Changes in the retail sector are pushing more plastics processors into the pet and hobbies markets.
Companies interviewed at the National Hardware Show, held Aug. 10-12 in Chicago, made it clear that they see great potential in products like dog houses.
According to Jay Johnson, director of sales and marketing with Iris USA Inc., his firm is making a concerted effort to serve the hobbies sector. The Pleasant Prairie, Wis., housewares molder is offering injection molded storage boxes for scrapbooks and even broadened its line of pet products to include soy-based cat litter and pet clothing.
It's a predictable trend in the face of retail consolidation, where big-box and larger stores continue to drive out mom-and-pop stores.
``That change in those distribution channels is big,'' Johnson said.
But not all firms are intent on targeting big-box stores.
Telcom USA Inc. President Richard Pantanella said his rotational molding firm targets independent, smaller stores.
The Lawrence, Mass., firm has begun the marketing phase for its newly released PetWorld Gallery line, which includes dog houses rotomolded in styles like Rustic Cabin or Arctic Dome, each processed from polyethylene. Telcom touts its products as inhibiting bacteria and flea growth.
``We're in the category in two ways right now,'' Pantanella said in an Aug. 22 telephone interview. ``We've produced some prototypes and we've made the investment in the molds. We have produced a very limited scale of product for distributors. I still see an opportunity for manufacturers to be doing business with the independents.
``Our positioning is to be aggressive in going after that business. With the mass merchants, there's a lot of pressure on pricing. With independents, you can actually achieve better margins because the independents are looking for unique product. Of course, consumers will pay more, but that's OK because they're getting something that's unique.''
In Telcom's case, the company is diversifying, rather than depending too much on its core business of lawn and garden products, Pantanella said.
``When you have all your eggs in one basket, it's not a good thing,'' he said. The firm's parent company, Telcom SpA of Ostuni, Italy, has been offering pet products for nearly 10 years.