Passion for P.L.A.Y.
Deborah Feng, co-founder and director of sales and operations for P.L.A.Y., Inc., discusses how the company stays at the forefront of the eco-friendly trend with affordable, high-quality products that are good for pets and the environment.
Pet Business: How is the market for eco-friendly pet products? What is driving this performance?
Deborah Feng: Eco-friendly pet products are definitely the trend at the moment and are on the rise. A lot of people view eco-friendly products as not only good for our planet, but also safe, healthy and made of quality ingredients/materials. No longer are pets looked at as just working animals. They are members of the family, and we all want them to live long and healthy lives. Pet owners are now very conscious of what products they give to their pets and are looking more and more into the ingredients and materials used to make pet products.
P.L.A.Y. carries mainly beds and toys for dogs, and we are starting to carry items fit for cats as well. Our products fall between the affordable luxury, high-quality and eco-friendly categories. P.L.A.Y. started because we wanted the best for our own little furballs, and we create all our products with our pets in mind. We use high-quality, furniture-grade materials for our beds, so they are durable and long lasting against the average pet use. We make sure that you can wash all of our products fully, so you can keep your P.L.A.Y. products for years to come. All of our products that require filling—beds, plush toys, crate mats, etc.—are stuffed with our own trademarked PlanetFill, which is a poly-fiber that is made from 100-percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles.
PB: What are some of the common mistakes that retailers make in selling eco-friendly products? How can they avoid or rectify these mistakes?
Feng: Eco-friendly can be a very broad term, so it is important that retailers know exactly what the customer is looking for when recommending products. Some people may want products that are sustainable or organic or recyclable, etc., and they look to the retailer to know and provide them with products they can feel good about buying. When buying from vendors, retailers should ask how and why a product is labeled as eco-friendly, to gain a good understanding of the ingredients that comprise a product. Doing so enables retailers to sell products better on the shop floor and educate customers on their purchase.
Many manufacturers provide information on their packaging, catalog or website, and retailers can take advantage of those resources to educate their sales team, as well as their customers.
PB: What sets P.L.A.Y. and its products apart from other competitors in the market?
Feng: Our products stand out in the market because of the overall value we deliver to the end-users. I used the term “affordable luxury” earlier because while our products are not mass market, they are not the most expensive either. In fact, if one looks closely at the various criteria that consumers look for in pet bedding and toy products—product and packaging design, craftsmanship, durability, wash-ability and eco-friendliness—many customers often comment that our products offer the most bang for the buck.
P.L.A.Y. not only strives to make quality pet products, we are also passionate in giving back. We have a successful Warm Bellies program in which we have partnered with the Pet Finder Foundation to donate our Chill Pads to shelters in need. Our fans on Facebook nominate and vote for the shelters around the country that are in need.
We not only help shelters, we have even started to support our future generation of pet lovers, too, with the P.L.A.Y. scholarship program. Each year, we have high school students submit essays describing their love for animals and what they have done to help animals in need. The essays that come in always amaze us, and it is such a thrill to be supporting these bright individuals on their future paths.
PB: P.L.A.Y. donates a portion of the proceeds from some of its products to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). How does being a socially responsible company fit with your eco-friendly approach?
Feng: It is a natural and easy fit for us because as a young company, all of us at P.L.A.Y. are passionate about doing what we can to help our planet, be it through contribution to IFAW for wildlife conservation and animal protection, or through environmental impact we make by selling eco-friendly products. We feel that the motivations are already aligned by themselves—the goal of being an eco-friendly brand means we strive to conserve and protect our environment, and through its wide range of initiatives and efforts, IFAW is pursuing the same goal of protecting animals and the environment.
For us, it’s not just about making great products; we want to leave our mark as an organization that does things the right way and contribute to make our world a better place.
PB: What are the latest and most exciting developments from P.L.A.Y.?
Feng: There are a lot of exciting developments. We just concluded our participation at Interzoo, which is Europe’s largest pet trade event, where we received overwhelming interest in our bedding and toys from distributors and shops alike. We are launching a revamped website soon, and we are refining and adding more supporting collaterals for our resellers.
On the product development end, we recently launched our Outdoor Bed Collection, which is TUV Rheinland certified, waterproof and UV resistant. We will also be launching a new collection of mats and toys at SuperZoo. And our team is working hard on at least half a dozen new product ideas, so hopefully we will continue to bring more exciting and popular products to our fans and customers.