Shopping for Modern Pet Furniture
Keeping up with home décor trends and seeking out attractive, multifunctional products is key to succeeding in the pet furniture category.
Gone are the days of an outdoor doghouse or a basic metal crate in the garage. Today’s pet parents are looking for stylish, quality furniture that both makes the home more comfortable for their dog or cat and blends in seamlessly with the furniture made for people.
This growing category includes a wide variety of items that serve a range of purposes, such as cat trees, upgraded dog crates and stairs designed for small or senior pets. As pet parents seek to treat their pets as true members of the family, demand for furniture that facilitates that is on the rise.
“Every year, we see more furniture options at the trade shows,” says Julie Creed, vice president of Pura Naturals Pet. “The whole pet industry is continuing to grow both domestically and internationally. More pet parents want their homes to be comfortable for their pets. This goes from having a comfortable bed and crate for your puppy to having stairs for added mobility for your senior pet.”
Pura Naturals Pet, based in Ardsley, N.Y., offers a wide range of pet care products, from shampoos to ear care to skincare. The company recently launched a line of stairs that make it easier for short-legged or senior pets to climb up onto a couch or bed. The increasing demand for stairs and similar products shows that more and more pet parents are not only allowing pets on human furniture, but specifically seeking out stylish solutions that encourage their pet to climb up next to them.
The standard has also been raised on how these products should look, with a new focus on matching home decor.
“There’s been a huge change in how pet furniture looks,” says Anna Freiman, account manager for Merry Products based in Zephyr Cove, Nev. “Before, it was very practical. Now it’s becoming a lot more stylish and functional, so for example, it can look like a side table as well.”
Keeping up with current trends, such as popular materials, color schemes and styles,in home furnishings, can help retailers stay on top of what pet furniture will be appealing to customers. Today’s pet owners want products that integrate seamlessly with their home as pets become more closely intertwined in their human caretakers’ lives.
“The great thing about a category like pet furniture is that it’s always growing and changing, following a similar path as home trends and home décor,” says Victoria Bouldin, vice president of operations for Rockwall, Texas-based Primetime Petz. “One thing driving growth of the category is consumer desire for pet furniture that coordinates with their existing style and that is also highly functional and aesthetically appealing.”
Another aspect of pet furniture functionality can be to make the pet’s life as comfortable and secure as possible, making them more likely to be calm and well-behaved in the home. In that way, a cozy crate not only provides a containment solution for pet parents, but also offers a retreat for a stressed or tired pet.
“Furniture created especially for pets gives them a place of their own,” Bouldin says. “When a pet’s needs are met, they are less likely to act out and create problems for the pet parent. More importantly, the pet is more likely to thrive in an environment where they have a safe place to relax.”
Pet furniture may not be something every customer comes in looking for on a regular basis, but that is no reason to neglect the category. Retailers need to make sure they are up-to-date on what’s trending and in-demand because, as Freiman points out, customers often have something in particular in mind when shopping for pet furniture.
“I think customers are very educated and know what they’re looking for,” she says. “They know what’s stylish and what’s out there, so they tend to specifically seek it out.”
In addition to broad home décor trends, retailers should consider what may be most fashionable and functional in their specific city or region.
“Retailers must remain focused on offering unique, solution-based, décor-friendly products relevant to the market they serve,” says Mel Abernathy, vice president of sales for Primetime Petz. “Mid-century modern looks, for example, may not be the best option for the New England area. Furniture with space-saving features would be desirable for stores serving customers residing in downtown areas.”
If a retailer isn’t keeping up on current trends and catering to the specific needs of the local market, they may be missing out on sales. On the other hand, Freiman notes that Merry Products also has an in-house design department, so if retailers see a potential gap in what’s available in the marketplace, they can work with the company to get that product designed and made.
Of course, retailers and their staff should also be prepared to assist customers who come in with a problem but don’t know how pet furniture might help address it, or what options are available. Noriko Scott, marketing assistant manager for Richell USA based in Grand Prairie, Texas, recommends that retailers have a checklist in mind for these occasions.
“Retailers can help consumers by asking several questions, such as ‘What size is your pet?,’ ‘Do you have more than one pet?,’ ‘Does your dog have a chewing problem?,’ ‘Do you have pet furniture similar to what you are looking for?’ If so, how did it work out for you?’,” Scott says. “The answers from a pet parent could help retailers find out what they want and need. To find the right products for a pet parent, retailers can make sure that customers know about the wide variety of options that are available for particular situations.”
With the variety of features available in different pet furniture items, staff education can be crucial to making sales. For example, staff should know if a fabric element of a product is removable and machine washable, what materials the product is made of and any special features that make it a uniquely functional option.
“We’re big believers in education,” Creed says. “If a retailer’s staff is more informed on your product and understands its features, benefits and makeup, they’ll be able to sell it with greater confidence and know what product is best suited for their customers’ specific needs.”
For retailers with a smaller store footprint, the pet furniture category can present a challenge. When possible, manufacturers naturally advise retailers to display furniture fully assembled since this is the best way for customers to get a sense of how the product will look and feel in their own home. However, there are other options when floor space is limited. Abernathy recommends turning to manufacturers for point-of-sale video content that shows good lifestyle shots of the products. Retailers can also display signage that shows different color and size options next to a floor model, advises Creed.
Bouldin recommends sticking to only displaying what can comfortably fit in your store’s floor space. Cramming in too many products can result in an unappealing or difficult to digest section of the store for customers, decreasing the likelihood of successful sales. Freiman suggests having a catalog available with the store’s full range of options and displaying only a few “showstoppers.” Retailers can also rotate what’s on the floor on a regular basis.
“Show new items constantly,” Freiman says. “Always try to add new things because those customers who are dedicated to you will always come back, so it’s always important to refresh.”
Retailers can also take a page out of manufacturers’ books and make their pet furniture products multifunctional in-store, just as some are designed to be in the home.
“The pet store owner can set a basket full of pet treats on the top of an End-Table Pet Crate,” Scott suggests. “It’s limited floor space and an attention-grabber at the same time.”
While space limitations may restrict what retailers can display, being choosy may turn out to be an advantage in a category where quality is more important than quantity. Especially as pet furniture is a more expensive, infrequent purchase than products like toys or treats, it is essential that retailers ensure their customers only find well-made, durable options in their store.
“Retailers should do their homework and partner with manufacturers who have all of the following components: quality product, solid reputation, brand integrity, great track record and a true partner to the pet industry, as opposed to some under-cutting overseas trading company,” says Bouldin. “There are a lot of great brands in the USA who are providing excellent products at competitive prices and who are committed to ensuring that the U.S. pet industry is the global leader in pet furniture innovation. If a retailer starts there, they can’t go wrong.” PB