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Professional Grooming Marketplace: Cash In On Green Products and Services

Posted: Sept. 26, 2012, 3:05 p.m. EDT


Offering sustainable and eco-friendly pet grooming products and services can build cachet with customers.
By Lizett Bond

As terms such as “green” and “eco-friendly” segue from trendy to mainstream, pet owners expect to see more products and services matching these descriptions being offered in grooming salons, industry participants reported. In general, consumers are more focused on asking questions and learning about services and treatments they are buying for their pets.

“Dog owners bringing furry family members in for grooming are armed with questions about the shampoos and supplies being used,” said Crystalyn Guzman, CEO of Aroma Paws in Tarzana, Calif.

Provide a Selection
Groom shop owners are able to offer a wide variety of options, making it much easier to meet customer stipulations.

”It’s best to have earth-friendly, natural selections available that won’t dry out the coat,” Guzman stated.

Green grooming for pets
Beyond using green grooming products, salons can focus on efficiency, electricity usage and conservation to increase their eco-friendly profile. Ethan Mizer/BowTie Inc., at Scrubby Puppy
By using earth-friendly products, groom shop owners not only have a positive impact on the environment, but also a superior product to keep dogs clean for longer periods of time, according to Lorenzo Borghese, founder of the Royal Treatment Italian Pet Spa line of organic grooming products, located in New York.

In addition, Guzman noted that products such as Aroma Paws shampoos, in a low-rinse, 2-in-1 formula, use less water and energy resources for a clean, soft and conditioned result.

“A little goes a long way,” she said.

This emphasis on quality can translate to consumer demand.

“All of the products we use are eco-friendly,” said Zack Grey, owner of Moon Shine Grooming in Los Angeles. “People want to know what we are using.”
 
Clients at Moon Shine can select from up to 15 different shampoos from a natural, herbal and hypo-allergenic product mix. Grey said he primarily offers products from Kelco Industries, which use less packaging materials because of the concentration.

Focus on Offerings
There are a lot of different aspects to providing green services versus natural services and products. Green services center around products and procedures that are gentle on the environment.

The idea is to reduce the impact on nature. The best place to start may be with philosophy. Brian Collier, creative marketing and public relations coordinator for Wentzville, Mo.-based Tropiclean Naturally Green Pet Products, noted that by simply remembering and practicing the motto “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.” salon owners can begin to embrace eco-friendly practices.

Focusing on these practices may lead to more sustainable living for owners and their pets, but the buzz words have been used for so many different products and practices that shop owners need to be aware of the distinctions between green, organic, earth-friendly and natural products.

“The difference between green products and natural products is in the commitment to the health of our environment,” Collier stated.
 
Natural grooming products have been on an upward trend for the past 10 years, Collier noted, and producing natural solutions is not only a strong, viable market, but an honorable commitment.

“Green production is a step beyond that commitment, as company and consumer partner together to consciously care for the environment,” he said.

The passion for environmental health includes choosing product based on the production process, packaging and, finally, the disposal of the used product package.

Watch this Pet Product News grooming video!
More and more pet owners are looking for natural grooming services. Watch this video to see how one shop does it naturally.
“Each element plays an important role,” Collier added.
 
It is also important to look at ingredients with an awareness of biodegradability, because grooming products are dispatched down the drain and directly into the sewer system, noted Joe Fucini, president of Fucini Productions, based in Detroit, which is contracted to provide public relations services to Cardinal Pet Care, based in Azusa, Calif.

“If you are using a cleaning-agent shampoo, a dishwashing soap or anything along those lines, you can’t place it in the recycle bin like a plastic bottle,” he said.

To be certified “green,” a product must go through rigorous testing. Several third-party organizations provide green certification. However, the term is unregulated at the governmental level, and may be used with products that are not actually certified.

“To me, a truly green product would have biodegradable packaging and the product itself, as far as shampoos and conditioners, would have to be detergent-free,” Grey said.

On the other hand, a “natural” product is just that; natural. This doesn’t necessarily mean it is eco-friendly or more healthful than non-natural products. While not regulated by the government, such products contain elements that are naturally occurring.

Getting the terminology right can mean the difference between meeting customer demand and missing the mark. At Shampoodles Grooming in Anderson, Calif., Kate Loomis, co-owner, does not use pesticides because of customer demand for more eco-friendly products.

“We probably haven’t used dips here in 20 years,” she said.

Taking It to the Next Level
Actively involved in energy sustainability and social responsibility, Cardinal Pet Care can proudly claim taking “green” to the next level with the opening of the first 100 percent solar powered production facility in Azusa, Calif. Since 2010, the location has been saving an estimated 28 tons of CO2 from emitting into the atmosphere every month.

“We actually send power back to the grid as we reclaim more than we use,” said Joe Fucini, Cardinal Pet Care’s marketing director.

Fucini added that businesses investing in green technology can feel pride for doing something good at the end of the day, with the added bonus of lowering operating costs.

“It’s like saying ‘here’s who we are and what we do’,” he said. “We all feel good about the solar power.”

A grooming shop may not be able to install solar panels, but on a smaller scale there are other methods of conservation. For instance, groom shops can use products packaged in #2 HDPE high-density plastic bottles with recycled uses that include plastic lumber, truck cargo liners and trash containers, Fucini added.

