Pet Insight 2023 Category Catalysts: Life Jackets, Baydog November 13, 2023

Pet Insight 2023 Category Catalysts: Life Jackets, Baydog

The pet life jackets category is gaining traction and striking a chord with pet owners who demand peace of mind while taking their dogs swimming or boating. The type of pet owner who considers their pets’ aquatic safety is the same person who values quality materials and fabrics that increase a pet’s overall safety over digging through a pet retailer’s sale bin. This is an exceptional group of pet parents that are aware and will go to lengths to take preventative measures to keep their pets safe, and manufacturers like Baydog are happy to serve such careful and protective pet owners.

 “While we don’t change our models every year, 2024 will be the fourth season since we introduced the Monterey Bay Lifejacket, and we think it’s time for an update,” said Baydog Founder and CEO Barton O’Brien. “Based on several years of feedback and after tens of thousands of life jackets sold, we decided to make three basic changes: we upgraded the buckles on the front to make it easier to adjust; we changed the strap constraints from Velcro to elastic; and we made a few cosmetic changes that enhance the product’s appearance. We believe our life jackets are the best dog life jackets on the market, so we’re not reinventing the wheel –if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But we believe we’ve made three small improvements that make it even better, and we’re not raising the price.”

Within the life jackets category, consumers are trending towards quality materials and reassurance their pet will be safe.

“From what I’ve seen, consumers are trending toward quality, even if it means paying more, and sometimes, substantially more,” O’Brien said. “Consumers recognize that life jackets are safety products, and if you care enough about your dog to buy one, you care enough to buy a good one. We pride ourselves on offering a product that is superior in quality but doesn’t break the bank, but we find that our main competition comes from well-known brands that charge as much as 50 to 60 percent more!”

An uncompromising willingness to listen to customers is one of the key components in Baydog’s ability to reliably offer a solution-based product, particularly one which retail partners can get behind, advocate for and effectively teach pet owners about.

“Two years ago a store owner called me to complain about an issue he had with a Baydog Lifejacket,” O’Brien said. “Turns out, there was nothing wrong with it; he just didn’t properly secure it when he fitted it to his dog. We realized that if he didn’t understand how to secure it – someone with 25 years in the pet industry – that  the problem wasn’t with him, it was with us. We needed to do a better job explaining how to fit and secure our life jackets. So we added a QR code to the lifejacket tag which takes you to a how-to video. The Baydog Lifejacket is a better product as a result, and we’re a better company.”

Baydog has uncovered opportunities within the sport licensing segment where the company can combine quality materials with sports teams that pet owners support.

“As far as pet specialty, I think it’s important to keep in mind that the pet industry is very mature and very crowded, so there aren’t many gaps in the market, and therefore very few opportunities,” O’Brien said. “However, we found one such opportunity in sports licensing, specifically for college teams. And to be honest, we sort of just fell into it. My neighbor is the buyer for the Naval Academy bookstore, and she asked me if Baydog could make something for Navy as pet is a growing category, but she was dissatisfied with what was available for her in the market. As an Academy grad myself, of course my answer was ‘Yes!’ It was then that we realized that there are no name brands in the pet space making licensed anything. The products we encountered were made primarily by companies whose main business was licensing, not making quality pet gear. It made me think about apparel that I would want to buy for myself. When I buy a shirt for my team I want it to be a name brand, like Nike or Under Armour, not some generic licensing company. And that’s the opportunity for Baydog: to become the high-quality name brand that makes gear for your team. To date we make gear for 33 schools and plan to expand in the future.”

Baydog is grounded in its mission to support pet specialty retailers through being a proponent of what this channel brings to the industry. Further, the company respects how highly saturated the market is by raising its quality standards to make it easy for pet owners to support Baydog products.

“For us it’s simple: Never forget that the pet accessory category is crowded, and store owners and buyers have a lot of options,” O’Brien said. “Sure, we make really high quality gear, but so do a lot of companies. We need to continue to give stores a reason to carry Baydog, and for most that comes down to our Brick and Mortar Pledge: We don’t sell on Amazon, Chewy or any third party web platform, and we never discount Baydog online. We bend over backwards to protect the brand so our retailers can carry it without having to worry about losing sales to customers pulling out their phone and finding items cheaper online. We also guarantee our products, and ship everything within one business day. If we continue to stay focused on doing the little things right, the rest will fall into place.”

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