Searching for a perfect bed can often lead to spending hours at the furniture store testing the softness or bounciness of a mattress, because people know that the final selection is essential for their quality beauty sleep. Knowing that pet owners want to provide that same level of comfort for their pets, manufacturers are innovating the way they make pet beds and furniture, and they are striving to make products that are both comfortable and good for the environment.
“Pet owners are hungry for environmental friendly products that not only enhance their lives, but also those of their cats and dogs,” says Kristie Hamilton, director of sales at Morrilton, Ark.-based Imperial Cat, a manufacturer of corrugated scratching posts made from 100-percent recycled materials. “The eco trend has gone beyond organic foods and grooming products to include pet beds and furniture.”
Most pet parents want to make eco-friendly choices, but may be unaware that a green product exists, says Kate Moore the owner/designer at St. Louis-based Griffith Designs, manufacturer of HabiCat, a wall-mounted shelving unit for cats. “[Pet parents] aren’t necessarily looking around for the best because they aren’t aware of their options,” Moore says.
Using recycled bottles for filling has become a popular technique for eco-friendly pet bed manufacturers, including San Francisco-based P.L.A.Y. (Pet Lifestyle And You). “We put a lot of emphasis on making our products ‘green,’” says William Chen, founder of P.L.A.Y. “Our trademark Planet Fill is made from 100-percent post-consumer, certified-safe recycled plastic bottles. For example, the amount of polyfiber that goes into our newly launched extra-large Lounge Bed saves 108 non-biodegradable bottles from going into a landfill.
“We also try to be eco-friendly with our packaging. For example, the hangtags that we use on our products are FSC [Forest Stewardship Council] certified, which means that the paper comes from sustainable sources—they are recycled as well.”
Molly Mutt, LLC., takes a different approach. Its patent dog and cat duvets allow consumers to literally make their own dog and cat beds by stuffing left over clothes, pillows, blankets—and even inserts from old pet beds—inside the duvet covers.
“We get hundreds of e-mails and letters from customers who feel good about being able to re-use their old items,” says Art Simon, owner of Molly Mutt. “Of course, our duvets also address one of the major complaints of pet owners: smelly dog and cat beds.”
Some experts argue that price and style—not the eco-friendliness of products—affect what products consumers will eventually buy. “I see pet stores trying to sell organic beds that didn’t have the style aesthetic of a high-end bed,” says Kimi Proffer, owner of Luca for Dogs. “In my experience, only a small number of consumers are willing to compromise style and price to buy an organic product,” she says.
Chen agrees that consumers are judging products on more than just their ‘green’ appeal. “Especially in this economy, where people are a little more careful about where they spend their dollar, people are looking a lot more at quality and value,” he says. “If you’re green, that’s great as an added bonus, but consumers may not necessarily be buying a product simply because it is ‘green.’”
Do Your Homework
Successfully selling pet furniture or beds does not come without challenges. As consumers continue seeking value in a highly competitive market that’s overflowing with eco-friendly products, uninitiated consumers may turn away from green products.
“We see a lot of companies trying to come up with gimmicks,” says Chen. “I think that retailers and consumers are getting a little bit desensitized by the flood of ‘green’ products.”
Educating consumers about the benefits of eco-friendly pet beds and furniture will help with a retailer’s success in the category. Understanding the store’s customer base is essential in gauging whether a consumer will spend more. Simon suggests researching what publications customers are reading and what causes they support, along with hosting an eco-friendly event that supports the local community to help develop a fan base for these products.
Buying pet furniture and accessories does not compare to buying food, and consumers may enter a store with a slew of questions. Pet parents may consider the following before purchasing an eco-friendly pet bed:
• Is the bed machine washable?
• What type of material is the cover made of?
• What type of interior should I be looking for?
• How do I know if the bed has been certified organic?
“Research the material pet furniture is made of—even if the furniture is marked ‘designed for pets,’” says Josh Feinkind, president of RefinedKind Pet Products, a New York-based manufacturer of cat and dog furniture that utilizes bamboo in some of its designs.
The staff should be well versed on the selling points of pet furniture including what makes the product organic. “Eco friendly pet beds and furniture will cost consumers more, so it’s important to educate them about what their extra dollars are buying,” Hamilton explained. “If your employees can explain to them that the bed will last 30 percent longer than its synthetic counterpart, spending a few extra bucks will begin to look like savings to them.”
Retailers should be consistent in explaining the benefits of eco-friendly pet beds and furniture so consumers can easily recognize the products, Hamilton says. Utilizing resources like marketing materials from manufacturers as well as the store’s website, blog or Facebook page can help increase eco-friendly pet bed and furniture sales. Signage or displays explaining the difference between an eco-friendly bed and its synthetic counterparts will also help direct customers to products.
“Green is here to stay,” says Barbara Button, product and communications manager at Richell USA, a Grand Prairie, Texas-based manufacturer of a mobile pet pen made of sustainable rubber wood. “The market will continue to grow because more and more customers see the advantages of living green,” Button says.