Although the main theme of this PIM's issue is Fashion & Bedding I aim to extend my views to the broader spectrum: accessories.

A broad spectrum indeed; the category "accessories" appears to be the reservoir for everything that is not food, pet health care and catlitter.

A reservoir one understands with difficulty; because it's not (always) animal specific, it's not purpose specific; the reservoir is a bit "everything for everybody".


And yet the category is a very attractive one from a manufacturer's and a retailer's point of view. Because of its business dynamics and its margin-potential.

Other than e.g. the food-categories, accessories are not top-of-mind for the average petowner. They partly fulfil a need like leashes and collars for dogs and cats or play on the human-animal bond like frisbees.

Accessories all seem to have in common that they do not appear on consumers'shopping-lists on a regular basis. And yet the number of accessory items on offer doesn't cease to grow; the last Interzoo was again a perfect showcase for this phenomenon.

With a few worthwile exceptions, accessories are not branded in the proper sense. Oh yes, they find their way to the consumer with a trade-mark attached to it, but in the vast majority of cases the trade-marks are nothing but "a name on a bag/pack". However, trade-marks in the accessory-category do seem to have some significance for the vis-a-vis the retailer, because the latter can identify with the manufacturing or distributing supplier of these accessories.


Does this all mean that there is no opportunity for successful consumer-oriented branding?

Quite on the contrary! I am convinced that there is, provided that meaningful and sustainable points of differentiation from the otherwise anonymous bulk of the market will be developped and exploited. And what is the business-relevance of consumer-oriented branding in the accessory-category? Although the market for pet accessories still shows very healthy growth perspectives and will probably continue to do so for some time the category will reach the stage of maturity. Typically in this stage retail will become more critical as to the ranges they carry. I have no doubt that retail will then favour those suppliers that support sales through end-buyer branding and promotion.

The stage of maturity will also lead to changes on product-level. As earlier mentioned, the offering in the category looks to grow like wildfire. Planned obsolescence doesn't seem to be part of the game. The possibilities that retailers have to absorb these "new and exciting" items will diminish; therefore the opportunity for further growing the market can also be found in an further expansion of distribution by going into channels not yet tapped into. Particularly for impules-oriented items.

All in all, the category is very much alive, has very real and highly attractive growth-perspectives and offers great opportunities for those companies that consciously seek to find the way to the end-buyer's heart and mind through branding and differentiation.

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