Wide Awake Sales
by Pamela Mills-Senn
August 1, 2013
As owners seek to give their dogs the best possible sleep experience, dog bedding manufacturers are responding with products even humans would covet.



It is hard to imagine there was a time when most dogs were left to bunk down on an old blanket tossed wherever—cold garage floor, the backyard, in the laundry room or other such less-than-cushy digs. That is certainly not the case now, rendering this the canine equivalent of walking five miles through sleet to get to school. For as dogs have evolved to become a treasured part of the family, thoughts about the kind of beds our furry companions deserve have undergone a similar evolution. Quite simply, dog beds have progressed so far as to make humans jealous of the cozy comfort they provide.

Although bed sales vary by the season, slowing down during the hot months and picking up when the weather cools and holidays roll around, summer provides the perfect opportunity for pet specialty retailers to ready their inventory for the action to come. All the same, some pet bed manufacturers are attempting to combat the summer slow-down with new bedding items.

BuddyRest Pet Products is one of them. Located in Wichita, Kan., the company specializes in providing sleep science for pets, says Trevor Crotts, CEO. “I have spoken with many retailers regarding this,” says Crotts, about the summer sales declines. “People tend to attribute it to different things: pets spending less time indoors, consumer spending diverted to travel and outdoor activities, and so on.”

In response, says Crotts, BuddyRest has launched a line of outdoor beds that provide the same orthopedic benefits as its indoor ones, as well as a line of gel-infused beds designed to keep pets comfortable in any temperature.

An aging pet population experiencing all the aches and pains that go along with growing older may also keep bed sales humming year round, especially as pet owners get up there in years themselves.

“As consumers become more aware of their own aging and preserving their health, they’re also concerned with the health and wellbeing of their dogs,” explains Judi Alexander, marketing director for MindsInSync Inc. The New York-based company’s brand, Buddy & Friends, offers a dog bed and mat collection.

“Thanks to things like healthier dog food and pet insurance making veterinary care more affordable, our dogs are living longer,” Alexander says. “Pet aging is something retailers can look at to meet a need their consumers may not have already considered.”


Influential Trends
Pet owners are not only gravitating toward one type of bed, they are looking for a bed that will meet their pet’s individual needs. Owners also want beds that will meet their particular sensibilities. For example, as people become more environmentally and socially aware, their purchasing choices are increasingly guided by these concerns.

Pet bed manufacturers are taking notice. Consider Forever Home Pet, a pet bedding manufacturer located in Minnetonka, Minn. Karin Helmey, president and cofounder of the company, says research indicates that consumers are growing ever more interested in purchasing products that give back. According to one study Helmey references, 47 percent of consumers purchase a brand supporting a cause at least monthly.

“In recent years, there has been an apparent interest among consumers for ‘gifts that give back’,” says Helmey. “Retailers can take advantage of this consumer trend by stocking a mix of products from a variety of categories that give back, and merchandising them together in a special ‘Gifts that Give Back’ holiday display.” Her company donates two dollars for every product purchased to support pet rescue organizations.

Then there’s P.L.A.Y (Pet Lifestyle And You,) a pet bed and toy manufacturer headquartered in San Francisco. The company launched in 2010, says Deborah Feng, co-founder and director of operations.

“Despite being a young company, we have over 30,000 Facebook fans and a strong following on our social initiatives like the Warm Bellies program and our contribution to the International Fund for Animal Welfare,” she says.

And with its PlanetFill, a filler material made from 100-percent recycled post-consumer plastic bottles, P.L.A.Y. also seeks to appeal to green-conscious consumers. 

  For Your Dogs Only uses recycled material made from plastic bottles in the bolsters that accompany its Bagel Beds, says Dina Calloway, owner of the Berkeley, Calif.-based dog bed manufacturing company. Molly Mutt, also located in Berkeley, has devised a bed product that helps keep used textiles out of landfills, says Art Simon, co-founder and co-owner of the company, which designs, prints and manufactures duvet covers, among other items.

The pet-bed-as-furniture is another noteworthy trend, says Katherine Wozniak, founder and president of Katherine Elizabeth Pet Designs, located in Barrington, Ill. Wozniak, who also has an interior design firm, says she started designing dog beds as a way to complete the look of the homes she designed. Later, when her own dog developed a disc disease, she began research to develop a dog bed that would not only complement a variety of home décors, but would also contribute to good health.

