Dog beds must be comfortable and stylish, and take up minimal space in stores.
Shopping for dog beds is much like shopping for human beds. Consumers are looking for attractive pieces that match their current décor and are comfortable and eco-friendly. The dog beds also have to be durable and washable. Manufacturers are responding to these consumer demands by offering dogs beds that have stylish patterns and colors, as well as innovative filling materials. Companies are also getting creative with how to merchandise the beds, because although retailers have limited space, they still want to offer these often premium-priced items.
“Dogs are increasingly viewed as part of the family, so when it comes to buying a bed for a member of their pack, a lot of customers may employ some of the same criteria when buying a bed for themselves,” says Natalie Hennessy, senior public relations and marketing manager at P.L.A.Y. Pet Lifestyle and You, based in San Francisco. “Customers are more likely to research brands and make an educated decision on the bed they will purchase for their pet rather than make an impulse buy like they do with toys and accessories.”
Hennessy adds that P.L.A.Y. sources the finest upholstery-grade fabrics and utilizes furniture-grade craftsmanship and even-basting stitching. Dogs require 12 to 14 hours of sleep a day, so shoppers understand it’s better to spend more on a bed that offers quality rest than buy a sub-quality bed that will soon be thrown away. Pet owners are looking for a bed that supports their pet, has a practical and usable shape, is responsibly produced, and is environmentally friendly.
“With the endless options online and in-stores, customers are also becoming more discerning in picking out specific styles and designs to match their home décor,” Hennessy says.
One recent trend has been demand for supportive beds for larger dogs, so P.L.A.Y. recently added the California Dreaming Memory Foam Bed to its lineup. The new bedding line features a center cushion made of 100 percent high density memory foam covered with soft, durable microfiber fabric and surrounded by three side bolsters that are filled with eco-friendly PlanetFill stuffing. The center cushion is protected by a water-resistant liner and the bed cover is 100 percent washer- and dryer-friendly.
Sparky Goes Green
Eco-friendliness is an important feature for dog beds. That’s why Bozeman, Mont.-based West Paw manufactures products like Heyday Beds and Montana Nap mats. The internal fill in these beds is made from recycled plastic bottles, and the outer fabric and fill in the Montana Naps are made from the same eco-friendly recycled plastic material. Also, fabric for the Montana Naps are cut in a way that any excess materials can be turned into plush dog toys.
“This helps reduce the amount of waste fabric that gets sent to the landfill,” says Spencer Williams, CEO and president of West Paw. The beds are made in Montana with American fabric from a U.S. vendor.
Williams adds that comfort is also a key benefit. The Heyday Bed has a super-soft plush top and a comfortable inner cushion so dogs with older bones are up off the floor. Montana Naps are designed for puppies or dogs with shorter legs, so that these low-profile dogs can get in and out of the beds.
Consumers also want beds that are washable.
“Time and time again, pet owners tell us they are looking for beds that are durable yet comfortable, and they want a bed that is easy to clean,” Williams says. “Dogs get dirty often, so having an easy-to-wash dog bed is so important to customers.”
Another way to make the bed eco-friendly is to fill it with recycled materials, including textiles that would typically be discarded. Molly Mutt makes dog bed covers that the human fills with their own old clothes, pillows or blankets that are ready to be thrown away.
“Seven and half percent of landfills consists of discarded textiles,” says Art Simon, co-owner and co-founder of Molly Mutt, based in Oakland, Calif. “Clothing goes from store shelf to landfill in record time. That was one of our key motivators, what a waste that is.”
Simon adds that the company believes strongly in sustainability, and consumers do too. “People are recognizing that buying a dog bed and throwing it away is not good for anybody,” he says. “Here is a way to declutter and give your pet something they love.”
Among the more traditional fill for beds is memory foam.
“Pets sleep the majority of their day, and just like humans, they benefit from a bed that reduces pressure points and will provide healthy support to keep their bodies and joints healthy throughout their lifetime,” says Gillan Hampton, director of sales and marketing for Katherine Elizabeth Pet Products, based in Barrington, Ill. “Additionally, beds made with memory foam tend to hold up better and last longer than beds that are made with lesser quality poly-fill materials.”
New from Katherine Elizabeth Pet Products is the Daisy bed, which, like the brand’s other beds, features memory foam for a bed that is soft and supportive. In the Daisy bed, the foam is configured in a way that surrounds the pet with softness and allows them to sink in a little for that “nest” feeling of safety. The Daisy bed is designed to be flipped like a cushion so that both sides of the bed may be used before a machine wash is necessary.
Katherine Elizabeth Pet Products also introduced a new line of artisan hand-painted denim beds, available in three designs—bones, roses, and X’s and O’s—“to send our pets off to sleep with a hug and kiss,” Hampton says.
Four More Legs
Cots are gaining popularity in the dog bed category, and manufacturers point to style as one key attribute. The brand 4Legs4pets, from Mahar Manufacturing in Van Buren, Ark., makes cots in eight sizes to accommodate most dogs.
“We’re all about comfort and style,” says Pam Mahar, vice president, sales and marketing manager. “With 15 fabric colors and 22 leg color choices, you can coordinate with your home and office décor and match your favorite sports team colors.”
The beds are designed to be sturdy, with the frame made of steel and the legs made of high-impact polypropylene. The lace-up, open-mesh cover allows for periodic tightening, and is made of durable vinyl-coated polyester yarn. The cover is non-absorbent and open weaved for air-flow, and resists mold, mildew, fleas and other pests.
Starmark Pet Products, Inc., based in Hutto, Texas, offers the Starmark DogZone Pro-Training Bed, a comfortable raised bed that can also be used as a training tool to teach a boundary stay command.
“Dogs are being kept indoors at a rising rate,” says Emily Benson, marketing director. “As such, many pet owners want to provide a comfortable, relaxing space that is the dog’s own, or even to just keep them off the furniture.”
The DogZone Pro-Training Bed can be assembled quickly with no need for tools, making it easy to transport and wash. Three sizes are available and are packed compactly in a box for easy display and storage.
Compactness is a big issue with dog beds, as retailers typically do not have much room to showcase large items.
“While oftentimes large or stuffed beds are relegated to a floor display or shelving, some styles can be also hung on long pegs,” Benson says. “Cot-style beds are often boxed, so can help save display and storage space.”
Many retailers have become creative when merchandising pet beds, says Hampton. Some have built floor to ceiling shelving units that allow them to stack the beds on upper wall space. Others show a bed in a small size, so the consumer can touch and feel the bed, and then order a larger size bed to be shipped from the manufacturer.
Williams says West Paw recommends carrying one of each style, then show the customers the entire selection in West Paw’s catalogs or website.
“Retailers can then order the bed directly from us and we will ship the bed to their customer from our factory in Montana,” he says.
P.L.A.Y has a swatch book and line sheet that retailers place near the beds, so customers can choose a design. The company stocks all its product variations and options in multiple U.S. warehouses, so stores can get customers their selection and size in days.
“We can even dropship to the customer on the store’s behalf if requested,” Hennessy says. “This allows stores who see a large number of out of town customers the opportunity to have them purchase the item from their store and have the product delivered to the customer’s home.”
Molly Mutt has a new merchandising display that retailers can use to showcase the covers.
“We can give them a tremendous selection in a small space,” says Simon, adding that the display gives retailers an advantage. “Today’s environment is changing so fast, and the retailers that really give the customer a reason to come visit, those are the ones that are going to thrive.” PB