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Cat Marketplace: Profit From Cat Grooming Tools

Posted: Oct. 17, 2012, 3 p.m. EDT


Retailers can offer a full range of products to give felines healthy skin and vibrant coats.
By Sandi Cain

Cat grooming can’t always be left to the cat. So say manufacturers and retailers of cat grooming products, along with groomers who include finicky cats in their client base.

A plethora of cat grooming products—such as waterless shampoos, wipes, brushes and nail trimmers—help reduce shedding, matted fur and exposure to allergens and keep cat claws short enough to save furniture and skin from being shredded.
 
“Keeping cats clean by reducing dander and flying hair will minimize allergy reactions and odors within the home,” said Lisa Jordan, sales and marketing director for Espree Animal Products in Grapevine, Texas.

Product Choices
Cat-specific shampoos help achieve cleanliness, but waterless shampoos and cat wipes are more popular among cat owners, said Paul Armstrong, CEO of San Francisco-based Earthbath, which makes natural versions of those products.

Cat grooming products
Many cat owners need guidance when selecting grooming tools. Katie Ingmire/BowTie Inc.
The wipes are “the right size to put one in each hand to rub down the cat in a jiffy,” he said, adding that the foam shampoo also is used by allergy-prone consumers.

A foaming shampoo called Purr N Natural is a best-seller for Espree, Jordan noted.

Regular shampoos such as Bark2Basics’ hypoallergenic and tearless formulas work well for the grooming section of Crawfis Creatures in Ft. Myers, Fla., reported Christina Crawfis, owner. She also uses a veterinary formula line from SynergyLabs for cats with skin problems.

At Uncle Bill’s Pet Center in Indianapolis, the biggest sellers are Four Paws’ Magic Coat shampoo and Bio-Groom’s Kuddly Kitty Kitten Shampoo, according to Kat Craft, the store’s manager.

Meanwhile, best-sellers at Two Bostons in Naperville, Ill., include the Bobbi Panter shampoo varieties Shaggy Cat, Scratchy Cat and Smelly Cat. It’s important that retailers make sure the products they feature for cats are safe for cats, because some dog products aren’t, said AdreAnne Tesene, co-owner.

“If it’s not safe for cats, we don’t put it on our shelves,” she added.

Eye and ear wipes for cats also contribute to cleanliness, with those from Four Paws and Tropiclean getting high marks from Crawfis.
Castle Baths’ face trio, developed to address problems on show cats, includes a tear stain remover, a stud tail bar and a chin acne bar.

“The three-part system is what makes it work,” said Laura Thomas, owner of the Hampton, Va., company.
Brushes and combs play a big part in beating back dander and loose hair, too.

“It’s all about brushes and combs for cats,” said Ann Hanson, director of marketing and innovation for Petmate in Arlington, Texas.

Coastal Pet Products counts its grooming tool kit, flea comb, bristle brush and cat slicker among its most popular products, while ZoomGroom from Kong Co. gets high marks from Sedona Pet Supply in Sedona, Ariz., for its ability to reduce the amount of loose hair. Two Bostons’ Tesene said she appreciates its versatility and massage-style features.

Grooming Cats Provides Positive Returns for Cats, Groomers
Cats are the second-class citizens of the grooming world, with roughly 15 times more dogs than cats getting groomed in 2010, at home or professionally, according to the American Pet Products Association’s (APPA) 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey. While some cat owners might believe that’s because cats simply groom themselves, there are compelling reasons to get them some help. 

Preventing hairballs or matted fur and reducing allergens are among the benefits of professional grooming. But there also are persuasive reasons for groomers to offer services for cats. 

“It’s a great way to extend the business,” said Ann Hanson, director of marketing and innovation for Arlington, Texas-based Petmate.

Groomers can be the “second set of eyes besides the vet taking care of the cat,” she noted.

Groomers also are the front-line folks who notice ear and eye infections or skin irritations that the owners might miss in day-to-day interactions, reported Diane Thomas, marketing manager of Coastal Pet Products in Alliance, Ohio.

Matted fur can even be dangerous to cats, noted Natalie Babcock, owner of Aspen’s, a grooming salon in Picton, Ontario, Canada.
“Matting is a big issue with new clients,” she said.

