Retailers should carry on-trend fashion items that cater to multiple tastes, lifestyles and occasions.
The most obvious evidence of the ongoing humanization of pets is the rising popularity of pet fashion. However, this product category goes beyond the simple desire of wanting a puppy to look cute. It gives pet owners the opportunity to express their own lifestyle and personality through their dog’s (or even cat’s!) apparel and accessories.
“People like to mimic their own fashion with their pet,” says Daniel Edwards, managing director for Doggie Design. “Those identities go hand-in-hand.”
Based in Gilbert, Ariz., Doggie Design distributes and designs pet apparel, leashes and accessories. The company makes sure to follow real-world fashion trends to provide pet owners with options that reflect their personal style. One of the distributor’s most popular collections is its American River Ombre Harness collection, which has color schemes inspired by the ombre hair dye trend.
The company has also adapted its offerings to reflect the increasing popularity of casual fashion for both humans and pets. Recognizing that not every pet owner wants to put their pup in a frilly dress, the company offers simpler and more athletic-inspired options.
“We’ve seen more of a trend toward a basic hoodie or basic tank and less of a high end designer fashion style,” explains Edwards. “Though we do carry both.”
Klippo Pet, a fashion wholesaler based in Torrance, Calif., also prides itself on its wide selection of informal clothing. The company’s product offering includes flannel pajamas in fun patterns like bunnies and ducklings as well as outdoor items such as its Splashing Whale Raincoat and Country Bear Hooded Plush Jacket.
“From raincoats or jogging suits for strolls, to cozy pajamas for the colder weather, Klippo brand carries affordable casual dog apparel that suits everyday living style,” says Amy Yu, sales manager for Klippo.
These basic options show that pet fashion can go beyond aesthetics by supporting a pet owner’s active lifestyle through functionality. These hoodies, jackets and raincoats are ideal for camping trips and other outdoor adventures and have the added benefits of offering warmth and protection.
For Hong Kong City Toys, this kind of dual-purpose pet fashion is the category’s sweet spot. The Hong Kong-based pet clothing manufacturer offers pet accessories that are both cute and practical, such as sweaters, jackets and pajamas. By offering an array of colors and designs, the company gives pet parents multiple options to express their individual style.
“Some products supply a function, such as reflective material for safety, sweaters, jackets and PJs for warmth,” says Kayti Miller, business manager for Hong Kong City Toys. “Warmth is probably the most common function, even in warm weather markets. Oftentimes, pet parents will buy things like PJs to keep pets comfortable in air conditioning.”
Apparel options that keep pets safe and comfortable aren’t limited to clothing items. 4 Paws Tech offers protection products such as the Nightlight LED Collar which uses three different colored lights to keep dogs visible at night. It’s also waterproof for evening swims.
Len Horowitz, founder and CEO of the Glen, Head, N.Y. company, explains that accessories like the Nightlight LED Collar are designed for pet parents who take their dogs everywhere at all times of day and keep pups safe and in sight.
“With active lifestyles on the rise and the acceptance of dogs in society, we bring our beloved companions with us on walks, while shopping or even out to dinner in outdoor cafes,” he says.
The idea of integrating a pet into all aspects of daily life is a driving force in the pet fashion category and manufacturers strive to offer options that will allow pets to participate in family activities as much as possible. For many of these companies, that means offering fashion options for trips and holidays.
“We’ve seen an uptick in sales in coastal regions—people buying pet products on vacation,” says Edwards.
To meet this increased need, Doggie Design expanded its product portfolio to include Hawaiian and beach-themed products such as floral and surfboard patterned shirts.
The company also has a wide array of options for the holidays. In addition to ugly Christmas sweaters and Halloween costumers, the manufacturer offers themed accessories such as its American River Holiday Line, which includes harnesses patterned with sugar skulls or ghosts.
Hong Kong City Toys has opened up its holiday product portfolio to consumers who want their cats to join in on celebrations as well. “You’d be surprised how many cat hats we sell around Halloween,” says Miller, who adds that many pet parents are looking for fun costumes to take photos of their pets in.
Inclusivity in the pet fashion category extends beyond just offering items for cats. Initially, pet clothing was only available to petite pups. Now, many manufacturers have recognized that pet parents want their larger dogs to participate in fashion trends as well.
“We make sure to cater to a few all dogs of all sizes and not be specific to just a few breeds,” says Edwards. Doggie Design includes a size range that runs from XXS to XXXL. The company also ensures that popular items, like its Biker Dog Motorcycle Jacket, are available to larger dogs as well.
Manufacturers have recognized that this widening range of sizes could cause some issues for retailers and their customers.
“There is not standard size chart for dog clothes, and there are hundreds of breeds that range from a pound to a few hundred pounds,” explains Yu. “It’s important to choose the correct size according to the dog’s measurements, not by size labels.”
Keeping this in mind, retailers can effectively help their customers choose apparel that’s the right fit for their pet. However, understanding clothing size is not the only way that retailers can successfully market pet clothing.
“Keep a variety of styles in your stores, and change them out seasonally,” advises Miller. “Many boutiques change assortments three to four times a year, depending on their customers’ buying habits. Also, know what your customers are willing to spend.”
Edwards also emphasizes that the way products are shown plays an important part in boosting fashion sales.
“Know how to display the products,” he says. “The way you display the product is the way it sells. What I’ve seen be successful for a lot of our customers is getting stuffed dogs.”
By providing a strong visual aid, like a mannequin, retailers can help customers picture their own dogs in clothing items. Someone who was not previously open to dressing their pet may change their mind and participate in this growing trend. PB