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October 2, 2017
On the record

Every day is bring-your-pet-to-work-day at Planet Dog

Photo / Jim Neuger
Photo / Jim Neuger
Colleen McCracken, Planet Dog's CEO and partner, with Tasker, her Yorkshire terrier, a regular at the Westbrook headquarters. Tasker is also a toy tester.

Colleen McCracken, Planet Dog's CEO and partner, runs the company and the foundation. She started in 2013 after serving as CEO of Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers in Auburn and is a proud pet parent to Tasker, a Yorkshire terrier who spent part of the interview sleeping — and gently snoring — on the table.

Every day is bring-your-pet-to-work-day at Planet Dog, a Westbrook-based maker of durable dog toys sold to independent retailers worldwide and at its retail shop in Portland. The company donates 2% of every sale to its nonprofit Planet Dog Foundation, which funds organizations that raise, train and place service dogs. It has given $1.6 million to the foundation since 2006.

Mainebiz: What's Planet Dog's wholesale-retail mix?

Colleen McCracken: About 75% to 80% of our business is wholesale, and the rest is our store on Marginal Way. Both pieces are very much part of the Maine community in general, and Portland in particular. Our founder, Alex Fisher, had the vision to not only design and develop great products, but also to dip our toe in retail. Our retail store is a great opportunity for us to not only test products but also to get direct customer feedback.

MB: Any thought to opening more stores or will you stick with one?

CM: The concentration has really been with the wholesale business, and that's because we have the biggest opportunity to build the brand. From a retail perspective, it's a lot harder to grow and get your name out there. We really are manufacturers. We love the design, developing and manufacturing process.

MB: How many products do you launch each year?

CM: We're probably developing between 10 and 12 products, or about 50 to 60 stock keeping units a year. In the past we were probably half of that.

MB: Is that because of more competition?

CM: I think it's because more pet parents have higher demands. They're looking for better and more innovative products. It's no longer OK to just give your dog a ball, they want to have the newest and the best.

MB: What's your current best-seller?

CM: The Snoop, a treat-dispensing toy in the growing interactive category.

MB: Any other industry trends you're seeing?

CM: There's a lot more movement towards smaller dogs, the reasons being that they're more portable, you can have them in cities because they can be in small apartments. It's a big movement with the millennial generation in particular. We've always seen ourselves as a large dog brand, but over the years we've really started to make sure we have a lot of products for small dogs as well.

MB: What does the Planet Dog Foundation do?

CM: We donate money as well as products to many different organizations, most recently to two pet shelters in Houston after the hurricane. We also try to raise awareness through fund-raising, like through our first Planet Dog Ball this year, which raised funds for two veteran service dog programs. It's going to be an annual event.

MB: What's next for the foundation?

CM: The mission hasn't changed, but we want to make a big difference, so instead of giving 50 organizations a small amount of money we want to be a strong partner and give more over time to certain organizations. We want to see our money make a difference.

MB: And for the company?

CM: I never worry about what we do next. It's more about which ones do we pick, because there's so much on the list. For us it's a matter of thinking about where the industry is going and where do we fit. Three weeks ago we got a call from a large hotel chain that's developing a line of boutique pet hotels around the world asking us to be their premier partner for developing all of their pet products. The world is changing as it relates to pets, and Planet Dog is well-positioned for that change.

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