Licensed Products for Pets

Stemming from pop culture, entertainment and fashion, licensed products can draw in new customers and spark bigger sales.




The inspiration for licensed pet products has expanded beyond movies, television and sports teams and into anything that can capture the tastes, imagination and nostalgia of pet parents. Retailers should take note of this expanding category and make sure their licensed product selection ranges from clothing brands, children’s toys and even internet memes.


Grumpy Cat, who become famous after a picture of him went viral, is the inspiration behind PetRageous Designs’ licensed products. He is now featured on several PetRageous products, including clothes, cat scratchers and feeding placemats.


“We loved the humor in the character cat and in the line of Grumpy Cat Limited products already in the market,” says Jamie Giunta, a marketing/advertising manager for PetRageous.


Even though Grumpy Cat passed in May, Giunta says the products are still popular. “There appears to be great interest in the line, and it could be in paying homage to a wonderful cat,” she says. “Grumpy Cat is, and always will be, one of the world’s most recognized animals.”


In addition to the Grumpy Cat products, the Wilmington, Mass.-based company also offers licensed products from Eddie Bauer, a brand known for its high-quality outdoor clothing.


“The Eddie Bauer PET license came open and we worked diligently for nearly two years to secure it,” says Giunta. “We felt we could combine their human expertise with what dogs and dog owners wanted.”


In 2018, its first year, the Eddie Bauer PET collection was recognized by Pet Business for innovation in the Dog Apparel category. The collection includes stylish jackets and sweaters that keep pets warm and comfortable.


“With the Eddie Bauer license, the feel of the human line is outdoors, living the adventure, and we created a dog line to be an extension of the human products,” Giunta says. “Great fit, high-quality material, comfort and ease of care parallels the human brand.”


PetRageous, which has been in business for 15 years, made the decision to offer licensed products because the company is always looking for new opportunities and embracing additional categories.


“We found by layering in a couple of well-known licenses, it would enhance our own brand without competing with our own branded products,” Giunta says.


In offering licensed products, retailers should purchase enough quantities to make sure they can build a meaningful display that showcases their offerings.


“Creating end caps with collections and merchandising these like-kind products together draws customer attention and inspires them to think of these products in their home,” Giunta says.


Toy Time

Licensed products from clothing brands echo the pervasive trend of the humanization of pets. Inspired by a children’s toy, the Flip-A-Zoo pet toys from Ethical Products, Inc. reflects this phenomenon.


Shaped like various animals, the soft plush toys flip from one side to the other to reveal a new creature, creating two toys in one.


“We believed the success of Flip-A-Zoo in the children’s market would translate well to the pet industry and launched a line of cat and dog toys,” says Susan Calles, the company’s national marketing manager. “Many dog and cat toys are soft plush characters, so this similarity helped us create a line of pet toys that children and pet parents could relate to and are familiar with under the Flip-A-Zoo license.”


With its corporate offices and distribution center located in Bloomfield, N.J., Ethical Products, Inc. is a privately-owned company that was established in 1952. It markets its pet products under the SPOT brand, which includes dog and cat toys, dishes, bedding, treats and other accessories.


When it comes to licensed products, Calles explains that brand familiarity is a driving force in the success of licensed pet products with customers.


“If it’s a brand their kids played with, they connect with that memory and are more likely to purchase the product for their pet,” she says.


The Classics

That’s not to say manufacturers have stopped offering licensed products inspired by everyone’s favorite films and TV shows altogether. For Rubie’s Pet Shop Boutique, a division of Rubie’s Costume Company, Inc., licensed products make up about half of its sales.


“Our licenses cover so many beloved characters that make people smile,” says Erin Breig, director of Rubie’s Pet Shop Boutique. “Sometimes it’s all about nostalgia—customer favorites like Mickey Mouse, Elvis and Wonder Woman never go out of style, and are still wildly popular icons today.”


Rubie’s Pet Shop Boutique has been the fastest growing division of Rubie’s Costume Company for the past six years. The New York-based manufacturer is known for its pet costumes inspired by popular movies.


“We see spikes at the time of a movie release, right before Halloween and right before Christmas,” Breig says. “Just recently, when Spider-Man, Lion King and Toy Story 4 were released, we saw a spike in sales.”


Breig says that retailers can take specific tactics in order to maximize the sales potential of their licensed products. She advises asking manufacturers for fact sheets that provide information about the license, including the demographics it appeals to. She also says retailers should be aware of important events surrounding specific licenses, such as anniversaries and popular movie releases.


“Last year, when Mickey turned 90 years old, many retailers created displays and curated ‘shops’ around the character,” Breig says. “This year, the informed retailers knew that there was a huge opportunity around The Avengers: Endgame release. A pet retailer can give a small discount to anyone who brings in their movie ticket or create a ‘Marvel Shop’ with licensed costumes, toys, accessories, leashes, collars and treats.”


Right now, Rubie’s Pet Shop Boutique is anticipating the release of the Frozen sequel. Breig is particularly excited about a product inspired by the Disney film’s popular snowman character.


“We have the most adorable Olaf costume, and although we cannot yet ship the product, we are taking preorders and he’s already so popular,” she says.


Cosmic Pet is another manufacturer that has taken advantage of popular film franchises in the licensed product category. Headquartered in Wichita, Kan., the brand launched this year as the result of mergers between Hyper Pet, R2P Pet and OurPet’s Company.


“One of America’s most beloved brands, Disney, entered into an exciting dog toy licensing agreement with us earlier this year,” says Tim Blurton, CEO of Cosmic Pet. “We have recently launched a new collection to support the new movie, Toy Story 4. We will also have some great toys for Nightmare Before Christmas coming soon, to be followed by a series of Disney classics.”


In 2020, Cosmic Pet is planning to launch new toy collections associated with major Disney theatrical releases. Blurton explains that the Disney name resonates strongly with customers.


“With brands as loved as Disney in particular, there is an established trust and credibility in the product quality,” he says. “Plus, it’s really fun to buy and enjoy together with your pets whether you’re a younger member of a pet-owning family or an older one that has lived with and loved Disney all their lives.”


Blurton added that with licensed products in general, pet parents gravitate towards them because of their familiarly—they feel comfortable adding them to their home. He says retailers should take specific strategies when selling items from this category.


“Retailers should pinpoint what is important to their customers from a product perspective, and find brands with widespread appeal and longevity so that they know they will align with the community and culture of their own customer base,” Blurton says.  PB


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