Dressed for Success
Erin Breig, director of Rubie’s Pet Shop Boutique (A Division of Rubie’s Costume Company, Inc.), provides retailers with valuable advice on how to drive sales in the pet costume category.
Pet Business: How is the market for Halloween costumes for pets? What is driving this performance?
Erin Breig: The market is certainly growing, both in the U.S. and internationally. The pet-parenting trend is definitely helping to drive sales, as Baby Boomers, who no longer have children at home, tend to have more expendable income and also are the demographic with the highest percentage of pet ownership. There’s also the younger generation of pet owners who love to share funny, cute pictures of their “babies” on social media. It’s all about getting that adorable, hilarious, or even embarrassing photo of your cat or dog. A growing trend that I’ve seen is social media accounts for pets, which are becoming famous. It’s pet-humanization, and just like the owner, pets can show their personality through clothing and fashion.
PB: What do you expect to be the most popular characters and/or themes in Halloween pet costumes this year? Are there any characters and/or themes that are perennially popular?
Breig: As the leader in licensed pet costumes, we find that licensed characters become very popular in the year of a movie release. This year, three major films are creating buzz for some beloved characters. Those films would be Avengers: Age of Ultron, Minions and Star Wars Episode Seven: The Force Awakens. There are undoubtedly many evergreen properties that are popular year after year because the characters are classic and beloved—Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Dorothy, Elvis and Captain America, to name a few. In addition to our licensed items, we have some hats that are extremely popular year after year—the classic brown cowboy hat, the multicolor sombrero and the straw fedora.
PB: How should retailers go about merchandising and promoting Halloween costumes for pets?
Breig: Location is particularly important. Because pet costumes are often an impulse buy, retailers should think about merchandising by the register or front endcap. We offer three display options that make it easy for stores to make these point-of-purchase sales. Signs and photography will help drive sales, so we also provide a sign with cute photography whenever a retail display is purchased. We also offer posters for retailers’ front windows, which are adorable. Another great idea is dressing up plush dogs so customers can see the costume off of the hanger. To promote pet costumes, retailers can excite their customers by throwing a pet costume contest—either right in store or through social media photo competitions.
PB: Are there any common mistakes retailers should avoid?
Breig: [One mistake is] not letting people know they are in the pet costume business. This mistake happens when retailers do not provide enough options to choose from or when secondary space is used. A good way to provide a variety of options is to sell inexpensive accessories, such as hats, tutus, wings, etc., along with more deluxe costumes.
PB: What sets Rubie’s Costume Company apart from other competitors in the marketplace?
Breig: Many people in the pet industry may not be aware that Rubie’s has been in business for 64 years. Our main business has always been costumes for people, and we are the leader in the dress-up industry. In terms of the pet industry, Rubie’s Pet Shop Boutique has the biggest variety, hottest licenses, modest pricing and the ability to fulfill orders year round.
PB: What are the latest and most exciting introductions from Rubies?
Breig: We’re all really excited about our new BIG DOGS line, which goes up to XXXL. It took a lot of time to get the patterns right, but finally we are able to provide full costumes to even the biggest of hounds. Not only did we have to adjust patterns, we also changed some materials to make them stretchier and easier to step into. Additionally, we added tons of new accessories, my favorites being the cowboy boot ankle cuffs, which are available in brown and pink. They match perfectly with our very popular cowboy hats. PB