Taking Artistic License

Manufacturers are offering more products featuring consumers’ favorite characters and brands.




Licensed products are big business. According to the New York-based International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association (LIMA), retail and related revenue generated globally by the trademark licensing business rose 3.3 percent to $271.6 billion in 2017. The largest category was entertainment/character licensing, which accounted for $121.5 billion, or 44.7 percent of the total global licensing market. Corporate/brand trademarks was the next biggest property type, generating $55.8 billion in retail receipts for 20.5 percent of total revenues, followed by fashion with $32.1 billion, and sports with $26.5 billion.


Also according to the Annual Global Licensing Industry Survey, which LIMA released in June, the U.S./Canada remains the largest market for licensed merchandise and services, with revenue accounting for 58 percent of the global total.


In the pet products industry, that adds up to a lot of branded leashes and collars, costumes, toys and grooming products. And the category is continually growing.


“More and more consumer product companies are looking at licensing as a means to expand brand awareness and presence,” says Brad Kane, vice president of marketing at Arlington, Texas-based Petmate. “The pet space is a natural opportunity if products are developed under the true tenets of the brand.”


Kane says the hottest trend now is that highly recognized consumer brands are launching products in the pet segment. Earlier this year, Petmate announced its exclusive pet licensing agreement with La-Z-Boy, the company known for its iconic recliners and other furniture, such as sofas, sectionals and chairs. The pet line ranges from small cuddlers and loungers to extra-large mattresses and sofas, and will be available online and in pet specialty retailers this fall.


A partnership like this one makes sense if the brands are appropriately aligned within the pet segment, Kane says.


“La-Z-Boy is one of the most trusted and recognized brands in furniture, with strong affiliation under comfort, style and value,” he says. “We have developed a line of extremely comfortable and fashionable beds that incorporate the exact same materials and construction elements as a La-Z-boy sofa or recliner.”


Consumers do look for brands in pet bedding, says Randy Spence, president and founder of nVision Marketing LLC, based in Charlotte, N.C. The company is the exclusive licensee and manufacturer of Serta Branded Pet Products.


“In the pet bed category, there are a lot of private label or company created brands,” he says. “We offer the No. 1 mattress brand in North America. Comfort is the key, and whether it’s a pet bed or a human mattress, the Serta Brand stands for comfort.”


Spence adds that the pet beds have many of the same features and benefits as Serta’s Mattress Line. “This leverages the brand equity with pet owners who want the best for their best friends,” he says.


Grooming License

Bedding is not the only category in which pet owners are looking for familiar brands. They also want licensed products in grooming, dental care and other categories, and they want certain features and benefits for each.


“In grooming, customers want either natural solutions or products made with specialty, trending ingredients that you can find in the human space,” says Kristy Yvars, licensing director for Fetch…for Pets. “In dental care, customers are looking for easy ways to keep their pets’ teeth clean because it’s a difficult task. Licensing is one part of the equation, but solving the customers’ problems and making their lives with their pets better is always going to be a priority.”


The New York City-based company offers licensed goods across multiple product categories including Burt’s Bees, CHI, BioSilk and Martha Stewart for grooming solutions, Glad and Fresh Step for dog and cat waste management, Arm & Hammer for dental care and entertainment properties like Star Wars, Marvel, DC Comics and Jurassic World for toys, apparel, accessories, and home goods.


The latest launch is Martha Stewart Natural Grooming Solutions. “Martha is a fanatic when it comes to her dogs, and she has extremely high expectations for the products she offers,” says Yvars. “Her formulas are top of the line, safe and effective for everyday grooming needs.”


Fetch…for Pets also recently expanded the Burt’s Bees line by adding more premium, specialty solutions to target everyday skin and coat issues, and will be shipping tools, a first for the line, this year.


“We focus on building out our product lines where it makes sense,” Yvars says. “For example, we now offer Glad Ultra Dog Pads as customers were really looking for larger, thicker pads for big dogs.”


Yvars adds that the licensed pet products category will continue to grow. “People have shown that they’re willing to spend almost more on their pets than they would on themselves,” she says. “Overall, variety is key and the customer includes both the pet parent and the dog. Salon styling products, fashion apparel and teeth whitening kits are only the beginning of trending human goods making their way into the pet space.”


Dress Up

Another category of human goods making its way into pet products is movie-related  merchandise. Right now anything related to the June release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is very hot, says Erin Breig, director of Rubie’s Pet Shop Boutique, a division of Rubie’s Costume Company, Inc. The Melville, N.Y.-based company knows a thing or two about dinosaurs. “Our human inflatable T-Rex costume was the viral sensation of 2017,” she says. “We were the first costume company to win a Toy of the Year award from the Toy Association for this item.”


Breig says the internet success of the T-Rex costume, plus the buzz around the Jurassic World film, are contributing to the success of the pet version. Although the pet costume is not inflatable, it is made from the same nylon material. “The whole family can now join in on the fun,” she says.


Besides dinosaurs, nostalgia is another big trend. Consumers of all ages enjoy the tried-and-true characters year after year, including superheroes like Wonder Woman and Spider-Man, Star Wars characters such as Chewbacca, and even Elvis. In addition to the fun nostalgic themes, it helps to have a practical detail built in. “Our new Batman cape has an attached light up collar and includes a leash,” Breig says. “We do similar harnesses for My Little Pony as well.”


New for Rubie’s is a Disney Pets line that includes costumes and other products for Mickey & Friends, Toy Story, Winnie the Pooh, The Incredibles and Disney Princesses. The company plans to expand the line each year. “We are always looking for ways to be more innovative,” Breig says. “You will see more costumes that can be worn every day. Also stay tuned for some amazing toy products from Rubie’s.”


Toys provide great vehicles for licensing, so sometimes it makes sense for children’s toys to partner with pet toys. Bloomfield, N.J.-based Ethical Products recently entered into a licensing agreement with FlipaZoo to offer the popular children’s toy to the pet industry. The line will feature cat and dog toys that will be available in many different merchandising vehicles.


“We did a soft launch at Global Pet Expo where it was well-received by our distributor partners and retailers,” says Susan Calles, national marketing manager. “We are very excited to offer a popular children’s toy to the same parents who love and spoil their pets too.”


The future is bright for the category. “We have found that anything consumers are familiar with or can relate to has a strong licensing possibility,” Calles says. “We feel licensing will continue to be a strong category in pet specialty.” PB


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