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December 1, 2014

The holidays are here and the tradition of gift giving has never been stronger—it now routinely extends to family pets.

Families gather and exchange gifts and love so retailers must be prepared with extra merchandise and marketing. As the pet humanization trend continues to grow, customers have come to expect gift items to be stocked at their local pet retailer.

In fact, according to a recent survey, 85 percent of pet owners buy their pets presents.

Customers have fun wrapping gifts for pets and putting them under the tree. There is a vast variety of gifts available from wine bottles filled with treats to knit sweaters that keep pets nice and toasty.

Dog Sweaters

For instance, Max Bone has the Maxine knit jumper, a gray cable-knit sweater for small- to medium-sized dogs. This cozy sweater is a great gift as it makes a dog look cute but also has functional purposes like keeping a dog warm and the house free of dog hair. The jumper comes in medium, large and extra large to accommodate a range of small to medium breeds.

Max Bone also offers handmade dog collars with bowties made from natural linen. The William bow tie comes in military green and adds a touch of elegance to any dog.

For snow bunny dogs, Puppia offers the Navy Little Snow Hooded Sweater. With a snowflake pattern and pom-pom balls around the hood, the sweater offers a festive style while also providing warmth and comfort.

Toys and Treats

Toys are also a great gift for pets and customers usually can’t wait to wrap them up and hand them to their pet for a special occasion.

Creature Comforts has both dog and cat toys that are already wrapped up in beautiful packaging.

“I entered this business in the gift market,” said Nancy Baird, owner. “This has always been our niche; gifts for people and their pets. We follow along with holidays. They are a gift giving time.”
Creature Comforts has the Catnip Carnivale which is a tube of brightly colored cat toys. There is also the Three Blind Mice tube, which features three leopard-colored catnip mice.

For a cute take on a Christmas toy, dogs will love the Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff Coal toy. It’s the world’s first durable, buoyant, bouncy and minty lump of coal with no carbon emissions. Its lump of coal shape makes it perfect for a holiday stocking stuffer.

For cats, Feline Yogi has made the Yoga Cat Mat for the cat that needs more Zen. It features a special catnip ball to stimulate and inspire cats.

Multipet offers a vast array of toys for cats and dogs, some even licensed favorites.

“We have a handful of licensed products,” said Brett Hirschberg, marketing manager at Multipet. “We have Odie, Gumby, Lambchop and Mr. Bill. Lambchop is a really big seller for us. These products allow us to offer items that we know our competitors are not bringing to the table.”

These products also appeal to children as well.

“We market them for pets but we do have the Three Stooges and those are cute because people like to collect that stuff,” said Hirschberg.

According to Hirschberg, Multipet has recently acquired Pink Panther which makes a great gift for both pets and owners.

Multipet also offers the interactive Loofa Squeaker Mat in Holiday colors. The interactive toy contains 13 squeakers.

“Those are very big toys,” said Hirschberg. “They are 22 inches in length. Some dogs get enticed by the sound feature. We also find that those flat toys with less stuffing that make less of a mess are a little bit trendier these days.”

According to Hirschberg, the Loofa is very well known and identifiable so Multipet will rotate colors and even make holiday toys.

There is the Hanukkah Squeaker Mat that features a white and blue motif and the Santa Squeaker Mat in red and green wearing an elf hat.

There are also plush Hanukkah toys featuring a dreidel, Hebrew letters and gefilte fish.

There are the “Doglucent” Santa and snowman toys, which are translucent and squeak, as well as many more Christmas-themed toys.

Pet owners can even get a jumpstart on spring holidays with other toys.

“We have a pretty new product called the Egg-Noggins,” said Hirschberg. “It’s a little corrugated crate of six different eggs that sit in an egg crate, have silly faces and they’re colorful. They hit a really good price point so once you’re at retail, they’re cheap.”

There are also the Duckworth toys that come in pastel pink and blue for the spring. They are soft and fluffy ducks that squeak. According to Hirschberg, they come in mini and are smaller and cater to puppies.

Multipet also has Christmas cat toys with plush stockings, mittens and candies. Each toy comes in multiple colors and is stuffed with catnip.

When it comes to giving treats, Creature Comforts has it locked down.

There is the Twelve Dogs of Christmas that features 12 dog-shaped all-natural treats. There is also the Christmas Treets—treats shaped like Christmas trees. There is also the Howliday Stars and finally, the Doggie Dreidels which are shaped just like dreidels. They are all wrapped beautifully with festive ribbon.

“All of our treats are human-grade ingredients with many being soy and wheat free, no preservatives and no additives,” said Baird. “Everything makes these a really nice gift for the pet owner and ultimately the pet.”

There is also the Mutt Merlot, which is a wine bottle filled with dog treats and labeled just like wine. It also comes in a Kitty Cabernet, which features a different label and treats for a cat.

According to Baird, it makes a fantastic holiday gift for hosts.

Creature Comforts doesn’t sell to large market pet retailers like Petco and Petsmart.

“This gives the independent retailers an edge,” said Baird. “If there’s a Petsmart down the street, you won’t find our stuff in there. Then it becomes unique to the independent retailers, which there is a huge need for.”

Greenies are a treat that makes a great stocking stuffer. For both dogs and cats, Greenies treats are both healthy and help freshen a pet’s breath.

Gifts for Pet People

While giving to pets is very important to customers, pet shops can also feature gifts for pet lovers.
From keychains to costumes to tee-shirts, there is something for every pet owner.

Rubie’s Pet Shop has lots of pet costumes and while they are officially for the actual pet, owners will get much more enjoyment out of them.

