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Superb Suds Mean Happy Clients

Keeping an eye on what’s bubbling now in the shampoo and conditioner segment can equal better grooms.


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Pet owners are discerning about a lot of things when it comes to their pets—the food they eat, the toys they play with and even what they wear. What goes on their bodies is no exception, and what pet owners want are natural and/or solution-based products that solve specific problems such as odor and shedding.

“Our clients want their dogs washed with something natural without a bunch of chemicals and detergents,” said Cameron Adkins, grooming instructor at Healthy Spot, a retailer with several locations in Southern California. “Isle of Dogs, which makes a line of sulfate- and paraben-free shampoos, is currently popular.”

In an effort to focus on the health of the dog, companies are coming out with more natural, biodegradable products, many with a shorter ingredient list to help eliminate possible skin sensitivity issues, said Christina Pawlosky, national training manager for Oster Professional Products, a division of Jarden Consumer Solutions in Boca Raton, Fla.

Also, many new products are focusing on spalike qualities, using ingredients such as certified organic grape seed oil, kiwi and cucumber, said Kathie Henschen, a certified professional groomer and president of Platinum Paws in Carmel, Ind.

“Even with all these luxury products available, customers are still looking for something that will help with itching this time of year,” said Henschen.

Solution-based products are very popular, said Michelle Austin, director of marketing and purchasing at Phoenix-based Ryan’s Pet Supplies, which distributes, manufactures and imports pet products.

“We have several solution-based products in our own line that perform very well, such as Paw Brothers MatMagic Shed Control Shampoo and Conditioner Solution, which is formulated specifically to condition the skin and coat, and to reduce shedding,” Austin said. 

Many solution-based products also contain natural and/or organic ingredients.

“As a buyer in the category, I have seen an increase in products developed around a particular functional, natural ingredient,” said Matt Kovarick, purchasing agent for Ryan’s Pet Supplies.

Superb Suds Mean Happy Clients
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He cited Professional Pet Products’ PPP AromaCare Rejuvenating Argan Oil Shampoo as an example.

“While solution-based products are driven by specific consumer concerns, trends in fragrances and ingredients often follow trends in human beauty products,” Austin said. “We watch trends in the human bath and body markets, and often find the same fragrances and ingredients evident in pet products.”

Jakob Hunt, vice president of operations for McLean, Va.-based Dogtopia, agreed.

“All-natural and organic requests have increased alongside with the trends in human products,” said Hunt, adding that he sees this as a direct parallel to how pet owners are increasingly seeing their pets as family members. “If they use hypoallergenic and all-natural products on their children, they want the same for their furry kids.”

“Customers are very aware of product ingredients, so if they see that the products they use are evolving and improving, it only makes sense that they would want the same for their pets,” said Lori Haraske, director of product development at PetEdge in Beverly, Mass.

Another component to this trend is the concept of using more healthful products, said Healthy Spot’s Adkins.

“Forward-thinking companies are learning that you can make a product that’s just as good, or better, without potentially harmful chemicals,” he said. “Once you know these cleaner, healthier products are available, why would you use anything else?”

In the Know 
There are many ways for groomers to stay current on what their clientele demands in terms of healthful grooming products.

“Trade shows are my No. 1 way of finding new products,” said Platinum Paws’ Henschen. “Not only can you see what they are offering, but you also can spend time talking with the manufacturer’s representative to learn more about the product. Once we find a new product that might solve a need for us, we put it to use and see if it works.”

Dogtopia, which consists of several franchises and company-owned stores, relies on print media and networking via its own groomers.

“Our teams stay in touch with trends and innovative new products through grooming magazines as well as online grooming network groups,” Hunt said. “Dogtopia groomers also speak directly with the client prior to grooming. A client may request a new product they heard advertised but in reality it isn’t the best product to accomplish their goal. Most [groomers] also have great relationships with the schools where they were certified and hear about new techniques and products from their former teachers.”

Creative Marketing 
There are many ways that groomers can call attention to these new products.

Henschen is a firm believer in social media.

“I love Facebook for doing ‘nonmarketing,’” she said. “I say ‘nonmarketing’ because I don’t try and sell on Facebook. I might mention, ‘Did you know that Best Shot Scentament Spa is for you and your pet? You and fluffy can share shampoo!’ That will get people involved. Don’t try to push products, just have fun and the sales will follow.”

Healthy Spot uses themed promotions to bring customers in. For example, the company worked with a local hair salon for a “Mom/Dad and Me Day.” Pet owners and their dogs were able to get their hair done simultaneously, Adkins said. 

Pet owners usually will buy the same product that was used during professional grooming, Adkins added.

“The two most common reasons a client will ask what product we used are it helped their [pet’s] skin and it smelled so good,” he said.

Henschen recommends selling what is used during grooming, too.

“When I started [grooming], I heard ‘use what you sell, sell what you use,’ and I have always stuck by that motto,” she said.

Oster’s Pawlosky made a similar forecast.

“I see companies continuing to improve on quality while addressing the needs of the animal,” she said, adding that natural products will continue to be a part of the equation.

Dogtopia’s Hunt sees the trend of pet products mirroring human products going a step further.

“We are going to see more nonanimal companies creating shampoos and conditioners for our pets,” he said. “We have already seen this trend in the past couple of years, like Burt Bees and some hair salons creating pet versions of the human products.

Beyond the Basics: Incorporating Add-On Services 

Grooming salons and pet retailers have the opportunity to offer add-ons, which not only help the bottom line, but can enhance the pet’s overall grooming experience.

Add-ons are defined as anything extra beyond the normal grooming service, such as nail painting or specialized shampoos, teeth brushing, nail clipping, deshedding treatments, custom cuts and hair dyes, said Kathie Henschen, a certified professional groomer and president of Platinum Paws in Carmel, Ind. 

“We determine add-ons by doing what we call the Five Point Check,” said Cameron Adkins, grooming instructor at Healthy Spot, a retailer with several locations in Southern California. “When clients bring their dogs for their appointment, we check their eyes, ears, teeth, skin and nails. If we find fleas, we offer flea treatment. If we find dandruff, we offer oatmeal treatment. If they are shedding excessively, we offer ‘de-shedding,’ and so on.”

Seasonal items, such as holiday-scented shampoos, also have fared well, said Jakob Hunt, vice president of operations at Dogtopia, a dog day care, boarding and grooming franchise based in McLean, Va. 

“At Christmas, offering the apple spice, gingerbread cookie or pumpkin pie shampoos as an upgrade are some of the add-ons that clients are eager to pay for,” he said.

Add-ons, however, must fit the need of the dog, Adkins said.

“Most of the problem-solving add-ons are easy to sell,” Henschen said. “For example, selling a medicated shampoo to deal with a specific problem. Fun add-ons, like nail painting or feathers, can be an easy sell or an impossible sell. Usually you can read your client and get an idea if they would like something like that. The 85-year-old lady with the white Bichon probably is not going to be interested in creative coloring.”

Social media also is a good way to get a sense of which types of add-ons are most suitable to the customer. Henschen posts pictures of pets with painted nails on Facebook.

“That will get shared, and then we will get requests for painting nails on several more dogs,” she said. “Posting a picture of a dog in a mud bath will almost guarantee that you will sell a few more mud baths.”—MH

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