Pet Business: How has the training and behavior-solutions product category changed since Starmark entered the market?
Emily Benson: Many companies are looking past rubber or latex in favor of more durable materials that can withstand aggressive chewing. Some synthetic materials can offer puncture and tear resistance in non-toxic or hypoallergenic compounds. Design of these toys has advanced in the last few years as companies respond to feedback from customers wanting to challenge and mentally stimulate their pet. Innovations have been made in the function of some toys to encourage pets to interact for longer periods with the toy instead of only short spans or for single use.
PB: Mental-stimulation and interactive toys have become increasingly popular over the last year. What are consumers looking for in these products?
Benson: The interactive toy category is one of the fastest developing areas in the pet industry. Consumers are realizing that many of their pets’ problem behaviors arise out of boredom. Keeping your pet stimulated by providing him with challenging activities that promote both physical and mental activity can reduce and even prevent these problem behaviors. Manufacturers are rising to this challenge by inventing an array of products that focus on keeping pets happy in the home.
PB: What are the latest trends in the interactive toy category? How can retailers leverage these trends to boost sales?
Benson: Pet owners have an obligation to provide their pets with not only a safe and secure place to live, but also an outlet for physical and mental activity. As the training and behavior community continues to push the boundaries of our pet’s intellect, the development of the mental-stimulation and interactive toy category has followed the same path. Products developed around the science of how dogs learn are driving manufacturers to create products that will easily entice dogs to play and continue to challenge their intellect as they grow with the products.
In this category, retailers should provide a complementary line of products with durable materials, high shelf appeal and brand recognition. Many of the successful toys integrate special treats that allow for additional and more repeatable sales opportunities. Once the initial toy or toys are brought home the replacement treats will bring the consumer back into the store for follow-up purchases.
PB: What makes Starmark a good vendor partner for pet specialty retailers?
Benson: Starmark is unique in the way that our staff of training and behavior specialists develops all our product concepts. Our background working with thousands of people and their pets, as well as our international school for professional dog trainers, gives us direct insight into not only the needs of pets, but also direct feedback from the pet owners and students. We also offer free online training and behavior-solution [information], and guides and videos to help people solve the common issues that affect the lives of their pets all over.
PB: What is the latest from Starmark? Are you working on new product introductions for upcoming year?
Benson: Starmark recently released the new Dog Zone Professional Training Bed. The elevated design of the bed helps teach dogs to remain in a boundary where they can relax, chew on mental-stimulation toys, or nap. This exercise is useful when company comes over, or it can even be paired with the sound of a doorbell to teach the dog to go to their “zone” when the doorbell rings instead of charging and barking at the door. The Dog Zone is made from a one-inch hardened steel-tube frame with ballistic-nylon fabric, and is easily assembled and disassembled without the need for tools. It comes packaged with a training DVD and our Deluxe Pro-Training Clicker to make training easy and fun for both you and your dog.
We also have several new toys in the mental-stimulation line for 2013 and beyond that incorporate our patented treat system. These toys are also designed to replace a food bowl when used with kibble, turning mealtime into playtime.