Not only are more people getting outdoors, their pets are too. And man's best friend deserves no less than the best outdoor gear – at least that’s the message companies selling dog products told SNEWS at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market Aug. 4-7, 2011. And retailers and consumers are buying.
There has been a steady increase in companies featuring pet products at Outdoor Retailer during the past five years, show director Kenji Haroutunian told us. This Summer Market, 48 exhibitors claimed to have pet products as part of their lineup.
“People love their pets and pets love the outdoors,” Haroutunian said. “It’s an organic fit.”
Jill Nazimek, president and "Chief Fetcher" of Katie’s Bumpers dog toys in Golden, Colo. (www.katiesbumpers.com) said she’s seen a surge in dog products at Outdoor Retailer. When she first started exhibiting six years ago, there were only a handful of companies that catered to dogs. Now, there are several in each section of the show floor – from the New Exhibitor Pavilion to the ballrooms.
Katie’s Bumpers offers toys made from recycled fire hoses and webbing from outdoor footwear brand Chaco – toys and products ready for all types of outdoor adventures, Nazimek said, who owns the company with her husband Greg.
For Fido's on-the-go owner, Katie's Bumpers showed its treat pouch (photo, right) with clip (MSRP $16.25), which can hold a cell phone, poo bags, a cup of treats and a set of keys, according to the company.
Breaking into the outdoors
A few companies, like Radio Systems Corp. and its SportDog Brand (www.sportdog.com),have been showing their gear for years at pet expos across the country, but this was their first entry into Outdoor Retailer.
SportDog offers training and nutrition products for hunting dogs, and Eleanor Marshall, a marketing specialist for the company, said the products – including the FieldTrainers 400 (MSRP $170) and 400S (MSRP $180), could be helpful in training outdoorsy dogs (photo, left).
“We just feel like (the outdoor industry) is a market that we’ve been missing,” Marshall said. “Our products fit in really well there.”
Marshall said the company would exhibit again next summer. “We had a really great show,” she said.
Ed Cebular, a sales manager for Jolly Pets in Streetsboro, Ohio said, “So many people have pets now and they treat them like kids.” Jolly Pets (www.jollypets.com) is another company attempting to break into the outdoor industry -- exhibiting at Outdoor Retailer for its second time.
“In recent years we have found a crossover between the type of stores that would attract retail,” Cebular said. “Hunting, fishing and outdoor stores are starting to cater more toward the dog industry. People are bringing their dogs fishing hunting and camping.”
Jolly Pets’ parent company is Horsemen’s Pride, which specializes in horse products. As a result, Cebular said, Jolly Pets makes dog toys for the most destructive of dogs. “Dogs can get their teeth into (a toy) and not pop it,” Cebular said.
Keepin’ pups stylish and safe
With pet products increasing on the show floor, so are the number of pets at Outdoor Retailer. Exhibitors are increasingly bringing their four-legged friends as gear models. Few attendees can resist stopping for a pat and peak at the booth. More attendees are also bringing their dogs to the show with plenty of booths to stop by from veterans like Ruff Wear (www.ruffwear.com), which celebrated 15 years at the show this summer; to newbies like Ultra Paws (www.ultrapaws.com), which premiered its dog boots at the New Exhibitor Pavilion. (See additonal pet product coverage from SNEWS at the show in O.R.D., Day 3, Page 44)
EzyDog’s owner John Hatcher said his company (www.ezydog.com) has its roots in the outdoor watersports market and offers leashes and harnesses that make the walking and handling experience more comfortable for both the handler and the dog.
“We saw a real niche need for products that weren’t mainstream that had functionality and a sporty good look to them,” Hatcher said. The company showed its the Doggy Flotation Device (MSRP $34-37) to keep dog safe during water activites (photo, right).
Chicks in Charge LLC debuted The Buddy System (www.buddysys.com), a hands-free leash (MSRP $26) solving many of the common problems when running or hiking outdoor with a dog. The leash attaches to a belt the owner wears and can swivel around the back to allow the dog to switch from the left or right side of the owner without entanglement. Quick-release buckles attraching the leash to the belt offer quick detachment and the ability to buckle the leash away when not in use.
Though dog toys, packs and boots seemed to dominate, there were edible treats, too.
Gayle Brooks, president of PeakWaggers (www.peakwaggers.com), said her company offers dehydrated food specifically for dogs that like mountain adventures.
SNEWS wasn't able to check out all 48 pet-related exhibitors, but of those we talked to all said they saw an opportunity to expand business among retailers that cater to the outdoorsy dog lover.
Exhibiting dog products at Outdoor Retailer “makes sense,” EzyDog’s Hatcher said, “Simply because of the need for good products in the outdoor industry for dogs.”
Haroutunian said the pet industry is one that stays steady even during hard times.
“In general I believe the pet industry booms regardless of recession,” he said. “That also perks the ears of retailers across the spectrum.”