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Condition-Specific Spa Pet Products Cater to Pet Owners’ Needs

Pets continue to be pampered—and owners are dropping decent dough on spa products that match their very specific demands.


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Many of the overall trends noted in the dog and cat spa products category reflect a similar focus found in spa products for humans, according to industry insiders.
 
“The pet industry is always influenced by trends in the human market,” said Dawn Leoso Duncan, vice president of Lawrenceburg, Ky.-based Glo-Marr Products, which manufactures pet grooming products, including shampoos, conditioners and colognes. “Good health is not only skin and coat, but overall happiness and pet wellness.”
 
As seen in the human personal care products space, the pet industry is introducing spa offerings that contain naturally derived ingredients and exclude parabens, sulfates and phthalates.
 
“We find many clients looking for spa products which do not contain the ‘concerning’ ingredients they hear about in their own personal care products,” said Cindy Rein, owner of Luke’s All Natural Pet Food, a pet store in Coral Springs, Fla. “We also see the desire for tear-free and gentle products for their furry family.”
 
And some pet owners are seeking products with little to no fragrance.
 
“We hear many requests for fragrance free or only lightly scented with essential oils,” said Tori Rosay, pack leader at Dexter’s Deli, which has locations in the San Diego area. “Scent or the lack thereof is a big selling point, along with no dyes or artificial perfumes.”
 
Products that help with anxiety and relieve stress while benefitting the skin and coat are also trending, Leoso Duncan said. And essential oils and cannabidiol (CBD) are showing up in these specialty products.
 
“CBD has grown wings in the last year,” said Ric Sommons, owner of Dolittle’s, which has stores in the Charleston, S.C., area. “Products are moving away from seed oils to avoid human allergens, as the proliferation of allergies has made it more important.”
 
Top sellers in spa products are easy to use, more natural, safe and specialized, according to manufacturers and retailers.
 
“Pet parents are looking for simpler, more easily understandable products and ingredients,” said Paul Armstrong, president and CEO of San Francisco-based Earthwhile Endeavors, which manufactures the Earthbath brand of pet grooming products. “They want more up-to-date ingredients that work and are naturally derived to the extent possible.”
 
Both Sommons and Rosay reported increased sales in dog grooming health aids such as paw and snout balms and healing skin balms. For cats, stores sell more wipes and foams.
 
“Most cat owners want wipes or easy brush-in/brush-out solutions,” Rein said.
 
Other popular mainstays are small, easy-to-use nail trimming tools for cats and anti-itch products that will soothe a dog’s skin, sources added.
 
“Most modern pet parents will prefer what they think is the best product for the application they are looking for that is within their price range,” said Dallas Van Kempen, president of EQyss Grooming Products, a Vista, Calif.-based manufacturer of pet shampoos, sprays and conditioners. “They will buy what they think is relevant and will provide quality of life, which has value. Pets are treated very well for the most part nowadays.”

Education 

It Starts with Staff

If a pet store’s retail staff does not understand spa products and how to communicate their knowledge to customers, that retailer is probably missing opportunities for sales and customer loyalty. So it’s best for retailers to start their education efforts with their staff, according to industry insiders. 
 
“Train your staff,” said Dallas Van Kempen, president of EQyss Grooming Products, a Vista, Calif.-based manufacturer of pet shampoos, sprays and conditioners. “Don’t assume everyone knows how to talk to customers properly. Product education/knowledge for staff is essential to success.”
 
In addition, Paul Armstrong, president and CEO of Earthwhile Endeavors, the San Francisco-based parent company of the Earthbath brand of pet grooming products, recommended visiting spa product manufacturers’ booths at industry and distributor trade shows.
 
“The manufacturer teams in these booths are the best source of concentrated information about their products and will always share what’s new and improved,” he said. “Make an appointment with your distributors’ sales reps and ask for a seminar on the category.”
 
It is important that pet specialty retailers are knowledgeable about a grooming products’ ingredients, said Dawn Leoso Duncan, vice president of Lawrenceburg, Ky.-based Glo-Marr Products, which manufactures pet grooming product, including shampoos, conditioners and colognes.  
 
For information on common ingredients included in at-home grooming products, Leoso Duncan said to skip Google and go straight to the manufacturer. 
 
“The internet is not always a good tool when looking up ingredient information,” she said. “If you have questions about specific ingredients, reach out to the manufacturer for the real scoop.”
 
As part of staff education at his stores, Ric Sommons, owner of Dolittle’s, which has locations in the Charleston, S.C., area, provides information about new spa products and distributes samples, if they are available, to employees so they get some personal experience with them.
 
“When we introduce new things, I send out a quick email giving my opinion and the store managers’ opinions, introduce them to the people who make the new product and provide a link to the company’s website to read more about it,” he said.
 
Once the staff is educated, they can transfer their knowledge about spa products to customers. Insiders agreed that conversation is the best method for this.
 
