Once upon a time, Fido’s humble tennis ball or Fluffy’s catnip mouse were enough to keep the pet entertained. But these days, attentive pet owners are looking for more innovative, species-friendly entertainment. While toys that stimulate cats’ natural instincts reign supreme, durability and interactivity top the list of dog toys.
“The simple toy is a thing of the past,” said Bill Parsons, account manager for PLAY (Pet Lifestyle And You), a manufacturer in San Francisco. “Pet parents understand the need for toys that include smart, healthy enrichment features.”
Value is another consideration, said Ellen Lawson, owner and president of Fluff & Tuff, a manufacturer in Troy, Mich.
“Parents of pets don’t mind spending more on a toy if they think it’s a quality product,” she said.
Adrian Archie, owner of petNmind, a pet store in Coconut Creek, Fla., Agreed, noting that durability is a sought-after feature in dog toys.
“Most of our customers are willing to pay more for something that can withstand a tough chewer,” noted Archie.
Durability is also important, Archie said.
“Because our concept is natural and holistic, we stock toys that fall into this category,” he said.
George, a chain of stores with multiple locations in California, offers several types of dog toys.
The mix includes items known for their durability, such as suede, rope, nylon and Nylabone toys, owner Bobby Wise said. More functional toys, such as throwing sticks, sports balls, and Kong bones and balls, are also on display.
“People will come in regularly to replenish their favorite toys that have been lost, damaged or stolen by other puppies, so this is a very reliable category,” Wise said.
Archie noted that the demand for puzzles and interactive toys has increased due to the pandemic.
“People needed to look after the animals while they worked from home,” he said.
The interactive toys pets love also bring joy to owners, who like to see their pets occupied in a healthy way, Parsons said.
“A great example of this is our American Classic Burger Toy,” Parsons said. “All the layers – buns, patties and vegetables – are attached to each other with a Velcro element. When separated by a puppy, it makes him feel like tearing and destroying without destroying the toys. Then, it snaps back into place easily and is ready for another round of fun.
Soft toys depicting creatures a dog might encounter in the yard, such as squirrels, rabbits, raccoons or foxes, are bestsellers for Fluff & Tuff.
“We offer several sizes for the perfect fit and have found extra-small and extra-large toys to be very popular,” Lawson said.
In the category of cats, successful toys recognize the natural behaviors of cats. Toys mimicking the prey that a cat would stalk in the wild will satisfy the instincts of hunting, chasing and catching birds, mice, lizards and other creatures, said Kate Benjamin, creator of the Hauspanther collection of Primetime Petz, a manufacturer in Rockwall, Texas.
“Acting on these behaviors is important for maintaining a cat’s mental and physical health,” Benjamin said.
She added that electronic toys that wiggle and flash are all the rage right now, but a cat can lose interest over time if they are unable to grab and hit their prey.
“Puzzle toys are another important category because they can be used to feed the cat small meals, causing them to work for the price and giving them a sense of hunting,” Benjamin said.
At George, interactive toys are sought after entertainment for cats, Wise noted.
“We have three styles of wands with creatures, and these wands, along with replacement toys of course, are generally easy to sell to new kitten parents and [for] those mature cats who have their hunting skills more refined, ”he said. “As we all know, the simplest cat toys are usually the most popular – anything that flips, wobbles, floats or flies is always a winner.”
Cat lovers also look for toys that use natural, organic or recycled materials because they can be safer and better for the environment, Benjamin said, adding that wool felt, cardboard and cork are just a few examples. .
Offer the right mix
For dog and cat toys, it is important that retailers offer an appropriate selection.
A truly great product mix starts with understanding the customer base, Parsons said.
“Are customers looking for outdoor toys because of the region they are in? Are they interested in fun and trendy concepts? ” He asked. “We always recommend a nice diversity of toy concepts, as well as a rotation throughout the year to keep customers looking. [for] the latest fun design.
Retailers can attract cat owners by providing a variety of toys that appeal to various play styles and hunting instincts, Benjamin said.
Offering products in attractive styles and colors can also help sales, she added.
“Yes, the miniature food and lifelike birds and mice are cute, but not all cat owners want their home to look like a daycare,” Benjamin said.
For dogs, Lawson recommended offering toys suitable for a range of play styles.
“Dogs need different kinds of toys for different kinds of play, such as chew, fetch, indoor or outdoor toys, and our plush toys are part of that mix,” said Lawson.
