThunderCap, which limits a dog’s vision during travel.
A simple treatment for anxiety is an additive, like Nelsons RESCUE Remedy Pet. Kate Marshall, brand manager, said that this “is a natural way to treat pet anxiety caused by travel. A few drops in a water bowl, treat or chew toy can help ease animal stress naturally when traveling.”
Another option is Ark Naturals’ Happy Traveler, which is an all-natural herbal calming formula that’s available in soft chews or capsules.
Beyond the basics, there are products that customers probably don’t think about when planning a trip, but they make great upsells. Poop bags are a perfect example.
“Our entire product line is designed around being outside or active with your dog,” said Tara Garland, project manager at Earth Rated. “Poop bags are the essential product every responsible dog owner grabs when heading out for a trip or even simply a short walk. Our dispenser, which can be attached to any size leash, bag, belt clip, etc., allows customers to conveniently load a roll of 15 bags into the dispenser at one time so you don’t find yourself scrambling for a bag while on the go.”
Others include odor reducers and cleaners for any pet-related accidents they might need to combat.
For example, Kanberra offers a number of products that neutralize odors associated with pets, from cat litter boxes to wet dogs to pet beds.
“Kanberra Gel is sold in more than 150 retail pet stores throughout the country and that number is growing as pet owners discover just how effective our all natural products are,” said Joel Solly, president and CEO of The Kanberra Group.
Kanberra Gel and Kanberra Spray feature 100 percent natural ingredients with no chemicals or synthetic perfumes, and are safe around children and pets. It takes the antimicrobial and antifungal properties of tea tree oil airborne. Studies have shown it to be effective on the bacteria that causes kennel cough, and has been found to be effective on the fungus that causes ringworm, which can be spread through the air. Kanberra products also help alleviate both pet and human allergies as they remove airborne impurities and bacteria that can trigger allergic reactions and respiratory ailments.
The Great Outdoors
For travelers who will spend time outdoors, products like The Tick Key are essential items that make a great add-on to the purchases the customer already planned to make. Likewise, K9 Field Kits offers products like Bloat Stop! and Electrolyte Paste that should be stashed in the bag of every pet traveler heading for outdoor adventure.
There’s also the option of an all-in-one product like Pet Portables’ Travel Safety Kit, which contains places to store all the food and medication a traveling pet requires, plus extras like an ID tag, basic first aid kit, a collar and leash and poop bags.
Making the Sale
Focus on merchandizing to maximize the various essential products.
“Creative displays go a long way,” said Garland. “We are lucky to work with some amazing, fun and creative retailers who come up with great window and counter displays to showcase our products. If you want to show your customers various travel options, you can hang the dispenser on leashes in the store, display a packed bag with all of your travel essentials or use inspiration from seasons and holidays to feature products in action. Even when it seems like a product is obvious, motivating your customers with a visual can go a long way in helping them understand the products.”
Marshall suggested focusing on seasonal displays.
“There are distinct travel seasons—summer months and again during the November/December holidays,” said Marshall. “If a retailer has the space and flexibility to set up seasonal travel end caps or displays targeting this group of customers, the retailer is positioning themselves as the point of purchase, as well as a source for product suggestions, tips and advice on traveling with pets.
Further, Marshall pointed out that focusing on a category like travel essentials provides a unique opportunity for customer engagement.
“It’s an ideal opportunity to communicate via store newsletters, websites, blogs and social media,” she said. “Provide tips and advice, and direct customers to visit the store to check out the products available to help ease pet travel stress.”