Sturdy and Sustainable
As eco-friendly pet beds have become mainstays of the category, manufacturers are now meeting owners' demands for style and durability, too.
What if a greener planet was only a cat—or dog—nap away? With eco-friendly pet beds on the rise, it’s certainly a possibility.
Across the pet industry, environmentally conscious products have been a major trend in recent years. From natural foods to recycled toys, many of today’s pet owners are looking high-quality goods they can feel good about.
“More people are aware of the importance of protecting our planet and, as such, there are increasing numbers of shoppers who are appreciative of eco-friendly pet products, including beds,” says Lisa Hisamune, associate director of sales for San Francisco-based P.L.A.Y. (Pet Lifestyle and You).
Many manufacturers have started reimagining pet beds as eco-friendly from the inside out. By swapping out traditional fillings for more sustainable alternatives, like soft fillers made from post-consumer plastic bottles, companies are able to reduce waste without compromising comfort or quality. West Paw Design, a certified B-Corp company, for example, has prevented more than 13 million bottles from reaching landfills to date with their recycled filling.
“This recycled filling idea came out of seeing a pair of Birkenstock socks in a shoe store here in Bozeman and wondering, ‘How do they do that?’” explains Spencer Williams, owner and founder of the Montana-based company. “So, we followed the trail to find the supplier, and we have been using this fill in our eco-friendly pet beds ever since.”
P.L.A.Y. also uses a filling made from recycled plastic bottles, but for consumers who want to take waste reduction to the next level, the company also offers a “Build-a-Bed” option. This allows pet parents to purchase just the bed cover—no filling—and stuff it with unwanted clothes, towels and other fabric items. “It’s an excellent way of up-cycling would-be waste and still getting a new, comfortable bed for your pet,” explains Hisamune.
While eco-friendly products often have a reputation for being plain or unexciting, more and more manufacturers are finding ways to marry sustainability and style.
“It used to be consumers just wanted a dog bed for exactly that—a bed for their dog. Over the past few years we’ve noticed consumers wanting pet beds that reflect trends in home décor and specifically their own personal styles,” says Williams.
West Paw’s line of bumper beds and pillow beds come in a variety of colors, patterns and materials, like organic cotton, microsuede and hemp fabric, to complement any modern home.
P.L.A.Y. also takes an artistic approach to their pet bed designs. “From the right type and optimal amount of fill, to designing the perfect zipper, to selecting the most durable, color-fast fabrics and certified eco-friendly packaging materials–all of these little details make our bed a work of art,” says Hisamune.
This idea of pet beds as works of art is an integral part of P.L.A.Y.’s approach. The company has even partnered with artists across the country to create unique pet beds. Their exclusive “Artist Collection” features designs by San Francisco-based artist David Collins. The pieces range from fancy grey and black crests to modern city skyline graphics. These luxury beds come with a luxury price range, but like any great piece of furniture, pet parents get what they’re paying for.
“Our belief is that being bulkier in nature, pet beds are a visible and integral part of interior design,” says Hisamune. “So pet beds with great design can really complement and add style to discerning pet parents’ home décor, and some customers are willing to pay more for top quality products as they do with furniture in their homes.”
Convenience and Quality
In addition to style and sustainability, modern pet parents are also looking for beds that are durable and easy to clean. No one wants to invest in a product only to have to throw it out after the first stain or tear.
Portland, Ore.-based Cycle Dog takes durability a step further with their new line of Duraplush pet beds. These soft yet tough beds are made with a two-ply bonded laminate material and double stitched turned seams. This combination makes the beds perfect for pups that treat cushions like chew toys.
All of Cycle Dog’s beds are made in the U.S. with recycled filling and are machine washable (a super convenient feature for busy pet parents). For added protection, Cycle Dog also offers their Barrier Beds, which are waterproof, odor proof and utilize anti-bacterial and anti-mite coatings.
Making Sustainable Sales
With higher price points and good margins, eco-friendly pet beds are a great opportunity. However, the category isn’t without its challenges. “While pet parents will buy food and treats every week, most of time they will not have pet bed on their shopping list,” says Hismune. “As a result, retailers need to develop smart merchandising and promotional strategies.”
Retailers should be prepared to put in a little extra effort when it comes to consumer education. Since sustainable products are still relatively new to the marketplace, many pet parents have a lot of questions and concerns.
“Given the increasing category competition, we believe there is a trend for shoppers to experience some level of fatigue to generic marketing slogans,” says Hismune. “Instead, they want to understand and learn more, for example, how exactly the products are helping the environment or society, whether the company has a market-leading reputation and expertise on the product.”
To help customers find the right pet bed for their furry friend, salespeople should get personal, advises Lanette Fidrych, president of Cycle Dog.
“Does your dog occasionally wet the bed or drool? If so, our waterproof Barrier Beds are the best choice. Does your dog suck or chew on the bed? If so, our Duraplush beds are the best choice,” she says. “The more questions you ask, the easier it is to help your customer choose the best product.”
Having a great display where customers can touch, feel and see full-sized beds can be a very effective sales tool. But bedding takes up space and therefore can be difficult to properly display in the store. Hisamune recommends looking for manufacturers that offer flexibility and merchandising support to circumvent this common issue.
“At P.L.A.Y., we offer recommendations to our retail partners on how to create an effective ‘bed stack’ that draw shoppers’ attention, but we offer the flexibility of drop shipping our beds to stores at no additional charge to offer a larger designs/style selection to their customers,” she says.
Retailers can also lean on their relationship with manufacturers for extra promotional materials and resources. Many eco-friendly companies offer in-depth background about their manufacturing process, sustainable materials and credentials. Others, like West Paw Design, may even have guides with helpful information about products and what pets they’re best for. “We also offer signage and short videos for retailers to display to help tell our story,” adds Williams.
By partnering with reputable and supportive manufacturers, retailers can help themselves stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace. As more and more companies come out with eco-friendly options, it’s up to retailers to curate the best selection for their customers.