Refresh play time
Manufacturers are offering a fun variety of new dog and cat toys.
PLAY (Pet Lifestyle And You) released multiple lines in the first half of 2021.
“We have released three new lines of soft toys, including Camp Corbin, inspired by our love for a very special dog, [office dog and product tester] Corbin, as well as a love for camping and the great outdoors, ”said Bill Parsons, account manager for the San Francisco-based company.
Camp Corbin features Corbin’s favorite camping essentials in toy form, including a tent with sleeping bags inside, carob trees, campfire, lantern, and kayak.
The Tropical Paradise collection from PLAY will remind pet owners of hot, tropical days at the beach with a palm tree, canine cerveza, watermelon, pineapple and flamingo toys. The toys have features such as squeakers, a laughing stick (in the cerveza), a T-shirt string, and a fold.
PLAY’s Hollywoof Cinema collection is inspired by the love of cinema. Plush popcorn, a Hoppy Hound Brew, 3D glasses, a movie reel and a clap will keep the puppies entertained right through to the credits.
All three plush lines are machine washable and tumble dryable, and contain the company’s eco-friendly PlanetFill filler, which is made from 100% post-consumer certified recycled plastic bottles.
“We’re also expanding our Scout & About line with two new NovaRope toys,” Parsons said.
The new NovaRope Ring Toy and NovaRope Twist Toy are made from high strength braided cotton-blend rope and interwoven with the company’s durable NovaFlex material.
Cats aren’t forgotten as PLAY recently introduced eight toys to the Feline Frenzy line: Kitty Kreme Donuts, Kitten Mittens, Meowy Christmas, Chirpy Birdie, Blissful Birdie, Balls of Furry, Twice as Mice and Hooti-ful Owls. The toys are pre-filled with organic catnip. The company plans to launch two more fun shapes in larger sizes at the Las Vegas SuperZoo in August.
While Fluff & Tuff normally showcases new products centered around the industry’s two major trade shows, Global Pet Expo and SuperZoo, for 2021, the company is expanding its outlets, said Ellen Lawson, owner and president of the based company. Troy, Michigan. For its spring launches, the company added three large toys and one very small toy to its squeaker-free range.
New big toys include Bob the Zebra, Lexy Leopard, and Reece Rabbit.
“Our Walter Wabbit is one of our most popular toys, and we wanted our retailers to have the same style in a new fabric. [with Reece Rabbit], for a new look in their store, ”Lawson said.
The new extra-small toy is Anderson the Gray Fox.
“Our extra-small toys are very popular with our retailers,” Lawson said. “Their customers love the opportunity to give their little dogs a toy with the same detail as our bigger toys. Anderson is a prime example. “
Keeping the sales area fresh
Innovative and creative displays are essential to strong sales in the toy category, but continuously updating merchandise can be a challenge, said Bobby Wise, owner of George, a chain of stores with multiple locations in California.
“Freshness can be a problem because it [are] only as many new toys as our favorite companies can come up with each year, ”said Wise. “So we’re relying on cool displays and unexpected juxtapositions of toys by embracing our intuition with what will and what will not charm our Bay Area customers. “
Wise added that more whimsical toys are often featured in exhibits that focus on creativity.
“We have weird ideas in our heads, often graphically inspired,” he said.
At petNmind, a pet store in Coconut Creek, Fla., Differentiation from big box brands and the types of toys they offer is at the heart of the product line, said owner Adrian Archie.
“I also like to move the toy and prop displays around the store to keep things cool,” he said.
Changing things by moving products to another location in the store can create a new look, noted Heather Blum, co-owner of Petagogy, a retailer with two locations in the Pittsburgh area.
“It’s amazing how just by moving items to a new location customers will notice,” she said. “We also try to showcase seasonal toys, for example with Christmas or Easter displays. “
At Healthy Spot, a retailer with multiple locations in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area, the new toys line up with monthly promotional themes, such as eco-friendly toys during Paws Month. for the Planet from Healthy Spot or toys made in the USA during the fourth holiday of July.
“This allows us to offer the customer more than seasonal toys based on the typical Spring / Summer / Fall schedule,” said Dallas Dunn, Merchandising Manager. “It’s also wonderful to work with so many big toy brands that offer a wide shopping choice, because they too are committed to keeping things fresh and attractive.”
Blum noted that with the pandemic, home-working pet owners are looking for enrichment toys that will keep pets engaged.
“So that has been a high priority in our displays,” she said.