Multiple Choice
by Dan Headrick
December 31, 2011
The key to selling collars and leashes is offering a broad spectrum of options and merchandsining that selection in eye-catching, easy-to-shop displays that showcase the style and function of the products.



Merchandising presents one of the most important tools storeowners have to sell collars and leashes in today’s economy. Style, function, selection, price—retailers have a lot to work with, but you can take nothing for granted.

It’s too easy to throw in the towel and just accept that dog owners are more apt these days to merely make do with the frayed, knotted, dirty and worn out collars and leashes they already have. It needn’t be that way.

“Merchandising is everything,” says Stephanie Davis, director of sales at Mirage Pet Products, a 50-year-old family company. “People are still spending money on their pets—collars included. The key is to set up displays with plenty of eye-catching colors and sparkle.” 

However, a pet store’s collar and leash selection should offer more to consider than simply colors, patterns and materials. Functionality is also important.

“The fashion and style of the collar is second only to the durability,” says Davis. “You can have a gorgeous collar, but if the consumer doesn’t like buckle collars, then it won’t matter.  You have to know what your customers’ preferences are in terms of function and utility.”

A pet store’s selection of leashes can include retractable, four-, five- and six-foot, traffic leads, English slip leads, twin couplers, hands-free with traffic lead handles and bungee-type leads. Each has unique design qualities that address specific issues for certain dogs in particular environments and accommodate certain behaviors.


Keep it Fresh
To convey the broadest spectrum of style and function, retailers should keep the in-store display fresh. Don’t let your displays become dull or predictable. Collars and leashes may be mandatory equipment, but that’s no reason to allow them to become commoditized. Showcasing exciting styles and dazzling choices helps get customers excited about new looks for the season or for special occasions.

Style changes with and helps to mark the season. Pet stores should also be prepared for special occasions such as holidays, vacations, weddings, showers, charitable events and social gatherings where dogs are welcome.

“It’s important to change your displays and bring in fresh, new designs every season. If you are able to sell collars that are specific to a season, you will most likely sell more collars in general,” Davis says. “No one wants their dog in a Christmas collar in June, so those types of customers are more likely to come back and buy with the changing seasons.” 

For 2012, Davis sees a few key trends taking shape. “Bright colors are still doing extremely well,” she says. “But we expect to see a major trend in sales of political collars and leashes as the election heats up in 2012.”

While you keep your eyes open for new looks, don’t ignore developments in new and interesting materials: leather, nylon, hemp, cotton or plastic acrylic. And don’t underestimate the enduring appeal of monochrome.


Fashion and Function on Display
Store operators have all sorts of display strategies for showcasing collars, but sometimes the simple approach is the most effective. “The best way that we have seen is with the collars wrapped around rods, similar to shower curtain rods,” says Davis. “They are eye catching, and it helps to reduce the risk of theft.”

Retailers can also display collars and leashes according to their functional design. For example, training collars and breakaway safety collars might be grouped together.

With leashes, just as with collars, you’ve got to put choice on display. If you’ve got a bright selection of vibrant patterns and colors, show them off. Spread those colors and exciting patterns out across an open wall space, or hang them along freestanding display stands. Group by brand, by functional use, or by length or material—the options are endless. However, it is essential that retailers make sure their customers see the full selection and the range of choices open to them.

Hang leashes vertically and run collar displays horizontally to create interesting configurations in the store. And avoid bunching the merchandise into compacted heaps—customers don’t want to dig through tangles. Make it easy to compare, try on and come back in three months when the season changes.


Dan Headrick is a writer and marketing executive. He and his wife Pam Guthrie owned and operated Wag Pet Boutique in Raleigh, N.C., from 2003 to 2010. The store received numerous community and industry awards.