Within the last decade or so, the lifestyles of pups and felines have certainly experienced an upgrade. Today’s pet owners tend to regard their furry friends as family members — a trend referred to as humanization.
The trend is driven by several factors. First, many millennials are waiting to say, “I do,” so they’re seeking companionship. Many couples are also postponing pregnancy and pets tend to satisfy their nurturing instincts. Baby boomers are another group eager to adopt since many are empty nesters.
Beyond cuddling and companionship, pets deliver health benefits to their proud parents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pets can decrease blood pressure and diminish feelings of loneliness. They also boost their owner’s activity levels and socializing (think dog parks). Many pet-loving singles are even employing pet-centric dating sites such as PetPeopleMeet.com.
In the U.S., dogs represent the biggest pet category followed by cats, fish and birds. Although Harry Barker — a luxurious, eco-friendly brand for dog and home — pointed to doodles (Goldendoodles, Labradoodles) and French Bulldogs as top dogs, rescue dogs always lead the pack. Pet company Poppa-Artzee added schnauzers to the roster of desirable breeds. Always in demand are bichons, labs, golden retrievers, Maltipoos and Cavalier King Charles spaniels.
According to the American Pet Products Association, in 2016, $66.75 billion was spent on pets in the U.S. At a time when many industries are shedding jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecast 11 percent growth in the industry from 2014 to 2024.
Pet owners are sniffing out fashion-forward apparel and accessories such as plush cashmere sweaters and chic, colorful collars from A-list designers, such as Tory Burch and Thom Browne. They’re also snapping up specialty bows, bandanas, and premium foods, which include organic and natural varieties, as well as luxe specialty shampoos and oral care products.
Beyond purchasing pet paraphernalia, love-struck pet parents are hosting birthday parties for their prized companions. They’re celebrating with specialty treats from the growing number of bakeries that are catering to canines and felines. Custom pet portraits have become an ideal way to commemorate the occasion.
A host of hotels have even checked into the pet craze including Loews and Marriott. Many cities also boast doggie day cares, as well as salons and spas. No pets, no problem! Those without critters of their own can cuddle up to some furry felines at one of the many cat cafes in cities from New York to Tokyo.
Pampered pooches are a priority at Harry Barker, which offers eco-friendly plush beds and cozy blankets, as well as stylish leashes, collars, harnesses, and bowls. The company, which incorporates earth-friendly fabrics and utilizes azo-free dyes, also offers “green” bed inserts made from 100-percent post-consumer recycled plastics.
Tantalizing treats such as Peony Peanut biscuits are on the menu at Harry Barker, which offers food storage canisters, toys and toy storage, as well as bath items. Exclusively for lucky dogs on-the-go are travel bowls, travel food storage, and totes. Top performers are the tweed bed, Chelsea collar, and cotton Tug & Toss toy. Suggested retails range from $8 to upward of $150.
Harry Barker certainly notices a difference in the way today’s pet parents differ from those of yesteryear. “Owners will search for all-natural treats and toys. They also change leashes seasonally to ensure their pups are on trend and will even buy a dog bed for every room in the house,” said Carol Perkins, founder and president of Harry Barker. They’re vigilant about where treats are made, as well as the ingredients and where they’re sourced.
There’s been an uptick in sales for Valentine’s Day, Easter, National Puppy Day and St. Patrick’s Day. When it comes to trends, personalization is at the top of many customer wish lists. The company offers monogrammed beds, collars, and toy storage bins. Stylish pet apparel is also in demand. “It’s not about practicality — apparel is becoming more about fashion and trends,” said Perkins.
Although dogs rule at gift company Mud Pie, the company also caters to cat lovers — and offers the Mud Puppy and Santa Paws collections.
Mud Pie’s collection includes luxury beds, food bowls and storage, as well as collars, leashes, and leash hangers. Toys and toy storage, and gift items such as plaques, photo frames, ornaments and fun Christmas stockings are part of the mix. Suggested retails range from $4.50 to $68.
Douglas Stein, president and CEO of Mad Style said today’s contemporary pet parents are coordinating their pooch’s accessories with home- and office-decor. They’re decking out their spaces with stylish beds, bowls, and other luxury items. He believes that pet-friendly workplaces, doggie day care, and community dog parks have only enticed pet owners to elevate their pooch’s fashion status.
Giving back and rescuing pups is a focus for Mad Style’s cause-driven Mad Dog collection. The company partnered with Chicago’s Alive Rescue — a nonprofit animal rescue. It offers pet-themed apparel and accessories, as well as fun, colorful dog toys. Twenty percent of top line sales are donated to the organization.
For the home, Poppa-Artzee offers decorative throw pillows emblazoned with pet portraits, as well as wine bottle bags and other items. Its library boasts 80 images of dogs, six images of cats, and six horse images. Suggested retails range from $12 to $45.
For those who yearn to embellish their cars, boats, or luggage, decal company Oval Envy creates fun pet-themed stickers. Nearly 100 dog designs depict silhouettes of various breeds. Other stickers highlight cats, horses, and more exotic animals such as alligators.
The doggie decals feature working breeds, companion and herding breeds, hounds, and terriers. The cat silhouettes are more playful and portray typical postures.
Best-selling dogs include Australian Cattle dogs, French Bulldogs, German Shorthaired Pointers, German Wirehaired Pointers, Labradors, and German Shepherds. For felines, it’s the Cat Paws, Cat Sit, and Meow stickers. In the equestrian category, it’s Dressage (highest expression of horse training). The moose is always king of the wild animals followed by alligators and sea otters.
James Cullen, Founder and Managing Director of Oval Envy said spending is up on gear, treats, and personalization. Overall, suggested retails range from $3.50 to $5, but prices vary on personalized or custom items. GS
Regina Molaro is a freelance writer whose work spans from luxury to fashion, art, beauty, and lifestyle. Her work has appeared in Modern Luxury, as well as Bespoke Magazine and In Season—the in-house magazines at the St. Regis New York and Mandarin Oriental. She is also a frequent contributor to Gift Shop’s sister publication, Stationery Trends.