“We have seen that in every holiday, the accessories have been fun and those are always a great gift,” said Erin Breig, company brand manager. “The collars and the bowties, especially with Christmas, are on endcaps of stores as a point of purchase kind of item.”

Rubie’s offers Christmas accessories like the Jingle Cat Collar and the Dog Reindeer Headpiece.

“Almost everybody gets a Christmas card with a dog wearing a Santa hat,” said Breig. “We love being a part of that.”

According to Breig, Rubie’s is expanding on accessories like collars for all holidays.

“We have patriotic items, Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s day,” said Breig. “We started with just costumes for these smaller holidays but we find that people are saying ‘We need a St. Patrick’s for the parade,’ or ‘It would be great to have little head-boppers for Mardi Gras to put on my dog’. Just simple little items have been the best, not just for gifts but for anyone who has a dog or a cat in their life.”
Rubie’s also has bunny ears for Easter which makes a great gift for a dog or cat owner.

There are a lot of gift items for the pet lover’s home as well.

Naked Décor features high end items such as pillows, prints and clocks.

“Our pillows make perfect gifts,” said Supon Phornirunlit. The pillows come in both a black and white print as well as a color block.

“They are prints of breeds that we see all the time,” he said. “Those are very popular.” The pillows come in breeds like pugs, terriers, bulldogs and Chihuahuas.

Naked Décor also sells animal-shaped napkin rings.

“We just started the napkin rings this year because those are what people told us they want,” said Phornirunlit.

According to him, people also asked for the animal-printed tea towels.

“We have never done this kind of thing before but this year, we introduced the napkin rings and the coasters,” he said. “But we did it and so far, it’s really well-received.”

Creature Comforts also offers high-end home items for the pet owner. The dog and cat bowls are intricately designed with 10 different collections.

“Our stuff is very sophisticated and geared towards home décor,” said Levin. “These retail at a higher price point, which is great for retailers. The high price reflects the quality.

When it comes to stocking stuffers for pet people, Molly & Fig has got them covered. Pet photographer Kim Levin created a series of successful greeting cards and magnets by working with a writer who does the tone for the brand.

“We have a card line that we license to Calypso Cards and we also do a line of magnets with them too,” she said.

Molly & Fig is black and white, dog and cat photography that is often coupled with humor.

“We also have sympathy cards for pet owners,” said Levin. “I essentially sell these cards and magnets to New Jersey pet-related stores just as a special effort because I have always felt that Molly & Fig can be in any pet boutique, grooming salon and veterinary hospital as well.”

Molly & Fig has also made calendars that can sit on a desk and are perfect for any cat or dog lover. The company has also licensed cocktail napkins.

“The tone of what we do is perfect for a party,” said Levin. “The napkins we have are funny but we still desire to make that bigger.”

Molly & Fig will be producing art books in May of 2015. They will make great gifts for pet lovers looking to expand their coffee table reading.

Creature Comforts makes pewter keychains in both a cat shape and a dog bone shape. They are made with real Mexican pewter. Packaged beautifully, these keychains make a perfect stocking stuffer.

For a more personalized art creation, Funamals will create a custom watercolor print of a pet.

“I have two options,” said Amy DeCaussin, owner and illustrator for Funamals. “I have 8 x 10 inchesand 11 x 14 inches. You can pick what you would like, order what you want and then send the photo of your pet or pets to me.”

According to her, she then uses the photos as reference and hand paints a portrait of the special furry family member.

“My custom pet products are by far the most popular product, especially around the holidays,” said DeCaussin. “These portraits are printed on handmade paper, using the highest quality watercolor paints. These portraits are gift wrapped and tied with a blue bow before sending them out in the mail.”

Funamals also sells directly to retailers.

“My greeting cards are available to wholesale to retailers,” said DeCaussin. “As this avenue continues to build, I plan to forward much of the business to my distributor, The Barking Cat located in Dublin, Penn. They have launched my full line of greeting cards.”

This includes all subjects such as sympathy cards as well as Get Well cards and Thinking of You cards.

Dog is Good offers a vast array of apparel for dog, cat and even horse owners.

The Cat is Good line has both apparel and humorous magnets. Horse is Good has tees, hats and printed bags.

“We wanted to elicit an emotional response with our products,” said Gila Kurtz, co-owner of Dog is Good. “They do that and bring smiles to owners’ faces.”

Dog is Good makes hats, men’s clothing, women’s clothing, sweatshirts, sleepwear and even medical scrubs designed specifically for pet owners and pet lovers.

There are also countless accessory items like jewelry, tote bags, cell phone cases and more eachmaking for a unique gift for birthdays and holidays.

Dog is Good also have home décor items like canvas wall art specifically designed for dog owners. There is also several pillows and coasters.

Finally, the very popular Chicken Soup for the Soul book series has recently published  new titles, “Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What? 101 Amazing Stories of Magical Moments, Miracles and Mayhem” and “Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What? 101 Amazing Stories of Magical Moments, Miracles and Mischief.”

“These make perfect gifts for any pet lover,” said Chris Mitchell, VP of Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet. “Each book contains 101 heartwarming, funny and intimate stories that touch upon the unique relationship between a pet and their human companion. So whether you are buying for someone who currently has a pet, has recently lost a pet or just loves animals, the recipient is sure to enjoy!”

Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet also offers two gourmet treat towers through Alder Creek Gift Baskets.

“These feature delectable candies, nuts and cookies,” said Mitchell. “Each tower focuses around a Chicken Soup for the Soul cat or dog book. Both are beautifully designed to satisfy even the most finicky pet owner!”

Clearly, there is something for everyone this year with both pets and pet people in mind.

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