Originator and Innovator
Manfred Bogdahn, inventor of the flexi retractable leash, discusses how his company continues to drive success for pet retailers with best-in-class products and merchandising solutions.
Pet Business: How and when did flexi get started? What inspired the creation of the company?
Manfred Bogdahn: In 1972, I was continually upset about having to keep my dog on a short leash. While other dog owners adjusted to the shortcomings of regular leashes, I was persistent about finding a solution to increase the freedom on the leash for dogs, so they can get enough exercise even if they can’t run totally free.
Inspired by the pull starter of a chain saw, which I modified, I developed the first prototype. The concept of the flexi retractable leash has not changed since the first day, but the technology has matured to perfection, and the prototype led to a company that is now the world market leader in its segment.
The original flexi leash features a patented high-tech retraction system, and it embodies the spirit of continued innovation and uncompromising commitment to perfection. From the very beginning, my focus has always been on quality, and I’ve lived by the motto, “We only make one thing, but we do it with enormous passion.”
PB: How has the company evolved over its history?
Bogdahn: Founded in 1973, the flexi-Bogdahn Group is proud to be a family-owned business, specializing in retractable leashes. Ever since, quality, comfortable handling and innovative designs underline the level of perfection of flexi leashes. We only manufacture one product, but our constant drive for perfection, excellence in engineering by using state of the art technology and innovation driven by consumer needs and trends has grown the flexi leash to a high-tech product that is delivered to more than 90 countries and is world market leader of retractable leashes.
From the idea to the finished product, all flexi leashes are manufactured under one roof in Bargteheide, near Hamburg, Germany. They represent “Made in Germany” simply at its best.
As the inventor of the original flexi retractable leash, flexi has always driven innovation in the leash category and has been honored with several pet industry and consumer awards over the years, such as the Consumers Digest Best Buy Award, the “red dot design award” and the Editor‘s Choice Award from Dog Fancy magazine and many more.
PB: What are the company’s most popular offerings? What sets these products apart from others on the market?
Bogdahn: First and foremost, flexi offers a very high-quality product, engineered to incomparable craftsmanship, to ensure utmost safety for dog and owner. Again, we pride ourselves on doing one thing, and doing that to absolute perfection. In addition to superior quality, we have driven innovation by expanding our product offerings with features that consumers want while walking their dogs. Our new VARIO system, which is unique on the market and for which we got amazing feedback in the press, is a completely customizable leash system, where accessories can be attached, removed and tailored to best meet the individual’s needs.
PB: What are the newest and most exciting developments from flexi?
Bogdahn: Our consumer-first focus is driving innovation for flexi. We are most excited to be offering products—like the VARIO—that can be customized, with various combinations of accessories that meet each individual’s needs.
Our New Classic is providing very high-quality details on features, including customization options at a very attractive price point. We’ve also felt more demand for trendy, on-style leashes, so we recently introduced the Design, with colorful polka dots and the option to add the Multi Box accessory, which can hold treats, waste bags or other small items.
From a POS perspective, we are setting new standards in product presentation and truly believe that a sophisticated, high-quality, branded presentation markets flexi products best to the end user. We offer some amazing variations that integrate well in almost any retail format and upgrade the presentation, free of charge. On top of that, we are driving consumer awareness and demand for flexi with ads in pet magazines and our PR activities. This is some of the best support we offer our retailers in the U.S.
PB: What does the future hold for the company?
Bogdahn: The pet industry overall has a very exciting future. While consumers continue to focus on quality, new trends and individual style, the story behind the product also becomes more and more important. flexi is going to intensify its dialog with customers and users on all channels.
Though we don’t give insight into our R&-D projects, be assured, that with our rich history and expertise, we will continue innovating the category, offering our customers the very best leashes with the unmatched craftsmanship one can only find in leashes made by flexi.