Walk on the wild side with animal-themed products
Whether it's zebra stripes and leopard print patterns, a Hello Kitty party or a flock of Angry Bird balloons, whole parties are being planned around a specific animal theme. Companies have taken note of this emerging trend and are answering the consumer call for more textures, patterns and designs that reflect the wild side of partying.
So what's the appeal of this animal magnetism?
"The reason is simple," said George White of Up With Paper. "If you show an image of a blonde-haired girl, you've immediately eliminated all boys, as well as girls with other hair colors. If you use a cute animal, on the other hand, any child, parent, friend or grandparent of that child can imagine that the child is the animal.
"So the most important advantage that animal themes provide is that compared to using images of humans, they appeal to such a broad potential customer base. In the case of cards, the key is to use appealing images that are relatable to sender and recipient."
Jungle and safari animals seem to be the most requested themes - big charismatic animals such as lions, elephants, zebras, giraffes, monkeys, crocodiles and more. Debbie Beer of Unique said that the popularity of these exotic species may be tied to increasing interest in Discovery Channel-type shows that span the Savannah of Africa to the rainforests of South America. The popularity of animal print designs extends from children's paper partyware into gift bags, giftwrap and general entertaining accessories for teens and adults.
"Children love cheerful monkeys, lions, elephants, giraffes and parrots rendered in bright, bold colors to make the party pop," Beer said. "Adults love the chance to create an exciting party celebration with jungle-themed paperware, decorations, balloons, banners and accessories, with an opportunity to teach their kids about animals across the globe."
A selection of colorful, coordinating paperware and accessories, at a variety of price points, provides the most choice for dollar-conscious consumers who want to create a memorable celebration for their little ones.
"Energized by strong sales of our Smiling Safari partyware, Unique launched a new ‘Jungle Party' ensemble in January," Beer said. "It features a broad range of paperware, decorations, foil and latex balloons, banners, accessories and more. Our safari-print bags, featuring zebra, leopard and giraffe designs, remain top sellers in our extensive gift bag collection."
Animal themes are always popular for children's parties, and several farm animal and jungle animal Microfoil Shapes and coordinating Microfoil balloons are profitable items to suggest for birthdays. Licensed animals also are hot with children, including perennial favorites such as Winnie the Pooh and newcomers like the "Penguins of Madagascar" and "Puss in Boots."
"Anything zebra-related is hot right now, and Qualatex offers several zebra-themed products to capitalize on this trend," said Lisa Bennett of Pioneer Balloon Co. "These include our classic ‘Zebra Stripes' printed latex, as well as the new ‘Birthday Funky Zebra Stripe Cake' Microfoil Shape."
Bennett added that retailers can appeal to teens and tweens with funky animal-printed latex in bright neon colors, which are perfect for a variety of everyday occasions like birthdays, bat mitzvahs and Quinceaneras.
Cats and dogs also remain perennial favorites, and Stephen Schwartz of U.S. Balloon said the Anagram AirWalker Balloon Buddies are extremely popular.
"Dogs are the most popular pet and that's carrying over to balloons, too," Schwartz said. "The new Balloon Buddies are great gifts for kids, and their new designs - like the pug - are expected to do extremely well. We're also seeing a big interest in the new Angry Birds line with tweens, teens and adults."
White added that a generic cat will sell better than a generic dog, but a breed-specific dog will be highly sought after by owners of that breed. Owls in particular have been strong for the last two years - not just with kids - and monkeys are a close second. They have also seen a sharp increase in hedgehogs and peacocks in the second half of this year.
"We will continue to include a lot of animal-themed designs in our greeting card, notepads and boxed notes lines in 2012, and are adding two new formats that will both include animal designs: Pop-Up Note Cards Portfolios and Sticky Notes Pop-Up Portfolios," White said. "The line is launching with six designs with unlimited uses, plus two Hello Kitty designs, which we think will appeal to kids and adults alike."
When it comes to showing this wild side, Bennett suggested displaying inflated animal-themed balloons in the section of your store that they apply to (jungle animal balloons next to children's/jungle-themed partyware; zebra printed balloons next to birthday or bachelorette partyware). This helps your customers visualize the entire party atmosphere.
"Create easy grab-and-go animal characters with latex balloon clusters and Microfoil ‘heads,'" she added. "They have lots of perceived value and are perfect for cash-and-carry sales."
Schwartz suggested keeping animal-themed items grouped together so that customers looking for this type of theme can see a retailer's entire selection in one area. Keep Balloon Buddies in their display pen and near your cash registers to encourage impulse buys for your younger buyers.
"Also, animal-shaped balloons can be combined with coordinating solid color designs to make bouquets that can be displayed at the entrance of the store," he added. "Lastly, animal plush toys can also be used as balloon weights for great add-ons."
So whether they're floating around in a pen or simply a design on a notepad and pen, move animals front and center to encourage shoppers to take a walk on the wild side.