Tips for Starting a Pet Apparel Design Business

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According to the American Pet Product Manufacturers Association, pet product sales are responsible for pulling in more than 50 billion dollars in revenue each year. By following a few steps, you can become a part of this booming industry by starting your own pet apparel design business.

Gain Experience

The aspiring pet apparel designer should be familiar with sketching designs, measuring and cutting patterns, selecting appropriate types and quantities of fabrics, using a sewing machine, and hand stitching or other finishing work. If you do not have substantial experience with sewing, you should either team up with an experienced seamstress or take classes to learn the fundamentals.

Prior experience in an animal-related field is a plus when starting a pet apparel line. And, retail or marketing experience, especially in a position related to pet product sales, will come in handy in order to sell your product to outlets such as pet boutiques and pet supply stores.

Business Considerations

As with any new business, you must consider the advantages and disadvantages of establishing your business as a sole proprietorship, limited liability company, or another type of entity. It is best to consult with your attorney or accountant to determine what type of business is appropriate for your specific situation.

Product Design

Items of pet clothing may include coats, sweaters, rain jackets, hoodies, wedding apparel, dresses, denim items, T-shirts, bow-ties, ribbons, pajamas, and Halloween costumes. Designers frequently detail each piece by hand and use high-quality fabrics to ensure a superior product.

Some designers offer high fashion couture lines that look like they just walked off the runway, or accept custom orders for specialty items, including monogramming. Another design possibility is creating high-quality or custom-made pet carriers that owners use to transport their small dogs.

Advertising

It is important to come up with a unique name and logo for your pet apparel business. It should be something catchy that people will remember. The name and logo of the business should be featured prominently on all advertising, product tags, clothing labels, and websites. 

It is important to emphasize the unique, high-quality nature of the pet clothing products you design. Consumers are willing to pay more for top-quality items for their pets (as evidenced by the booming gourmet pet food and pet toy industries) provided they see a value attached.

When taking photos of your pet apparel product line, be sure to take photos of both live models and on dog mannequins. Also be sure to feature items for a variety of large and small dogs, unless, for instance, you choose to limit your business to only one kind of breed, such as toy breeds.

Marketing

Pet apparel can be sold through a designer’s website or a brick-and-mortar location. If a designer doesn't want their own shop, it is possible to find a space for items in locations such as general interest gift shops.

Other ways to promote your pet apparel line are magazine or newspaper ads, local TV spots, and direct mail email campaigns. Events like dog shows and pet industry expos are also excellent places to set up a booth to show off your product line to consumers and industry professionals.

Pricing

Pricing decisions should be made by taking into consideration the cost of materials and labor, as well as evaluating the prices set by your competition. It is smart to shop around your area as well as online to see what other designers are charging for similar items of equal quality. 

Business Outlook

The American Pet Products Manufacturers’ Association (APPMA) estimates that there are approximately 78.2 million dogs and 86.4 million cats kept as pets, and that number is expected to increase steadily each year. Additionally, owner spending on pets shows no sign of abating. 

The American Pet Products Association reports that Americans spend $62.75 billion annually on their furry friends—and each year the numbers go up.

With the increasing numbers of animals kept as pets and the growing popularity of pet clothing and accessories, the pet apparel industry should continue to show steadily increasing sales.