‘Tis the Season for Toys and Treats
As the holidays approach, pet parents want to involve their furry friends in the festivities as much as possible by gifting them themed goodies.
The holiday season can be the perfect opportunity to reward the only family members who aren’t bringing up politics over Thanksgiving turkey: our cats and dogs.
With the growing humanization of pets, owners see their furry companions as valued members of the family and wish to include them in holiday celebrations as much as possible. Manufacturers and retailers have recognized this desire and offer a huge variety of themed treats, apparel and toys that allow pets to celebrate specific holidays alongside their families.
“More and more, we’re treating our pets like our babies,” says Jennifer Cao, vice president of ZippyPaws, a dog toy manufacturer based in Chino, Calif. “In line with that, we want them to be a part of the holiday celebration and to receive toys and treats just like everyone else in the family. And with the increasing selection of enticing options, it makes it easy to appropriately spoil our dogs and other pets.”
With the holiday season widely recognized as a time for indulgence, it’s easy to see why treating pets as children means they get spoiled too. For many manufacturers and retailers, the humanization trend spells out increasing sales for holiday pet items.
“Themed toys are growing ever more popular as more people are treating their pets as family members and not just animals,” says Lisa Hisamune, associate director of sales at P.L.A.Y. Pet Lifestyle and You, a producer of luxury dog begs and pet products. “They want to celebrate every holiday with their furry kids too and are seeking out presents to wrap up for their pets to help them open them on Christmas morning.”
The increasing demand for holiday items can contribute to the lift in total sales that pet companies experience during the holiday season. Like other industries, the pet industry sees an increase in profits as consumers complete their holiday shopping. By offering themed products, retailers and manufacturers can capitalize on that seasonal boost.
“As with so many manufacturers, the holidays are a huge part of our yearly business,” says Cao. “For us, sales are affected even more because we offer a broad range of holiday-themed products. Our customers frequently tell us that they love that we continually create unique products throughout the year as well as for our holiday collection.”
Cao also explains the strategies ZippyPaws uses to meet growing demand and ensure that customers are satisfied. “We always encourage our customers to pre-book, since we sell out of many of our popular products early, although we often double production from the previous year,” she says. “We don’t want them to end up short on product availability during the busy holiday season.”
This increase in sales isn’t just limited to pet toys. PetRageous Designs, a Burlington, Mass.-based manufacturer of pet products, sees a rise in sales for its pet clothing collection.
“We have an adorable assortment of holiday-themed sweaters and pajamas,” says Gretchen George, the company’s president. “The holiday season affects the sale of these items in the early fall as retailers stock up for the holiday season.”
“Holidays give people and their pets a reason to celebrate,” says Erin Breig, director of Rubie’s Pet Shop Boutique. “Halloween and Christmas are huge for dress up, and that’s for the whole family, which of course includes pets.”
In designing holiday outfits for cats and dogs, such as Rubie’s Light Up Reindeer Antlers or PetRageous’ Christmas Elf nightshirt, apparel manufacturers often take social media into account. In an age of constant status updates, pet parents want to make their pets look as cute as possible for photos.
“We know an item will be a winner if it is funny, adorable, and Instagrammable,” says Breig.
This logic makes sense because Millennials, who are avid users of social media, are big spenders when it comes to pets. In PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 2016 Holiday Outlook, the financial services firm examined spending patterns in the pet industry during the holiday months. Millennials were estimated to spend an average of $81 on holiday gifts for their pets—the highest of any generational group. The estimated average for all groups was $62.
In addition to appealing to Millennials, manufacturers and retailers often strive to make sure that their holiday product offering is as diverse as possible. In doing so, they can capture the attention of a broader range of consumers. Both P.L.A.Y. and ZippyPaws have released Hanukkah toy collections that feature toys like plush menorahs and dreidels. Rubie’s has nondenominational options for their costumes, such as snowman outfits for dogs and cats.
As demand has surged for holiday goodies of all kinds, so has the number of items available. One challenge that manufacturers face is ensuring that a product is unique enough to stand out among numerous competitors. That means thinking beyond a Santa chew toy or jingle bell cat ball.
In order to produce something innovative and original for the saturated holiday market, P.L.A.Y. created the Santa’s Little Squeakers Collection, which features plush ornament-shaped dog toys that can actually be hung on a Christmas tree. “We challenged [our designers] to create a toy collection that provided dual functionality as both festive décor for humans and gifts for their pets,” says Hisamune.
P.L.A.Y. also offers a plush dog toy collection inspired by holiday food. The Holiday Classic Toy Collection features a stuffed turkey, candy canes, hot chocolate and a gingerbread man, meaning pets can symbolically have the same kind of food as their owners and participate in holiday meals without fear of falling ill.
Other companies provide actual food for pets to enjoy during the holidays. Paws Gourmet Bakery, located in Silverdale, Wash., creates fun treats for holidays all year round. With flags for Fourth of July, pumpkin shapes for Halloween, turkeys for Thanksgiving, gingerbread men for Christmas and many other offerings, the bakery ensures that pets have a delicious treat for every occasion.
While the holidays are obviously a reason for celebration, retailers should keep in mind the unique stresses that they can bring for pets. Between shopping for presents, cooking feasts and traveling, pet parents may be limited in how much attention they can give their furry companions. Spending unusual amounts of time alone or having new visitors in the house can also cause anxiety for pets.
A themed toy or treat can be presented to a potential customer as a way to keep pets calm, happy and occupied during the holiday bustle. In addition to helping pet parents include their furry friends in celebrations, these items help them show love and affection for their cats and dogs. By gifting themed treats and toys, pet parents exemplify the holiday spirit of generosity while letting their animal companions know that they are valued members of the family. PB