Pet Product — News-February 2013-Comp
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Offer Cozy Canine Apparel
Audrey Pavia

Whether for rain, sleet or snow, retailers can stock shelves with plenty of coldweather options for wintry conditions.

During the winter, dog owners in cold climates tend to worry about keeping their canine companions warm and dry. In response to this concern, numerous manufacturers offer gear designed specifically for cold-weather canine comfort.

Apparel for dogs traditionally has offered both fashion and function, providing an attractive way to keep shorthaired dogs warm in cool weather. This winter’s new products in the dog-clothing category focus on more than just providing a thin barrier between a dog and the weather. They are serious about keeping dogs warm and dry.

One manufacturer producing cold-weather apparel for dogs is Hurtta & Co., a Finnish company that has distributed products in Europe for 14 years and recently introduced dog products in the United States. The company is offering several apparel items for dogs, including the Outdoor Overall.

“The Hurtta Outdoor Overall is basically a fourfull- legs rain coat,” said Kim Peschardt, director of marketing in North America for Hurtta America Corp. in Woodland Hills, Calif. “The market response has been impressive. The product clearly hit a chord.”

The coat is particularly popular with owners of longhaired dogs because winter mud can make a mess in the house after the dog has been outside, according to Peschardt. Dogs get muddy and track that mud indoors, but the Outdoor Overall keeps mud from sticking to the dog’s coat, she added.

Hurtta makes cold-weather apparel that is a favorite with customers of JoJo’s K9 Shop, a Los Angeles-based online retailer specializing in performance apparel for dogs.

“Hurtta is our No. 1 seller,” said Eden Heigel, owner. “Everything is of top quality without being over-the-top expensive. The company understands being active with your dog, so the products are fitted to keep up with and enhance a dog’s performance.”

More Designs for Warmth and Style

Dog owners have plenty to choose from when it comes to keeping their pets warm in winter. Three new designs in this category were released this past fall by Canada Pooch in Toronto.

“The North Pole Parka, the Everest Explorer Vest and the Cozy Caribou Hoodie are new styles that feature fresh colors, along with the ultimate in function, protection and style for dogs,” said Jacqueline Prehogan, president.

The North Pole Parka has a waterproof shell, fleece lining, faux-down stuffing, a size-adjustable Velcro closure and a pocket for bag and treat storage. It also has a faux-fur trimmed hood. The Everest Explorer Vest has similar features, while the Cozy Caribou Hoodie has a sweatshirt exterior, sherpa lining, a button snap to secure the hood, a Velcro closure and a pocket for storage.

In addition to traditional dog apparel, manufacturers are producing unique items designed to keep canines warm during cold winter months.

Kumfy Tailz, located in Chicago, is offering an adjustable harness that also functions as a warming vest. Apack (called the Kumfy Pax) that can be heated in the microwave is inserted into a pouch to keep the cold at bay.

“The Kumfy Koatz Thermal Pet Harness is actually more of a vest than a harness in that it covers most of the dog’s chest,” noted Gail Sanders-Luckman, partner at Kumfy Tailz. “The special pouch, which includes a layer of high-tech insulation to help maintain the temperature of the Kumfy Pax, is specifically located over the dog’s core. This is where most of the major organs are located, including the heart and most of the vasculature, and where there is the least amount of protection against extreme weather.”

The Kumfy Pax gel bag also can be placed in the freezer for use in the summertime.

A distinctive product on the market is a set of leg warmers for dogs, made by Hugs Pet Products in Montreal, Mo. The latest in the Pugz Apparel line, the Hugs Leg Warmers are made of faux suede with fleece trim.

“Dogs get snow and ice buildup on their legs when they are outside in the cold winter months,” said Scott Morice, sales manager. “Our leg warmers help prevent snow and ice from building up in their fur. Leg Warmers also provide a layer of protection from the wind.”

Paying for Quality

Pet owners in cold climates are willing to spend money on highquality items designed to keep their dogs warm, retailers reported. Top-of-the-line cold-weather gear is popular in Stacey Price’s store.

“We have long, cold winters, and our customers demand the best in gear,” said Price, co-owner of Mutt Life, a retailer in Milton, Ontario, Canada. “They want items that are functional, durable and comfortable.”

Customers want cold-weather products that are reliable at The Big Bad Woof, a specialty retailer in Takoma, Md.

“Our customers like items that are well-made and do what they say they are going to do,” said Pennye Jones-Napier, co-owner. “They know that we take great care with all of the products we bring into the store, and especially how well clothing products are made and how well they perform.”

Online retailers have reported seeing a similar trend with coldweather gear, indicating that dog owners are willing to pay a little bit extra for quality products in this category.

“The most popular coldweather gear products are those that offer quality, performance and innovation,” said Kim Kavanagh, senior buyer for In The Company of Dogs, an online and catalog retailer of pet products based in Chelmsford, Mass. “Design is very important, and most important is that the product actually is capable of performing the way it is intended to.”

The active lifestyles of today’s dogs and their owners have contributed to the growing success in the cold-weather gear for dogs category.

The best-selling product in Katja Henrikse’s online store, Euro Dog Designs, is a winter coat for dogs, owing to owners who want to be outside with their dogs despite the cold.

“Many dog owners, especially those with high-energy breeds, want to exercise their dogs no matter the weather,” reported the Lawrence, Kan., e-tailer.

Customer Education

For consumers to appreciate the benefits of cold-weather canine apparel, they need to understand how the products work. For this reason, customer education is crucial in this category.

“As with any other high-end product, the consumer has to be informed about the benefits of this product versus less-expensive garments,” said Kim Peschardt, director of marketing in North America for Hurtta America Corp. in Woodland Hills, Calif. “In the case of Hurtta’s cold-weather apparel for dogs, it’s important to explain the product to customers. Show them that the zipper does not jam, how the product is sewn with double-stitching, and that it is fitted with 3M reflectors. Let the consumer touch it and try it on their dog in the store.”

Store staff must become wellacquainted with the category.

“It’s important for retailers to educate their staff on the whys and hows of the product,” said Gail Sanders-Luckman, partner at Kumfy Tailz, producer of the Kumfy Koatz Thermal Pet Harness for dogs, in Chicago. “It also is essential for the retailer and staff to understand the importance of helping the dog regulate its body temperature in weather extremes.”