June 4, 2014

As pets are welcomed in more establishments, from restaurants and coffee shops to airplanes and department stores, and pet owners more frequently incorporate their dog in their travel and vacation plans, owners need convenient ways to tote their pet.

Strollers and carriers provide pet owners a method to transport their pet safely. Whether a customer is looking for a stroller or carrier depends on their needs, but the same trends apply to both product categories.

April Meier, who owns Pawsitively Scrumptious, LLC in Crestview, Fla., summed up the four things customers are looking for when making a purchase: durability, craftsmanship, value and fashion.

Sherpa manufactures an array of pet carriers, according to Gayle Martz, founder.

“The notable trends in pet carriers are an increased focus and commitment to overall safety, locking zippers, sturdy secure design, etc., special enhancements like the Auto Safe strap for convenient in-car transportation with seatbelts, airline-approved sizes and shapes for air travel, lightweight designs for added comfort, and fashionable and more discreet tote bag style designs so your favorite companion can discreetly be with you,” she said.

TSA approval is another feature in carriers that customers want. Sherpa has its Guaranteed on Board program, which includes the brand’s most popular carrier, the Sherpa Original Deluxe.

Looking Stylish

Meier’s customers love fashion brands, too.

“We’ve carried Jeanne Chinn Dog Purses,” she said. “They are awesome and our customers love them.”

Brands like Sleepy Pod, Marchioro and Snoozer offer a range of popular options to suit a variety of travel needs. And WetNoz manufactures bright, colorful carriers that are ideal for small dogs, weighing up to 20 pounds. As an added feature, the interior is leakproof in case of an accident.

Bergan offers two sizes in its brand’s carriers, one for pets up to 10 pounds, and one for pets up to 22 pounds. The carriers are designed with safety in mind, including a Safety Belt Loop to keep the carrier secure in the car, another feature consumers look for when traveling with their pet.

Bark-n-Bag utilizes experience from a similar industry to create its products.

“Customers are looking for a safe and functional carrier at a fair price. Bark-n-Bag carriers are very price competitive,” David Fine, partner at Bark-n-Bag, said. “Our background comes from the luggage industry. We know bag construction. Our bags are very safe and secure.”

The company also has integrated eco-friendly technology into its products.

“Our unique bamboo support system is lightweight and very durable. All liners are made from pesticide-free organic cotton,” he said. “The Postage and Traveler Collections are made from recycled plastic bottles. Bark-n-Bag was the first in the industry with this eco-friendly approach.”

Strolling Along

A carrier isn’t always the easiest option for toting a dog. For long distances, for the dog’s comfort, or for an owner who finds it difficult to physically hold a dog in a carrier, a stroller might be a better option.

Meier has several favorite brands for her Florida store. One of them is Gen7Pets, which gives her a number of styles and colors to choose from.

“From a safety perspective, our products are, in most cases, tested and manufactured to baby-safety standards where it makes sense,” Dan Hawk, president of Gen7Pets, said. “One of the things that Gen7Pets has done is that we’ve combined 25 years of history in baby strollers with 10 years of history in pet strollers, and tried to combine that into making the ultimate pet stroller. Our strollers are designed around the human’s interaction with the stroller: folding, unzipping [and] fashion, plus the pet’s point of view with comfort and style.”

Gen7Pets’ customer favorites include the high-end Promenade and the Regal, which was the first an economically priced three-wheeled version.

PetZip manufactures a range of strollers that vary from a lightweight design like the City elite Pet Buggy, to rugged options like the brand’s Pet Happy Trailer, which has the ability to attach to a bicycle.

Two more of Meier’s favorites are the Outdoor Hound Strollers by Kyjen because she likes the brand’s price point, and the Running Strollers by Guardian Gear.

Because there are so many options available, it’s important for a retailer to help each customer find the right option.

“We ask many questions regarding their pet, how they want to use the carrier, such as for local travel or away, running strollers, or just for everyday use,” Meier said. “We also make sure that they bring the pet so that we may get the proper fitting for their pet’s needs.”

Hawk agrees.

“They need to talk to the customer to find out what the customer’s likely needs and uses are going to be: casually, once a week, every day for a three-mile walk, rugged terrain or sidewalks,” Hawk said. “Then you can help guide them in their purchase. The customer doesn’t know the benefits or features, but the retailer should.”

Plus, he says merchandising is a critical element to a successful sale.

“They need to have their strollers set up so the customer can touch it, feel it, push it around,” Hawk said.

Strollers and carriers are an item, and product category, that doesn’t seem to be slowing down when it comes to sales.

“This category will continue to see growth as travel with pets becomes easier, as more and more airlines and car manufacturers encourage pet-safe travel, and pet parents that increasingly want their favorite companions to be with them,” Martz said.

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