Thanks to a 9-year-old Oscar nominee, puppy-shaped purses are all the rage--and the company that makes them is scrambling to keep up.
The Oscars can be like gold to the apparel industry: Get a celebrity to wear your brand on the red carpet and sales for the next year take care of themselves.
Last Sunday, a pint-sized star thrust a puppy-shaped purse--and the company that makes them--into the spotlight.
Nine-year-old actress Quvenzhane Wallis, who was nominated for best actress for her role in Beasts of the Southern Wild showed up to the awards ceremony slinging a fluffy tote made by Poochie & Co. She's been quoted as saying the dog purses are her "signature look" and she's brought one with her to most of her press appearances in the run-up to the awards show.
And just like that, business at Poochie & Co.--a division of the family owned and New York-based Cuddlie Accessories--has gone through the roof. Puppy purses are currently sold out until May.
Though she declined to divulge current sales numbers, division president Leslie Palmer said the company has experienced a double-digit increase in growth since this time last year. One highlight for Palmer came the day after the Oscars, when Poochie & Co. received more than 4,000 page views to its newly established website.
Poochie & Co. was branded as its own entity within Cuddlie Accessories in 2011 and had been selling dog purses for five or six years prior. But lately, Palmer says, business has gotten hectic. Poochie & Co has received numerous international requests for bags, and the division’s small staff of about 20 people has been working until 8 o’clock every night.
What’s more, she says, the Chinese factories that Poochie & Co. relies on for its manufacturing shut down in the weeks leading up to Oscar night to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
“We kind of sold out two weeks ago,” she says.
Normally, Palmer explains, the retailer orders enough purses in advance that the factory closures do not present a problem. This year, however, no one was expecting the demand one child actress would create.
The brand recognition that Wallis has created for Poochie & Co has been invaluable, says Palmer.
What's next for the accessories company?
“I didn’t check my crystal ball,” she warns, but Poochie & Co.’s future may hold a further expansion of existing products, like matching fashion for girls and--gulp--cat purses, plus the incorporation of new breeds to their dog line.
FRANCESCA FENZI reports on entrepreneurship, technology and small business news from San Francisco. Her work has previously appeared in TIME, USA Today, Pop City and The Northside Chronicle. @FrancescaFenzi