Dog owners want natural grooming products that mirror their own in simplicity, ingredients and care.
With each passing year, dogs are humanized to a greater level, including in the natural grooming segment.
“Almost anything you would do at a human grooming salon or in your own bathroom to pamper yourself can now be done for your pup,” said Eric Bittman, CEO of Warren London in New City, N.Y.
And as consumers recognize ingredients in human products, they increasingly want to see those same ingredients in their pets’ products. In her
17-year career, Nancy Chinchar, owner of Downtown Doghouse, which has two locations in New York, said the biggest change in the natural grooming category is more companies listing their
ingredients on the label, which she wishes every company would do.
With natural products and ingredients increasingly becoming important for humans, industry insiders said that when presented with natural options for dogs, owners gravitate toward them. Shannon Moore, director of grooming and education for Espree Animal Products in Grapevine, Texas, reported seeing a growing shift toward natural spa treatments, and that consumers seek convenience and solutions.
“People are busier than ever before and are looking for ways to make taking care of their pets easier,” she said. “Wipes and waterless baths are in demand to help pet owners keep their pet looking its best between baths and grooming appointments.”
Elyse Horvath, founder of Natural Paws in Scottsdale, Ariz., also reported that dog owners want natural and simple options.
“If the average pet parent is given an option for an easy product to use that’s not natural, or a natural product that’s difficult or messy to use, they are only somewhat likely to make that purchase,” she said. “But if we give that same parent a product that is both natural and easy to use, they are considerably more likely to purchase that product.”
With more than three decades in the pet industry, Joe Zuccarello, director of innovation for TropiClean in Wentzville, Mo., said the greatest change is educated consumers.
“We are doing more homework looking for products that are safe and effective, and that provide education as to what ingredients are used, where they are sourced and how they will benefit our fuzzy family members,” he said.
Liz Illg, owner and CEO of Puff and Fluff Grooming and Pet Sitting, which has two locations in Phoenix, agreed.
“Customers want to be able to see the ingredients that are in the products, ingredients that they can easily read and understand,” she said, adding that her customers want at-home remedies, eco-friendly products and premium products, which they’re willing to pay for.
Steve Nicolosi, national sales manager and owner of Glo-Marr Pet Products in Lawrenceburg, Ky., reported a similar trend.
“They are willing to pay more for these products and services that command a higher price,” he said. “They want their pet to have the same ‘experience’ that they do.”
Display an Array
“Retailers should try to pull all the natural products that they carry into one area,” said David Reich, president of Bobbi Panter Pet Products in Chicago. “That will tell a story to the consumers. [And the] staff needs to understand the products. Awareness of what they have is really important.”
Steve Nicolosi, national sales manager and owner of Glo-Marr
Pet Products in Lawrenceburg, Ky., agreed, adding that “most stores have an ‘all-natural’ section, so that this is where these products need to be.”
At Puff and Fluff Grooming and Pet Sitting, which has two locations in Phoenix, natural grooming products are displayed in vintage boxes on the walls, said Liz Illg, owner and CEO.
“We have been able to sell these products, as we stand behind them,” Illg said. “These are the products being used in our storefronts.”
Elizabeth Lisella, owner of K-9 Bath & Body in Nesquehoning, Pa., also finds that while they incorporate manufacturer-provided posters and merchandise holders, it’s the employee enthusiasm about natural grooming products that sells the most.
“My employees are animal lovers and believe in any products we have here, so they push them along to our clients,” she said.
More in Store
Natural grooming products for senior dogs and scents that are popular in human products are examples of this year’s newest releases. Espree Animal Products launched a line of luxury products designed specifically to meet the needs of aging pets. Senior Care Shampoo contains botanicals, organic aloe vera, and Japanese green tea to help calm and soothe aging skin, said Shannon Moore, director of grooming and education for the Grapevine, Texas-based company.
Also popular in human products, coconut and vanilla are showing up in pet shampoo.
Espree’s Coconut Cream Shampoo is a gentle cleansing solution formulated to nourish the skin and coat, and the organic aloe vera and coconut oil provide intense hydration to help prevent coat breakage and itching from dry skin, Moore said. The Vanilla Silk Shampoo contains silk proteins and organic aloe vera to help restore and maintain optimal skin and coat, she added.
In March, Warren London released its Dog Sunscreen. Containing FDA-approved ingredients designed to protect dogs from the sun, the product includes benzophenone 4 to block the sun and aloe vera to help keep the skin moisturized, said Eric Bittman, CEO of the New City, N.Y.-based company.