Enchanted Home Pet in Clifton, N.J., offers another example of this trend. The company does home décor and accent furniture for humans and pets (under an umbrella company), says Nancy Kopilnick, director of business development. In business for 30 years, the company began offering pet sofas and other accessories to pet specialty retailers four years ago.

“We were challenged by some of our furniture retail partners to make trophy beds for dogs,” says Kopilnick, explaining that this is the terminology used by furniture retailers. “The trophy bed category is really on the upswing. People want something that reflects their design aesthetic and will integrate the dog into the home at that same level.”

And the same trends popping up in furniture are appearing in dog beds, says Calloway. “People are looking for soft-to-the-hand fabrics, and this is carrying over to dog beds,” she says. “People are looking at dog beds as home décor. They’re looking for quality, texture, and they’re willing to pay for it.”


Awakening Sales
Manufacturers comment that more pet owners have become quality conscious rather than price focused, seeking well-made, durable and attractive products, even if these do come with higher price points. Still, beds can be a challenging category to compete in, thanks to the preponderance of inexpensive, low-quality products on the market, says Feng.

“To differentiate themselves from discount stores, retailers may need to take a step back and understand what type of beds their customers will be excited about from perspectives such as design, craftsmanship, practicality, social responsibility and environmental friendliness,” she advises.

This understanding is just the first step. Transmitting the message to customers and engaging them is essential to sales increases, says Crotts. “It’s important to contact the customer, determine their needs and recommend solutions,” he explains. “This is especially important at independent stores where people are coming in expecting a greater interaction and more informative salespeople.”

What kinds of questions are helpful to pose? In addition to determining the size and weight of the dog, staff should ask:

 

      • What are the dog’s sleeping preferences? Calloway suggests asking: “If the customer has a hardwood floor, is
         the dog on the floor or on a rug? Does the dog like to sleep on tile? Some dogs run hot and they like a cool floor,
         while some dogs like to snuggle under the covers.” Also inquire if the dog likes to sleep with its head on a
         pillow, she adds.

      • How does the dog sleep? Some like to curl up; some like to stretch out, says Crotts. Also ask if the dog has any
         physical problems or ailments the owner is hoping to address, he adds.

      • Is incontinence an issue? Or, is the bed for a puppy still being housebroken?

      • Where is  the dog currently sleeping, and is the owner looking to change this?

      • Does the dog chew? If so, says Feng, a fabric bed might not be suitable.

      • How often do they wash their current bed and how much time do they want to invest in washing?

 

      • Are they looking for a bed to complement their home décor or is this not important? Related to this is where the
        bed will be located; indoors or outdoors? If outdoors, certain features, such as water-resistance will be
        important.

With so many variables at play, it is important to carry a selection of beds providing solutions for a variety of needs. Still, many retailers are challenged by a lack of space to merchandise these items. One strategy, says Crotts, is to display smaller beds in the store, keeping larger ones of the same model in the back, and Calloway says stacking beds displays them well while saving space.

Manufacturers are also helping by offering merchandising solutions. For example, P.L.A.Y has created a display that allows the beds to be slanted vertically, and Molly Mutt offers a freestanding unit allowing retailers to display up to 18 of its duvet covers and stuff sack in a small footprint.

Enchanted Home Pet has a program in which retailers can purchase one or two pieces for their stores, and provides retailers with a catalog their customers can order from, enabling retailers to offer a full assortment, says Kopilnick. The company can then drop-ship the order to the customer or to the store, she says, adding that most retailers prefer to have customers come in to pick up the beds.

Katherine Elizabeth Pet Designs also drop-ships to stores or customers. The company recommends having a sample bed on the floor for customers to see and touch and for the pets to test out, says Wozniak, adding that the company provides stores with fabric swatches. She advises having an “easy cheat sheet” next to each pet bed listing key features and selling points.

Manufacturers also assist sales via informational signage, lifestyle photos, demonstration videos, and by participating in store events and drumming up consumer awareness through social media. But nothing trumps having an educated and enthusiastic staff when it comes to moving these products out the door. Commitment and training are important if retailers are going to take maximum advantage of the sales opportunities bedding products offer, says Feng.

 

 

BEDS TO BEHOLD
BuddyRest Pet Products (buddyrest.com): The company’s memory foam dog beds promote healthier joints and muscles and straight spinal alignment. The beds are guaranteed not to flatten out or leave body imprints for 10 years. All machine-washable beds are covered with Crypton, a stay-clean, water-proof fabric. The new gel-infused, True Cool memory foam beds keep pets at a comfortable temperature in all climates. The Blissful Breeze gel beds is designed to relieve pressure points, helping alleviate arthritic pain.


