Opportunity Identified
By Pamela Mills-Senn
Published: November 1, 2011
The pet identification category has gotten a big boost from improvements in technology and an influx of fashion-inspired design.



Having a pet go missing can be extremely stressful for dog and cat owners. But if the pet is wearing an identification tag, the odds of an owner/pet reunion are greatly improved. However, the fate of those who aren’t tagged is more unsettling; they either end up in shelters or are left to fend for themselves.

Tags aren’t always foolproof. They can fall off, be left on a different collar, or become so worn they become unreadable. Initially, microchipping seemed to afford the potential of skirting these problems. But this promise hasn’t entirely played out, says Tom Troiano, director of IDtag.com, based in Secaucus, N.J. The company manufactures the SmartTag and also provides a sort of Amber Alert system for lost pets.

“Most people who don’t own pets aren’t aware of microchips and don’t know what to do when they find a stray,” he explains. “It can also be challenging to determine if the dog or cat has a chip and to find a way to read it.”

This is why many pet owners are returning to traditional ID tags, particularly since manufacturers have made strides in addressing some of the issues previously associated with pet identification products.

Gregg Newman, managing partner of VIP Engravers, Dallas-based manufacturer of the CE-1000 Pet ID Tag and Collar engraving system, says these products can prove lucrative for pet retailers. Dog tag clips are a high-profit/low-footprint item, agrees Scot Kane, president of Overland Park, Kan.-based Rubit LLC, manufacturer of the Rubit! Dog Tag Clip.

Contributing to the segment’s growth is an increase in the enforcement of dog tag laws, along with a heightened awareness of the value of outfitting dogs with ID tags, adds Kane.

Here’s a sampling of the pet ID products on the market:


IDTag.com
Available nationwide and in Canada, the SmartTag system consists of a tag with an engraved serial number on it unique to each pet. An 800 number on the back of the tag enables anyone rescuing a stray wearing this tag to contact the company’s Ft. Lauderdale-based, around-the-clock call center and report the find.

According to Troiano, most pets are located within two hours of being reported missing. “We offer a six-hour guarantee,” he says. “If we don’t find a pet within that time, we refund the cost of the service.”

When owners notify the company of a lost pet, an alert is sent to shelters, rescues and participating vets within a 50-mile radius of where the pet was last seen. The annual service fee is $9.95; less if pet owners opt for a multi-year or a lifetime plan.

SmartTags sell from between $5 to $10, depending on markup. Retailers can sell pre-packaged tags or can opt for the engraved ID tag board program. The board (provided free) features about 26 styles and colors. About 70 percent of the tags are for dogs. Customers make their selection; the retailer fills out the order and sends it to the company, which ships it directly to the customer within one week, sometimes faster. These tags retail for $9.99, the retailer keeps $5.

Troiano says his company is also adding lost-pet medical insurance (free with registration) covering up to $2,000 worth of medical expenses for injuries incurred while the pet is lost. Other program features include instant “lost pet” posters and free pet and owner profile updates.


VIP Engravers
The CE-1000 Pet ID Tag and Collar engraving system allows retailers to provide engraved ID tags/collar in-store. VIP Engravers’ “Smart Technology” simplifies the engraving process by automatically clamping and identifying all items (auto-sizing and centering) eliminating mistakes, doing away with the need to buy and use costly tag clamps, and speeding up engraving time.

“All they need to do is type what they want and the machine does the rest,” explains Newman. “The machine is approximately one-square-foot cube, and weighs 30 pounds. It’s is also portable and can run off a car cigarette lighter.”

The company offers an extensive product selection, which allows retailers to provide ID products for pets, as well as create plates for kennels, aquariums, and so on. The company also has a line of VIP ID Leather Collars, featuring a strong but flexible plate permanently embedded into the collar that can be customized in-store.

“The CE-1000 is a diamond engraver that actually engraves through the tag finish permanently into the tag itself, not just removing the surface coating as a laser engraver, seen in the big-box stores, does,” says Newman.

The system comes with a lifetime warranty, and there is no charge for software upgrades. The company provides an initial opening tag assortment that includes a mixture of their most popular shapes and colors. Because ID tags are a high-impulse-buy item, he advises that retailers post them by registers or remember to ask customers if they need an ID tag.

“Also, retailers have had great success notifying local shelters and veterinarians that clients can visit their store for their pet ID needs,” he says.


Rubit!
The Rubit! Dog Tag Clip, which comes in small, medium and large sizes, is designed to enable owners to easily and quickly move tags from one collar to another. Made of strong, anodized aluminum (“the clip will not fail,” says Kane) the non-corrosive clips are about the size of a quarter and come in a variety of styles and colors, including black, blue, silver, pink, red and green.

“The dog tag-clip category is a new product segment,” says Kane. “Recent surveys have shown that dog tag clips are now a necessity for a major portion of dog collar, charm and ID tag owners.”

Because the trend is towards multiple collars for style and function, Rubit! is adding more fashion-forward clips to its lineup. “We’ve taken the reliable clip and added more style; we’re making the clips to be more like a charm,” he says.
Recent additions include spiked, rhinestone and heart-shaped clips; other designs are in the works.

“We recommend first-time dealers purchase a Retail Display Starter Kit packaged with a three-pronged counter-top display, header card, and a mix of 36 clips in assorted sizes and colors,” Kane says. “Most dealers then add packages of 12 specialty heart and rhinestone designs. Dealers receive 50-percent off the manufacturer suggested retail price.”