“These steps impact the world we live in and send a positive message to customers, engendering their support,” he said. “It makes sense for the earth and cents for your business.”—LB

Because of ambiguity in the public’s understanding of these concepts, and marketing programs designed to take advantage of demand for green products, some of the decision about what to offer comes down to education and trust.

“My philosophy is to understand the company you are dealing with and the integrity of that company,” Grey said. “There are so many gray zones when it comes to ‘natural,’ ‘organic’ or ‘green.’”

Eco-friendly products should be biodegradable, and Beth McElroy of Dog Day Aftergroom in Monroe, N.Y., noted that the Tropiclean products she uses meet the criteria.

“Tropiclean shampoo’s retail bottle sleeves, the bottles themselves and the shampoos are 100 percent biodegradable,” Collier said.

However, not all groomers are experiencing requests for these products, and McElroy said that while she does use green products in her salon, she has not encountered huge customer demand.

That demand seems to vary from groomer to groomer. In some cases, customers aren’t requesting green products and services. Sharon Jones, owner of Pet Bath USA, located in La Verne, Calif., noted that while she offers natural shampoos and conditioners, she experiences few inquiries from customers for these products.

Marketing Green
In the case of severe infestations, groomers often feel the need to bring out the big guns.

“We first use the natural products, but if they don’t work and the infestation is so severe the fleas don’t die, we’ll ask the customer if they want to try a product that contains pyrethrin,” Shampoodles’ Loomis stated. “We have to offer it because the other products don’t always kill the fleas, they are so immune to everything.”

Sometimes medicated flea and tick shampoos are necessary in the case of severe infestations, said Mark Levy, owner of Palace Pet Salon in La Verne, Calif., and a dog that gets into grease and oil may need a degreasing or deep cleaning shampoo.

“But we don’t like to use too many chemical-type shampoos,” he added.

Educating customers about what is available prior to grooming is a good way of letting them know that the shop does use green products.

“When customers come in they see the menu board, stating that all of our products are detergent-free and eco-friendly,” Grey said.

Going a step further, Urban Pet, the retail side of Moon Shine Grooming, with locations in Los Angeles and Silver Lake, Calif., designates an entire retail “eco-zone,” featuring everything from beds to toys, where customers shop organic, USA-made, or eco-friendly.

“It is one of our brand elements and when I opened the grooming salon, it had to fit into our brand,” Grey added.

From a marketing standpoint, customers may feel better about patronizing businesses that are doing their part to minimize their impact on the environment.

“There are people who want to do the right thing by the Earth,” Cardinal Pet Care’s Fucini said. “For this reason, I would explain what I am using and what is in it.”

Business owners should be proud of their efforts to support eco-friendly products, Tropiclean’s Collier stated, and should promote them by utilizing social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and via blogs. These efforts serve to open a conversation with customers about the importance of green living.

“Conversations with your loyal ‘fans’ are an easy and effective way to begin your marketing efforts,” he added.

Beyond touting nontoxic offerings, retailers may wish to focus on letting customers know why these products are desirable.

“Advertise that you use only nontoxic products and educate your customers on all of the reasons why,” Aroma Paws’ Guzman said. “They will appreciate the care and research that you have put into your grooming product selection.”
 
Energy Matters, Too
As shop owners become more environmentally conscious, many are searching for better methods of saving energy. Loomis noted that her shop is equipped with a “SmartAC” device, installed by the local power company. This mechanism allows air conditioning to be remotely activated to cycle on and off at 15 minute intervals in the event of an anticipated energy supply emergency.

“I have never noticed when they do it,” she said.

There are other options for groomers, as well. Palace Pet Salon’s recently revamped electrical system now uses lower wattage items, but energy efficiency can be as simple as turning off the lights, according to Levy.

“You don’t have to have every single light on all the time,” he said. “We work on that, too.”

Installing efficient lighting is a solution that many energy conscious shop owners are employing to conserve electricity, with an added bonus of saving money. Grey noted that Halogen lights at Moon Shine have been replaced by fluorescent lighting encased in the same housing. The result is an energy bill cut in half.

“We went from a 75-watt bulb to a 20-watt bulb,” he said. “Our next step will be LEDs, which are 3 watts.”
 
In some cases, shops won’t even have to pay for changes. Jones noted that her electrical provider replaced lighting with more energy efficient elements free of charge.

“They came in and changed the lights a couple of years ago,” she said. “And I sure do notice a difference on my electrical bill.”

Part of offering green services can mean presenting an eco-friendly environment. Grey uses Kelco Industries Zap Spray for this task.

“Everything that goes into the salon, down to what we clean the floors and washtubs with, is eco-friendly,” he said.
 
Maintaining a bacteria-free shop for the health of groomers and dogs alike was an important consideration for Levy. For this reason, Palace Pet Salon was recently disinfected using a water-based biostatic surface protectant. This non-toxic technique renders the establishment 99.9 percent bacteria free, reducing the need for chemical cleaners, according to the company.

Energy awareness, keeping a shop bacteria-free and the environment calm and cool for groomers and dogs bolsters both canine and human energy, Levy noted.

“By saving energy the proper way, you keep the people energy up in your shop so you don’t waste it,” he said.
Grey agreed.

“We have a good, eco-friendly vibe here and great energy, too,” he stated.

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