Award presentation: Roland Primus (left) and Mark Zimmermann (right) with PET worldwide managing editor Ralf Majer-Abele. 
Award presentation: Roland Primus (left) and Mark Zimmermann (right) with PET worldwide managing editor Ralf Majer-Abele. 


A keen eye for detail

This year, the international pet retail trade recognised the Swiss company Curli as winner of the PET worldwide Product of the Year for the second time in a row. Its success has not come about by chance.

After readers of the international trade magazine voted for the Vest Harness curli Clasp innovation as Product of the Year 2021/2022, Curli snared the coveted award once again this year with the Apple Leather curli Clasp. The product was first exhibited at the preceding Interzoo show.

Curli was established in 2010. In just a few years it has become a leading European manufacturer of premium dog harnesses and accessories. Founder Mark Zimmermann and his partner Roland Primus are the brains behind the business: Zimmermann is responsible for product design and Curli’s business operations while Primus handles the strategy and processes. Both have extensive experience of outdoor and winter sports. This experience, combined with a love of snowboarding and mountain pursuits, brought the two men together in 1993. Inspired by Zimmerman’s dog Kylie, they identified a gap in the market for high-quality canine products that also performed under the harshest test conditions. Primus says: “We know a lot about fitness and motion dynamics, and this benefits us at Curli. It is also an area that we really enjoy working in.”

Canine wellbeing is at thecore of everything we do.
Mark Zimmermann, Founder, Curli

“Canine wellbeing is at the core of everything we do,” is Curli’s guiding principle. This is why the company devotes a lot of time to every minor detail, such as reflective seams or padded buckles to reduce pressure. Curli believes it is extremely important for a harness to fit well. This is not only because it is more comfortable for the dog if the harness slips and chafes less, but also because it plays a key role in enabling the owner to control their pet and communicate with it. “Anyone who engages in mountain pursuits or hillwalking must be able to rely 100 per cent on the products they carry with them,” says Primus. He emphasises that a harness should not be heavier than 2 per cent of the dog’s body weight – but many of those on the market weigh twice, three times or four times as much.

Lean structures

As well as keen quality awareness and a love of detail, lean organisational structures are a characteristic of the Swiss firm. It employs just nine staff but also works with several external partners. Counting all the people working for Curli would bring the tally to over 70. Product ideas and the design of the products are generated in Switzerland, as are the prototypes. Production and packaging take place in China, where Curli has had a close working relationship for many years with three different production plants. Two of these work exclusively for the Swiss company.

The products are designed in Switzerland and manufactured in China.
Responsibility for packing the products lies with the Chinese production plants.

Global presence

Curli has a global presence, currently delivering to 43 countries, including a garden chain in Australia that was added to the client list in 2022. The principal country markets, accounting for approx. 60 per cent of sales, are the German-speaking region and the USA, where Curli is currently experiencing double-digit sales growth. The company also has high hopes for the UK market and perceives some growth potential here for the future. With this in mind, the Swiss firm had its own stand at the PATS Sandown trade show in England in March. Further activities are also in the pipeline.

With the exception of the USA market, Curli uses a central warehouse in Voerde close to Münster in Germany to handle the logistics for its global business. The company has 1 460 pallet spaces available there. Its hub for the American market is located in Whitestown, north of Indianapolis, along with warehouse space at the disposal of some of the distributors in the USA. 

Curli’s established principle of retaining six months’ warehouse storage worked to the company’s advantage during the pandemic, when it was able to supply its business partners continuously with merchandise, unlike some of its competitors. Apart from in the USA, Primus currently feels that consumer sentiment globally is cooling off. Another problem he is seeing is that many large retail chains and wholesalers still have full warehouses in the wake of the pandemic, which is causing restraint with regard to placing new orders.

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