Finding Opportunity

The pet identification product category has found its rightful place at retail as demand grows.




One in three pets will get lost at some point in their lives. With an estimated 84.6 million pet-owning households in the U.S. (many of which own more than one pet), helping ensure lost animals get home again can be big business.


“We all love our pets and the thought of one of them missing is heart-wrenching,” says Melissa Pedraza, general manager at Platinum Pets.


Platinum Pets brings together the traditional pet tag with technology; each tag comes with a unique code that is used to establish a pet’s profile in their system. If the pet goes missing, the code allows anyone who finds it to quickly contact the owner by text, phone or email.


Pedraza believes demand for ID products is on the rise. “We believe a big driver is the continued humanization of our pets,” she says. “People are willing to go to increasing lengths to protect their loved ones.”


Pedraza has seen firsthand how dedicated pet parents can be to recovering their lost loved one. “There is a family in my neighborhood that has spent the past 23 weeks searching and hoping for the return of their terrier. They’ve canvassed a large area with lost posters and established a substantial reward.”


This, she says, demonstrates the lengths pet owners today will go to and how long they’ll hold out hope that their pet will be found and safely returned. Of course, ID products play a big role in making this happen.


“Without identification, the chance of recovering a lost pet drops below 10 percent,” says Eric Bremner, CEO of Red Dingo, Inc.


Red Dingo offers solid stainless steel pet ID tags that are hard-wearing and non-toxic; the company has been selling ID tags in the US since 2006 and has sold them in Australia and Europe since 2003.


While pet owners have many options—from microchips to GPS collars—Bremner says, “A durable, readable pet ID tag is the easiest, quickest and safest way to be reunited with your pet.”


A Look at the Options

Experts largely agree with Bremner. Microchips generally require special scanners, so before a pet can be reunited with their family they have to be taken to a shelter or vet clinic. GPS collars are significantly more expensive than traditional ID tags, and for many pet owners the price point eliminates that option.


Pet ID tags, by comparison, can be read by anyone and are often priced well within the range for an impulse buy—though they’re increasingly becoming an item that pet owners go to a store to purchase, says Gregg Newman, managing partner at VIP Engravers.


VIP Engravers offers a full line of pet ID products in a variety of colors, materials and finishes, all customizable on their VIP Engraving Systems using patented technology. “It has become expected by customers that pet stores provide this service,” he says.


Bremner also says that ID tags can be considered both impulse purchases and destination products.


“Pet ID tag purchases are both planned and impulse purchases,” he explains. “Almost every new pet gets a new ID tag, but many tags are sold when a customer is in a store.”


Bremner says consumers often see the tag board on the counter, which spurs a purchase, adding that about 25 percent of customers buy more than one tag at a time.


Most vendors offer counter-top displays that show off a sampling of tags to help retailers capitalize on impulse buys. Because tags are smaller items, it’s usually easy to fit a small but attractive display at the checkout.


“Our display is 12 inches by nine inches, so it’s basically the size of a piece of paper and has 12 tags on it,” says Mikey Lickstein, CEO and founder of SiliDog.


SiliDog offers pet ID tags that are 100-percent silicone, making them ultra durable, and the tags glow in the dark. Pet owners choose a tag at checkout and then customize them on the company’s website. The tags are mailed out the next day.


Options available in the market include a wide variety of materials and finishes. Some offer fun sayings or designs, while others offer up a bit of bling. And new technology is likely to play an increasing role in the category, says Pedraza.


“Devices will be smaller, more powerful and give pet owners greater capability in tracking the whereabouts of their pets,” she explains.


For those retailers that opt to offer engraving in-store, most choose to also place the engraving machine near the front of the store—often near the door or any designated customer service area. Placing the machine strategically where staff can answer any questions a shopper may have increases the chance that customers will notice the items and opt to buy.


Starting the Conversation

Whether a store opts to offer products with engraving on-site or not, staff plays a crucial role in the success of this category.


“A staff that understands the value of an ID tag as a product, as well as its importance to responsible pet parenting, will promote and suggestively sell them with greater success than one that does not,” says Tom Glessner, director of engraving and personalization products at The Hillman Group.


The Hillman Group has been in the pet tag ID market since 1996. It develops and manufactures engraving machines, along with a large selection of ID tags and accessories, including f.i.d.o, TagWorks, Quick-Tag and PetScribe brands.


“Special displays and POP will certainly help, but a staff that is willing to educate its customers is always the best selling tool,” says Glessner.


Lickstein says he has asked his best-selling stores how they sell so many—and they say “there’s a lot of dogs that come in without tags on. So they’re actually pushing it themselves for more of the awareness that your dog should always have a tag on.”


For store employees looking to strike up a conversation, looking for a tag before asking a dog’s name is an easy icebreaker.


In fact, Glessner says conversations like this have had a real impact on the category.


“Higher profile displays and expanded product mixes have helped, but pet specialty stores themselves are doing a better job of promoting the value and necessity of up-to-date, visible identification, for dogs and cats,” he explains. “Tags are now included in adoption kits at events as well as suggestively sold to those customers who come into their stores with unidentified animals. For those reasons, demand for pet ID tags is increasing.”


Further paving the way for a smooth sale are increased efforts on the part of many pet healthcare practitioners, who are emphasizing the importance of pet identification, and local municipalities, many of which have specific requirements that pets wear tags, points out Newman.


Overall, the message that something as simple as an ID tag can play an important role should a pet go missing is beginning to sink into the public consciousness. Retailers should ensure their staff understands the value of these products and that their store is appropriately stocked. PB


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