Secure & Stylish
Whether they are designed for use in the home or outside, pet containment products have to be both effective and attractive.
Just as food and water bowls have to match the kitchen décor, pet gates, pens and crates must match the decorative elements of certain rooms. Pet owners love their pets, and they love their homes too, which means rickety plastic fences and dark, dismal crates do not have a place in many homes, or in retailers’ sets.
Inside the home, gates and pens must look modern and keep animals safe. “Pet parents want pet gates and room dividers that are stylish as well as versatile and able to be formatted to different widths and lengths,” says Kristin Butler, marketing coordinator/account executive for Grand Prairie, Texas-based Richell USA, Inc. “Many pet owners have several different gate types throughout the home, so having the products match in color and style is important.”
They also want a gate that prevents only the four-legged family members from entering or exiting a room. While some humans like to step over the gate, others prefer an easy-open door. Richell USA offers the Hands-Free pet gate that can be opened with a foot pedal. “It also works well for people with arthritis or limited mobility in their hands,” says Butler.
Limited mobility could be an issue for pet parents buying kennels and pens too. Some people struggle with opening a traditional slide-bolt door, says Tara Whitehead, marketing manager for MidWest Homes for Pets in Muncie, Ind. MidWest offers the Ovation Up & Away door or the MAXLock Door on some of its containment products. Humans do not have to kneel or bend to operate the doors.
Meanwhile, some pets have seemingly unlimited mobility, so manufacturers are designing products that are suitable for different temperaments, energy levels and sizes of pets. “No two dogs are the same, and pet parents think of their dogs as having very specific and individual needs,” says Whitehead.
People who shop for gates and other containment items are often new pet parents, says Julie Yager Grad, vice president of sales and marketing at North States Industries Inc. in Blaine, Minn. They want the items to last for years and look attractive too. Yager Grad says North States looked at common household hardware and architectural details and incorporated those design elements into products such as the Windsor Arch Petgate and Extra-Wide Windsor Arch Petgate in matte bronze finish.
“We pay close attention to our finish details,” she says. “Our matte bronze, rounded edges and arches add an element of softness to a hard product.”
The company also recently launched the Petyard Passage and Petyard Plus containment yards.
Size is also a factor with gates, as more homes have an open design. While a gate that expands from 26 to 36 inches wide works in most doorways, some pet owners need a gate that expands up to 72 inches. Others seek more height.
“We have seen a strong increase in the demand for taller gates, 32 to 36 inches tall,” says Nancy Swartzentruber, president of sales and marketing for Dynamic Accents, Ltd., in Wooster, Ohio. The company’s newest pet gate is the Citadel 36 inch tall Pressure Mount Gate, which has a 26-inch-wide walk-through opening.
Consumers also want gates that fit properly. “Gone are the days people taped up baby gates to hold their dogs in,” says Milan Bhandari, sales manager at the Bolingbrook, Ill.-based Pets Stop. “We find consumers are much more interested in quality than ever before.” Among the company’s newest gates is the Austin Mod, which uses a heavy-duty gate frame and various wooden door options to match owners’ hardwood floors.
In Through the Out Door
Looks are important for dog doors too, says Joseph Ambrose, president of PlexiDor in Bradenton, Fla. The frames on the PlexiDor doors are aluminum, and are available in white, silver or bronze.
“It has to match the quality of their kitchen or their family room,” says Ambrose. “People do not want paint that can be scraped off.”
People also do not want other animals to enter the house. In addition to the regular pet doors, PlexiDor also offers the PDE Electronic Pet Door, which opens only when it reads the RFID on the pet’s collar. That way cats stay in, wildlife and svelte burglars stay out, and dogs come and go as they please. In addition, the wind cannot open the hardened acrylic door, the way it might blow open a polyvinyl flap door. Also new from PlexiDor is a rain awning.
One of the challenges in marketing dog doors is communicating to consumers that the doors are easy to install. Ambrose says PlexiDor does this with displays, including a flip-book that contains information about the doors. Dogs also need some training on how to use the doors.
Training for dogs and for do-it-yourself installers is also important in other pet containment products such as electronic fences. New wireless fences are seeing growing sales, says Jason Hart, director of marketing for PetSafe in Knoxville, Tenn.
“Wireless brings a new set of consumers in,” he says. The new consumers are people who are not comfortable setting up anything electronic, or who simply don’t want to spend a weekend burying wires in the backyard. PetSafe’s Wireless Mapping Fence allows the user to set up boundaries by placing flags in the yard. The system sends a radio signal to create a hidden boundary.
Pet owners also like to customize the boundaries of electronic fences. With the Wireless Mapping Fence, they can customize the boundary shape. On the in-ground side, PetSafe offers YardMax, which increases the area that the dog can use before feeling a static correction. “One of the issues when you bury wire is the zone isn’t at the wire. It’s before the wire. This one gives them more room,” says Hart.
No matter what the size of the yard, the dog needs to be trained about receiving the static correction. “You want your pet to be really comfortable in the yard,” says Hart.
Fence or no fence, pets and people do need to get out once in a while, and everyone wants to be comfortable when they travel. Butler says for car travel, a carrier should have a spot where the seat belt can attach. For airline travel, pet parents want a carrier that meets airline requirements. Casters or wheels make carriers more convenient, and an extra door on the top of the carrier lets the human see how the pet is managing.
Once they arrive home, people want the carrier to be easily stored without taking up a lot of space, Butler says, noting that Richell’s Double Door Pet Carriers are able to be taken apart and stacked.
Pet containment products are usually planned, not impulse purchases, so retailers can benefit by helping consumers gain information while they are at the store. These are high-margin items, says Swartzentruber, so retailers can benefit by asking the shopper questions—for example, how large is the opening that they need to cover, is the room a high-traffic area, and how likely is the pet to challenge the gate when left unattended?
Whitehead says retailers should offer a variety of pet containment products. “Use point-of-purchase signage, brochures, and most importantly, knowledgeable staff on the sales floor,” she says. “Furthermore, keep web content clean, updated, and rich with features and benefits, as many consumers will browse and shop online, even if they make the final purchase in the brick-and-mortar store.”
Manufacturers do their part to educate consumers. Richell USA offers videos on its website, showing the benefits of the One Touch pet gates and other gates. PlexiDor offers a 55-minute video on how to install a door. North States’ website offers a Gate Basics primer, which explains the difference between pressure-mounted gates, hardware-mounted gates and freestanding gates.
Some companies also highlight when the product is made in the USA. “Both large and small retailers are making this point a priority in their advertising and assortment selections,” says Yager Grad. “The Made in USA moniker is making it back onto the front of packaging in a much bigger way. All of our plastic gates, and yard and natural-wood gates are made in Wisconsin.”