To help to protect dogs’ paws from sun, hot streets, winter, ice and more, the company also launched Paw Defense Wax, which contains natural ingredients to help keep paws soft and hydrated, Bittman said.
In time for flea and tick season, TropiClean in Wentzville, Mo., launched Natural Flea and Tick Solutions, a line that blends natural essential oils that eliminate and repel fleas, ticks and other pests such as mosquitos, said Joe Zuccarello, director of innovation. The line includes two shampoos, pet spray and ‘the industry’s first After Bath Bite Relief treatment to help soothe the itch caused by biting pests,’” he added.
For those looking for a rinse-free option, Natural Paws in Scottsdale, Ariz., released Bone Dry Clean, a therapeutic, nourishing dry shampoo for dogs that need more frequent cleaning and freshening, said Elyse Horvath, founder, adding that the product prevents the dog’s skin from drying out from frequent bathing or swimming.
Later this year, Warren London plans to add an essential oil calming spray to its natural grooming lineup, and Bobbi Panter Pet Products in Chicago will be launching a hypoallergenic shampoo. Glo-Marr Pet Products also has a new line of botanical shampoos and finishing sprays in the works to replace its Natrelle line of botanicals, and the formulas will feature all-natural additives and essential oils, said Steve Nicolosi, national sales manager and owner of the Lawrenceburg, Ky.-based company.
Informed Decisions Through Learning
Though customers are savvier these days, retailers and groomers said educating owners about natural grooming products remains important. Some are uneducated and uninformed about the products available, and others are stumped by conflicting views about what is good or safe for their pet and what is not, industry insiders said.
“‘Natural’ has no actual legal definition, so manufacturers can call anything ‘all natural,’” said Nancy Chinchar, owner of Downtown Doghouse, which has two locations in New York.
She and other professionals said they take on the responsibility of educating themselves to provide the best grooming services and to pass that knowledge on to owners.
Many owners come in looking for solutions to problems, retailers and manufacturers said.
“When clients ask for a specific type of shampoo, we ask them what’s going on with the dog that causes them to make that request,” Chinchar said. “Sometimes, they’ve asked for the exact opposite of what would help, or they think it will fix a problem that no shampoo can fix. It’s a great opportunity to educate them on what will help their dog.”
Cameron Fang, manager of product development for Reliq in Dallas, agreed, adding that “customers need to know the source causing pet odor and skin issues and how and why the right shampoo can promote the health of skin to avoid skin and odor issues.”
Shannon Moore, director of grooming and education for Espree Animal Products in Grapevine, Texas, also encouraged retailers and pet salons to “educate the consumer about the benefits of the ingredients and how they offer a solution to make their pet feel better, whether it’s allergy/itch relief, dry and damaged skin and coat, or arthritis and mobility issues.”
When customers at Miss Doolittle’s in Pottsville, Pa., ask owner Missie Mattei for a service or a product to buy, she often finds herself educating clients.
“I share what I’ve learned and know about what works and doesn’t in my experience,” she said. “It’s two-fold. I want them to know why I chose that particular service or shampoo for their dog, and I think it sets me apart as not ‘just a groomer,’ but I’m actually a professional who knows what I’m talking about.”
Set Up for a Strong Finish
There are many strategies that retailers can implement to see stronger sales in the natural grooming category during the second half of the year.
“Increasing sales to finish the year strong is always important, and a big way to do that is to connect with your customers in a big way,” said Eric Bittman, CEO of Warren London in New City, N.Y. “Keeping your customers informed with social media, and letting them know that special deals and sales will be announced once a month, will keep their attention. That is also a great way to send out weekly updates on products you carry and solutions for many of the issues that dogs face.”
Elyse Horvath, founder of Natural Paws in Scottsdale, Ariz., also recommended that retailers engage with customers.
“Ask how the pets are doing, if they’re dealing with any allergies or issues that the customer might not mention without a prompt,” she said. “Whether the customer hadn’t thought to mention the need for a solution or they just didn’t realize they could find something for that particular issue, the conversation is always a great lead off to extra sales.”
To prevent soft-grooming product sales because of the season, Joe Zuccarello, director of innovation for TropiClean in Wentzville, Mo., said “natural grooming products targeted at helping pets with dry skin associated with dry winter air and home furnaces can produce a lift in sales through the colder months.”
Offering sample sizes to encourage customers to try something new also can bump up end-of-year sales. Reliq in Dallas has sample shampoo pouches available for retailers, and Cameron Fang, manager of product development, said that most customers who have purchased them have returned for a full-size bottle.
“This gives the consumer a chance to spend one or two dollars to try on a new product,” he said. “Most people have no problem buying that, and they can use it when traveling with pets, too.”