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September 29, 2014

“There is a common misperception that dog agility is only for serious trainers and certain dogs, but it’s actually a very accessible sport,” said Kyle Hansen, founder and CEO of The Kyjen Company. “With a few treats and basic commands, anyone can practice agility in their own backyard. Explaining the benefits of agility can also be very helpful. In this sport, dogs enjoy a mind and body workout that they just can’t get from other toys and activities.”

Kyjen offers a starter kit for owners interested in trying agility at home. Hansen described the popular kit.

“Our Dog Agility Starter Kit includes high jump, tunnel and weave pole obstacles,” he said. “Pet parents tend to start out with the tunnel because it’s really fun and the easiest obstacle to master. But once their dogs figure it out, the high jump and weave poles are great next steps. All of our obstacles are similar to those used in professional agility courses.”

In addition, Kyjen’s recently launched its new Outward Hound Indoor Agility Kit, and the Outward Hound Outdoor Agility Kit has been redesigned. The Indoor Agility Kit will be priced at $39.99 MSRP and the Outward Agility Kit will be priced at $49.99 MSRP.

At Lixit Corporation, the best-selling product is the Agility Bar Jump.

“Our Agility Bar Jump is popular as it is easy to set up,” said Sonia Wertz, Lixit’s sales manager. “The bar is very easy to adjust for the dog’s height – large or small. Some of our competitive customers use them when out practicing with their dogs as the equipment is lightweight and easy to transport with an included carrying bag.”

Practical Use

The retail store, Fit for a Pit in Dallas, which operates both online and as a pop-up shop at events, carries items specific to high-energy activity.

“I think most people looking for equipment they can set up in their own backyard are looking for something that doesn’t take up a lot of space and isn’t bulky or ugly,” said Heather McClain-Howell, owner.

Because her customers are interested in this type of product, she said she has spent years testing every available type.

“Right now, we carry the Agility-in-a-Bag set from Affordable Agility,” she said. “We sell quite a few of these sets because they’re great for beginner to intermediate agility work and the pieces are remarkably easy to assemble, disassemble and transport. The kit includes an 8-foot chute, 3-foot tunnel, set of six 30-inch weave poles, pause box, an adjustable jump and adjustable tire jump, all in a nylon travel bag,” McClain-Howell said.

She mentioned, too, that kits appeal to customers because purchasing each piece contained within a larger kit would increase the overall cost.

However, McClain-Howell articulated one concern shared among retailers, many of whom said they don’t sell these items for this specific reason: It’s impractical to stock larger agility obstacles like A-frames and seesaws. Instead, they look for individual items or kits that are easy to stock on the shelves.

In addition to stocking items that fit practically on the shelves and in the storeroom, it’s also important to understand the customer when choosing what products to stock.

For example, Lixit’s products appeal to a specific customer: someone looking for interactive play with their pet.
“The agility equipment we provide are for backyard fun,” said Wertz. “A lot of pet owners have dogs that need to be active. Our agility equipment provides an outlet for their pent up energy.”

However, she mentioned that the equipment could serve as a starting point for owners looking for more intense agility.

“If a pet owner finds their dog has a real knack for it they can move on to competitive agility and equipment,” she said.

Selling It

Wertz shared her recommendations for merchandizing agility equipment.

“An end cap for specialty items such as agility equipment will help with your sales,” she said. “In many parts of the USA, agility equipment is a seasonal item that you might want in an end cap up from April to August. A pet travel section with the agility equipment and other items for outdoor/travel use would be ideal.”

Another successful sales strategy is to host an event.

“Some stores selling agility equipment have an event, setting up and demonstrating the equipment that they are offering for sale,” Wertz said.

Hansen suggested interaction within the store. “We recommend that retailers merchandise our Dog Agility Starter Kit with their training and exercise toys. For retailers who also provide training services, we recommend incorporating the obstacles into classes. In fact, we are launching an Indoor Agility Kit later this fall, which is a great option for indoor training sessions.Once customers see how fun and stimulating agility can be, the kits are easy sells.”

Choosing the right agility equipment to stock starts with assessing how much space you have to dedicate. Then, choose appropriately-sized items that appeal to your customer base. It’s likely that most customers simply want a fun backyard activity – and will seek out specialty retailers if they choose to get involved competitively – so choose from the single bestselling pieces or at-home complete kits.

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