Though urban legend holds that cats don’t need grooming because they do it themselves, Laura Thomas, owner of Hampton, Va.-based manufacturer Castle Baths, reported that the opposite might be true.

“Licking fur with their saliva generates allergens,” she said, adding that groomers can charge more for cats than dogs, and it doesn’t take any more time to groom them.

Christina Crawfis, owner of Crawfis Creatures in Ft. Myers, Fla., agreed.

“Groomers are missing a great line of income by not grooming cats,” Crawfis said.

The Professional Cat Groomers Association of America has a certification program that teaches groomers to safely handle cats and how grooming cats is different from grooming dogs, Crawfis noted.

Jeff Stanke, co-owner of retail and grooming shop Critter Jungle in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, sees another benefit of grooming cats.

“The more expertise we can offer on both products and grooming, the better it is,” he said.  —SC

Bass Ultra-Fine’s line of brushes has been carried by The Big Bad Woof of Washington, D.C., ever since founder and co-owner Pennye Jones-Napier saw them at Global Pet Expo. She knew Bass brushes for their quality and decided to add them to her shops as a way to distinguish the stores’ product offerings from the more widely available JW Pet line, which she still carries.

“As a small store, we have to carry quality products and be selective,” she said.

Nail care for cats is on the rise, as more consumers become comfortable with clipping their cats’ nails, said Petmate’s Hanson. Nail grinder sales also have increased recently at big and small stores, she added.

Product Expansion
Several manufacturers have recently revamped product lines, and some are working on new products for 2013. JW Pet of Teterboro, N.J., has new packaging with detailed information about each grooming tool, while Coastal Pet revamped its Safari line, adding four new cat tools: a flexible slicker to conform to the contours of cats; a massage brush; a deluxe trimmer in several hand sizes; and a double-sided flea comb.

At Critter Jungle, a retailer and groomer in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, co-owner Jeff Stanke said he’s carrying the new bamboo line of brushes from Rolf C. Hagen both for their look and performance.

In October, Earthbath is launching hypoallergenic facial wipes that are made with tearless cleansers, require no rinsing and are compatible with spot-on flea control products, according to the company. Its other new product is tooth and gum wipes with peppermint oil and baking soda. The wipes are textured, gentle and safe, the manufacturer stated.

Product Promotion
Pet supply stores can range from the massive big-box variety to tiny spaces tucked into small malls. That presents a challenge for manufacturers trying to help stores promote their products.

“Big stores tend toward displaying grooming items with other cat items; small stores tend more toward grouping a brand together,” Earthbath’s Armstrong said.

The company’s grooming program addresses that challenge with in-store banners, signage and aprons for employees, according to director of marketing Yvonne Roth.

Armstrong also recommended that stores have a section for natural grooming products with a sub-section just for cats. Laminated product guides hung in the section can help consumers choose the right product, he said.

“Shelf-talkers improve sales by 17 percent,” Armstrong added.

Two Bostons takes that a step further by including cat grooming products both in the grooming section and cat section.
 
“It encourages people to think about grooming their cats,” Tesene said.

JW Pet reported that it helps big and small shops with a detailed chart on each package that describes the most appropriate use for each tool, plus headers for floor displays that illustrate the right tool for each type of coat. A demonstration video is obtainable for each tool, available to customers by QR code, said Carli Bushoven, the company’s sales and marketing coordinator.

Castle Baths is working on a media kit that will include images and displays from an online video that will showcase before and after shots of cats groomed with the company’s all-natural products, Thomas said.

Manufacturers such as JW Pet, Espree Animal Products and Petmate also encourage employee education for pet shops, including training employees about which combs and brushes are appropriate for different breeds and coat types.
 
“It’s amazing how many people aren’t comfortable combing or brushing their cats,” Petmate’s Hanson said.

Because of that, the company is putting more educational information on the packaging.

“People make [purchasing] decisions at the shelf,” she said.

All employee education is a benefit both to sales and customer service, Espree’s Jordan said.

“If retailers are knowledgeable about their products, they will be prepared to offer recommendations and information to address their customers’ needs,” she said. <HOME>



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