“The best education is thought provoking conversation,” said Cindy Rein, owner of Luke’s All Natural Pet Food, a pet store in Coral Springs, Fla. “As a very small store, we have the ability to regularly see, interact with and serve our customers with a personal level of attention.”
 
When educating dog and cat owners about spa grooming products, the staff at Dexter’s Deli teaches customers to “read between the lines,” said Tori Rosay, pack leader of the chain of San Diego-area stores.
 
Sometimes consumers need help decoding ingredient labels, because not all manufacturers list ingredients using their easily recognizable botanical names, she said. This can make it especially hard for a consumer to tell whether a product is natural, Rosay added.

Assortment Optimization 

Strategies for a Healthy Spa Assortment 

When deciding what spa products to carry in their stores, pet specialty retailers said that trust is a huge factor. Considering both brand reputation and products that address customers’ needs seems to be a winning formula.
 
“The companies that have been around for decades should be the ones you look to first,” said Dawn Leoso Duncan, vice president of Lawrenceburg, Ky.-based Glo-Marr Products, which manufactures pet grooming products, including shampoos, conditioners and colognes. “They have the track record to stand behind their brands.”
 
Trusted brands and products that address common conditions are what Cindy Rein, owner of Luke’s All Natural Pet Food, a pet store in Coral Springs, Fla., prefers when choosing her store’s assortment of spa products.
 
“We stick to a few long-time trusted brands [with a] simple selection to solve the most common conditions and needs of our customers,” she said. “We also ask our clients what they want when it comes to the grooming products.”
Dexter’s Deli, which has locations in the San Diego area, stocks spa products that staff members have used and can recommend.
 
“Their experience using these products ensures their ability to articulate the virtues to the customer,” said Tori Rosay, pack leader. “This is helpful in choosing a great selection.”
 
Because stores cannot carry every product out there, Dallas Van Kempen, president of EQyss Grooming Products, a Vista, Calif.-based manufacturer of pet shampoos, sprays and conditioners, also highlighted the importance of choosing products that work.
 
“Product evaluation is crucial to a store’s success,” he said. “You not only want to carry the products that people want, but also the best products for your customers.”
 
With his stores’ small footprints, Ric Sommons, owner of Dolittle’s, which has locations in the Charleston, S.C., area, said uniqueness is important in his selections.
 
“I’m going to have the industry leader, and then a curated selection of shampoos,” he said. “I don’t need to diversify too much, so I’ll carry two to three popular brands or scents.”
 
To avoid overwhelming customers while still providing for basic needs, Paul Armstrong, president and CEO of Earthwhile Endeavors, the San Francisco-based parent company of the Earthbath brand of pet grooming products, recommended a needs-based good, better, best strategy.
 
“The basic needs for dogs are puppy, itch relief, flea and tick, hypoallergenic, conditioning and deodorizing,” he said. “From there, depending on space, retailers can branch out to coat brightening, deep cleaning and beyond.
 
“Choose a low-cost, decent-quality brand with the basics, a higher-priced, better-quality brand with breadth in need fulfillment, and a premium brand that fulfils the basics and beyond,” Armstrong added. “This way, every customer’s needs are fulfilled, and the retailer keeps her shelves productive in terms of revenue and inventory turns.”

Pricing Trends

A Look at Spa Sales Stickers

Price levels in spa products for dogs and cats are trending toward the middle and upper end of the spectrum, industry insiders said, with little difference in pricing between dog and cat. Instead, owners understand that with quality comes higher costs, and they are willing to pay more for that perceived value.
 
“The sweet spot in each quality position—good, better, best—seems to be $6-8 for a good shampoo, $10-12 for a better shampoo and $16-25 for the best,” said Paul Armstrong, president and CEO of Earthwhile Endeavors, the San Francisco-based parent company of the Earthbath pet grooming brand. 
 
It all depends on the pet owner, said Dallas Van Kempen, president of EQyss Grooming Products, a Vista, Calif.-based manufacturer of manufacturer of pet shampoos, sprays and conditioners.
 
“If they think their animal needs to have a certain product or brand, they will make it happen,” he said.
 
There is a wide range of pricing for dog and cat spa products, and the high-end items continue to rise in price, said Cindy Rein, owner of Luke’s All Natural Pet Food, a pet store in Coral Springs, Fla.
 
“In our primary category, natural products, we can see pricing climb so high it can often compare to our very own spa products,” she said.
 
Tori Rosay, pack leader at Dexter’s Deli, which has locations in the San Diego area, also found that pricing for pet spa products is in line with human hair care.
 
“Overall, what we offer is more expensive,” she said. “Most of our sales are to pet guardians who are also paying for their own experience using the product.”
 
Cat owners are willing to pay as well, said Ric Sommons, owner of Dolittle’s, which has locations in the Charleston, S.C., area.
 
“Cat customers are not really big bargain hunters,” he said. “They want what their cat will like.”
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