Dog Gone Smart Pet Products (dgspetproducts.com): Among other items, this company, headquartered in Norwalk, Conn., offers the Dog Gone Smart Lounger Bed, featuring Repelz-IT Nanotechnology, which resists dirt, stains, bacteria and pet odors. The machine-washable beds are constructed from heavy-weight cotton canvas, and feature a soft inner pillow. The beds are filled with hypoallergenic, soft hollow-core slick fiber fill to prevent lumping and flattening. The zipper pull/opening is located on the u nderside of the bed to prevent chewing at the zipper. The beds are available in five sizes and colors.


Enchanted Home Pet (ehpet.net): A new addition to the company’s line of wood frame dog beds is the Ultra Plush Collection, incorporating the SNOOzZzONE pet comfort system. The upholstered cushion, made from ultra-plush microfiber with high-loft foam, opens up, allowing for the insertion of interchangeable, specialized layers, including self-warming, cool-gel and support. There is also an optional water-resistant liner for the inner cushion. Covers are available to match any décor style. The company usually offers around 50 different styles in a range of sizes.


Forever Home Pet (foreverhomepet.com): The company offers a line of cozy, stylish pet beds in small and large. The beds, which accommodate a variety of breeds, feature a black-and-white houndstooth print on the exterior and a plush white interior. Beds are designed to complement a variety of modern home décors, and come with a matching plush blanket. Blankets are also sold separately. The company donates $2 to pet rescue organizations for every product purchased.


For Your Dogs Only (foryourdogsonly.com): The Bagel Bed comes in six sizes (XXS-XL), three fabric tiers (Standard, Premium, Premium Plus) and three center-cushion filling options. Center-cushion options include Standard (soft, fluffy, virgin polyester); Ortho (egg crate foam, sets lower in the bed); and Ortho Delux (egg crate foam with polyester resin, sits higher in the bed). The company also offers rectangle and round beds. Bagel Beds include bolsters, filled with recycled materials made from recycled plastic bottles. They are available in a variety of colors.


Katherine Elizabeth Pet Designs (dreameasepetbeds.com): The Dreamease Pet Bed has an oval bolster that attaches to the mattress; an optional wood ottoman frame is also available. The ergonomically shaped bolster is filled with human-quality memory foam; the mattress has a solid piece of memory foam. Cushion and bolster snap together and may be used separately. The bed comes in three sizes and in cotton/faux leather, all faux leather or all suede. It comes in a variety of colors/patterns. The faux leather is water-resistant; all cases are removable and machine washable. The frame fits all of the bed sets.


MindsInSync (buddy-and-friends.com): The Memory Foam Contour Lounger from the company’s Buddy & Friends brand combines memory foam with bolstered support on both sides, enabling dogs to rest heads and paws. The microfiber cover is removable and washable. The skid-resistant bed is available in three sizes to accommodate any breed of dog.


Molly Mutt (mollymutt.com): The 100-percent cotton designer duvet covers are fully zippered and gusseted. Users fill the company’s nylon “stuff sacks” with old clothes, linens and other used fabrics, and insert the filled sack into the cover. The durable, washable covers and sacks are available in five sizes—small to huge—and in rectangular and round shapes. A petite round is also available. Add-on sales include water-resistant liners and bolsters. About 20 original fabrics/patterns are offered at a time; changing two to three times annually.


Petmate (petmate.com): The Aspen Pet Self-Warming Bed, constructed from plush faux lambswool and corduroy fabrics, is lined with a layer of material that generates warmth by reflecting the pet’s own body heat—no plug-in heat source is required. The bed is available in three sizes. Also from Petmate is the Fashion Bedding line, featuring coordinating striped and solid Jacquard fabrics, reflecting the look and appeal of current home décor. The beds are available in four styles and sizes.


P.L.A.Y. Pet Lifestyle And You (petplay.com): The company’s bolster-style lounge bed offers a range of designs, along with elevated sides and supportive inner cushions. Each 100-percent washable and dryable hand-sewn bed uses upholstery-grade fabrics and even-basting double stitching. Piping is made from solid cotton rope. Inner and exterior cushions come with their own zip lining, allowing the option to wash the covers only or the entire bed. The bed is filled with PlanetFill, made from 100 percent recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. It is available in 15 styles and four sizes—S to XL.