Since the start of the pandemic 3.2mn UK households, craving creature companionship, have acquired a pet, according to a survey by the Pet Food Manufacturing Association (PFMA), and this recent explosion of new furry, feathered or scaly family members was echoed when retail chain Pets at Home announced its sales of pet paraphernalia had hit a record £1bn during covid lockdowns. With a third of UK households now pet owners, pet-themed greeting cards and gift lines are hot paw-perty for publishers, and in turn retailers, believes Gale Astley, who has spent many ‘human’ years in the greetings industry. Pictured top: The lovely ‘Dog’, Paper Plane’s studio hound.
There’s big growth in From the Cat or Dog card captions, such as this gorgeous Hello Hatty Designs’ Mother’s Day dog card.
Catching up with a ‘clowder’ of card publishers, many who have seen sales growth in their pet card and gift lines during the pandemic, they reveal the inspiration, benefits, joys and distractions caused by their furry office staff.
A Get well Dachshund card from Diva Doodle Designs – available from its web or on Thortful.
Stress, loneliness and daily hour walks during covid lockdowns unleashed a pining for puppy love, kitten cuddles and mammal fur-iendships. This furry surge has increased the total of pet-owning homes in Britain to 17 million (34 million pets) and, according to a PFMA survey, it’s mainly Gen Z and Millenials who are making the defining paw-marks that’s driving the trend, with the under-35s accounting for 59% of new pet owners; a generation who are often willing to splash out heavily on their fur babies.
With dogs and cats remaining the firm favourites, this pet boom has fuelled a rise in sales of pooch and feline products. Along with training toys, leads, blankets, plush beds, cooling mats and doggy coats, gifts, treats and designer fashion, there’s even pet tech and TV subscription services that provide music and programmes to keep pets company – RelaxMyDog (nicknamed Petflix), which takes dogs who are home alone and watching TV on ‘virtual walks’ and calms them with a soothing soundtrack.
And, of course, there are canine and moggy themed greeting card designs. ‘With Love from the Dog/Cat’ card captions, reflecting traditional greetings sending occasions such as Birthday, Valentine’s, Mother’s and Father’s Day and Christmas, and general dog and cat illustrations, have always been fur-tile ground for card designers to attract human mum and dad pet owners, but currently there’s real pet-ential growth for card designs and gift product sales.
“As more people have got a ‘lockdown puppy’ we’ve definitely seen a surge in demand for both our Designed By Dog cards and our Dog Shampoo bar, a natural, vegan solid shampoo bar formulated especially for dogs. The natural health and beauty market for humans is booming and pet owners want the same level of care for their animals,” says Jack Thorpe, co-founder of Paper Plane Design.
Inspiration and muse, the publisher’s pooch is called Dog. “Yes, we are incredibly creative people and our dog is called Dog. He’s a Cavalier Bichon cross and comes to work with us every day. He has a bed at the studio that moves from one room to another, depending on how he’s feeling. He generally likes to be with us, so if we’re having a design/admin day he’ll be in our office but if it’s peak time with lots of packing to do, he’ll be in our packing room, trying to dodge falling boxes. He tends to sleep all day, because he’s old (this is also my excuse) but he did inspire our range of Designed By Dog cards, which are written in his paw-writing from a dog’s point of view,” reveals Jack.
A glossy coat full of vitality – Paper Plane’s natural vegan dog shampoo bar.
Cinnamon Aitch’s ‘Margo’ range was launched in May 2020 and heavily features contemporary illustrations of cats, dogs (and the odd chameleon) set largely in the home. “The timing was puurr-fect (sorry!) for the months of lockdown, as more people spent increasing time at home and our affection for our pets became more significant than ever before,” explains Sara Burford, the publisher’s co-director.
The success of the range, which is popping with colour and pattern, has seen many additions, and has also spilled into seasonal ranges alongside eco soap packaging, lip balms and notebooks, proving to be one of the bestselling ranges in the Cinnamon Aitch collection.
“Having spent the last year working mostly from home, Gypsy the cat, who resides alongside us mere mortals, has provided much inspiration. Having grown up with two Labradors and knowing their boundless affection and loyalty, to now have a cat could not be further from the dog experience. Her disdain, intolerance and generally fickle and grumpy nature is a source of great amusement and humour. She frequently sits on the laptop or any designing that may be available to position her bottom upon!
Above:Cinnamon Aitch kitty, Gypsy and Fickle feline Gypsy features on Cinnamon Aitch’s Margo range.
Her individual personality and character has enabled us to tap into the ongoing trend for raising a smile through these challenging months, a subject very close to many of our hearts and with which so many of us can resonate,” says Sara.
Little Dog Laughed are very lucky to have had a long loyal following for its dog cards and gifts, but in the Autumn of 2019 it launched its luxury dog collars and leads, adding walking pouches and travel bowls along with designer dog tags in the Spring of 2020. “Then everything shut down,” states Gavin Smith, company MD, adding, “However, halfway through the first lockdown our B to C website sales started to really increase, and noticeably the small collar sizes (puppies). And, now retail has re-opened, a good number of our customers have also bought our other products.”
Sales of Little Dog Laughed puppy size collars and leads increased noticeably over the first lockdown.
“Oh yes, there’s definitely been an increase in popularity of our cat and dog cards! The Cats in Hats range and the Doggy Dress Up cards and prints are always favourites throughout the year, but with so many people bringing companion animals into their homes it does seem to have had a positive effect on sales of our giftware, prints, giftwrap and cards featuring our favourite furry friends,” shares Jo Clark of Jo Clark Design.
But Jo explains it’s not been easy as her ‘boss’ Daisy, her kitty cat employer, has had to get used to having her around the home studio a bit more. “Since lockdown Daisy may be a little annoyed that I’m in her space a bit more these days. She runs the studio and has the last say on the card designs, sometimes I sneak through any designs under her radar that don’t feature her pretty face, as not to upset little Miss Daisy!
As her personal cook, I have notice meal times have gotten more frequent, and attention is demanded sporadically, but then she’s horrified when she doesn’t get her own ‘meow’ time! It’s difficult to please the boss sometimes but I’ve been struggling through to keep up with demands of the top cat!”
Below: Daisy features in Jo Clark Design’s cards, giftware and prints and Pooch muse, Thomasina, inspires Jo Scott’s artwork as well as keeps her on her toes.
And it’s not just demanding felines that are keeping the humans in check. “If there’s a wet nose nudging my leg, I’ve been sat down for too long and it’s time to go for a walk,” says Jo Scott, founder of Jo Scott Art. “This is a typical day at work with my dog Thomasina. Now 8 years-old, she’s inspired an award-winning range of cards and features heavily in my work,” say Jo, adding, “I only design cards with dogs on but the overall increase in sales has been incredible for my business, I’d say the sale of dog cards are definitely on the up!”
Some publishers acquired a new furry addition to the family during lockdown causing greeting card inspirational but also sometimes a welcome furry distraction. “I was absolutely one of the many people who got a lockdown pet for company – I got a German Shepherd called George and it has been like raising a 35kg baby but without any maternity leave! He’s 15 months-old now though and he’s such relaxing company in the studio. Mostly he sleeps and eats the soil out of my studio plant,” says card publisher, Louise Mulgrew.
At the moment George doesn’t appear in Louise’s designs but her lovely moggy was ‘pawfect’ for card illustrations: “Although I have a dog, I’m definitely a crazy cat lady at heart, and my old ginger cat definitely makes a few appearances in my card designs.”
Louise Mulgrew still paints animals of the exotic variety, but her old ginger cat features in her collection.