FURnished in Style
Humanization in the pet industry is driving a desire for pet furniture that strikes a balance between fashion and function.
Gone are the days when pet furniture was simply functional. Today, pet owners expect products like gates, crates, trees and beds to not only do the job they were designed for, but also look good doing it.
This trend, according to industry experts, is being driven in large part by the humanization of pets overall.
“For many, the family dog or cat is considered another child—a fur-child—and they are pampered with premium foods, boutique-style clothing and items such as pet furniture, some of which is even meant to mimic traditional household bedroom and living room furniture for humans,” explains Tara Whitehead, director of marketing and communications at Muncie, Ind.-based MidWest Homes for Pets.
One of the main ways pet furniture has evolved to look more like modern home décor is in material and fabric choice. Traditionally, pet furniture has been made with plastic or metal and lined with synthetic fabrics. Durability and function were prioritized over aesthetics. Now, however, pet furniture manufacturers are taking a more design-driven approach.
MidWest Homes for Pets’ Feline Nuvo line of cat furniture, for instance, utilizes premium, designer print fabrics, faux furs and wicker. The towers and trees come in a range of sizes and designs to please both finicky felines and particular pet parents.
“Feline Nuvo moves beyond the traditional carpeted cat furniture, providing sophistication with all the elements of lounging and play that cats desire. Our variety of styles and fabrics are able to complement any home décor,” says Whitehead.
Other manufacturers, like PetPals Group in City of Industry, Calif., are employing natural materials to create cat trees that are both stylish and environmentally conscious. Plus, the products come in neutral tones, making the trees and perches easy to integrate into any pet owner’s home.
“PetPals Group has been the pioneer of using eco-friendly material when designing our products, such as jute, banana leaves and water hyacinth. These are all materials made from plants that are sturdy and natural,” says Libby He, the company’s marketing and sales specialist.
Don’t Forget About Function
Of course, a piece of pet furniture won’t do consumers any good if it only looks nice. With this in mind, manufacturers have also upgraded products to be more functional as well as fashionable.
For Richell, Inc., it’s not just about creating pet furniture that blends in with home décor. Many of the Grand Prairie, Texas-based company’s products actually serve multiple functions. The Wooden End Table Crate, for instance, pulls double duty as a stylish end table as well as a pet containment space. The crate features dark wood, multiple vents for a 360-degree view and a door that can stay open for easy access.
Richell’s Elegant Wooden Pet Feeder is also designed with both looks and utility in mind. The feeder is handcrafted with durable wood and two large stainless steel bowls. The ergonomic design helps pets maintain an ideal posture for digestion while the two doors cover a convenient storage space for food and treats.
It is important to note that today’s consumers want furniture that’s as easy to use as it is beautiful. Any pet parent will tell you a product isn’t worth it if it’s impossible to clean, takes up too much space or requires a rocket scientist to assemble.
The designers at Merry Products in Ontario, Canada, sought to answer these needs with their line of pet furniture. The company’s Modern Folding Cat Tree, for example, features a sleek design with plenty of negative space and four fully carpeted shelves. The whole tree is easy to put together and folds flat for compact storage.
The Slide Aside Crate is another Merry Products item that offers a seamless resolution to a common problem with pet furniture.
“Typically, when you open up a crate, the door stays open. That doesn’t look nice and it just gets in the way and takes up more space than it should,” explains Anna Freiman, account manager for Merry Products. “Our crate features a sliding and hinged door that can be retracted into the crate, so you can easily squeeze it into smaller spaces.”
Pet beds can be an especially frustrating product for pet parents who want to keep their homes fresh and clean. Since beds are traditionally bulky, they can be tough to wash, which is unfortunate considering how much time pets spend lounging in them. The new lounge bed by Primetime Petz is one clever solution to this problem.
The hammock-like design not only molds to pets’ body shapes for a super comfortable experience, it also allows owners to simply remove the fabric for a quick machine wash and dry. Plus, the fabric is reversible with two chic patterns, so pet parents can periodically change it up.
Pet safety is another major factor manufacturers like Prevue Pet Products are trying to address through smart design.
“Like any parent, safety is the No. 1 concern of pet parents, and it’s our No. 1 focus as manufacturers as well,” says Jason Savitt, president of the Chicago-based company. “While price is a major factor for consumers, most pet parents don’t mind spending a little more to ensure that their pet is protected from predators, harmful materials and anything else that could endanger their health.”
Prevue Pet Products offer a range of pet furniture and accessories for cats and dogs as well as birds, rabbits and other small pets. The cat hideaways and towers come in a variety of heights to encourage cats of all ages and abilities to play and stay active.
The Gateway to Sales Success
It doesn’t matter how beautiful or functional your furniture stock is if it’s left boxed up on the shelf. That’s why industry experts recommend displaying fully assembled example pieces rather than just photos.
“Always display the furniture, if possible, to let customers see the quality and features firsthand. Help them picture how it will look in their home and understand how it will make their life easier,” advises Victoria Bouldin, vice president of operations for Rockwall, Texas-based Primetime Petz.
Since pets can be notoriously picky about furniture, Bouldin also suggests that retailers help ease customers’ worries by offering a 30-day return policy, reassuring them that they won’t be stuck with a product their pet doesn’t use.
Retailers can also avoid disappointed customers by asking questions in the store to point shoppers towards the best product for their pet.
Here are a few key questions to ask:
• Does your dog have a chewing problem? (If so, avoid wooden furniture.)
• Is this for one animal or multiple pets?
• How big is your pet?
• How old is your pet? Do they have any trouble jumping?
• Have you tried other types of furniture before? How did those work out?
• Are there any unwanted behaviors you’re trying to deter?
• What style or color is the rest of your home décor?
With new models and styles constantly hitting the market, the category is a worthwhile investment—if retailers are willing to vet products for quality and style and provide customers with personalized attention.
“Coupled with in-store expert advice and customer service, a positive customer experience typically leads owners to spend more on their pets and buy higher ticket items like furniture,” says Savitt. PB