Posted: January 27, 2014, 12:50 p.m. EDT
Professional groomers and consumers alike want products that produce results.
By P.S. Jones
Manufacturers offer many choices when it comes to cleaning and conditioning customers’ pets.
"There are many shampoo products on the market with extra ingredients or scents added to the shampoo that are marketed with a promise of increased performance to the coat, but I prefer to work with a high-quality cleaning shampoo first,” said Christina Pawlosky, certified master groomer and national training manager for Oster Professional Products, a brand of Jarden Consumer Solutions in Boca Raton, Fla.
Amid all the choices, she added, groomers and pet owners ultimately are looking for results.
"Oster focuses on offering groomers high-quality, performance-driven shampoos, conditioners and conditioning sprays that will save them both time and money and, most importantly, achieve an incredible result,” Pawlosky said.
As co-owner of Frank Rowe & Son, Dan Rowe agreed. The 40-year-old distributor in Middletown, Pa., which offers more than 4,000 items, prides itself on carrying products that provide results.
"Our products do exactly what they say they do,” Rowe said. "That’s important to the consumer.”
To get products that offer results, though, groom shops might have to spend a little extra money.
"You get what you pay for when it comes down to pet shampoos and conditioners,” said Dave Campanella, sales and marketing director for Best Shot Pet Products International of Lexington, Ky., which has specialized in horse, dog and cat grooming products for more than 25 years. "Quality ingredients like organic botanicals and advanced conditioners are not cheap.”
He mentioned the popularity of such products as the company’s One Shot maximum-strength formulas and its Scentament Spa Collection as examples.
To keep up with the fastest-growing trends, groomers can offer customers’ dogs treatments designed to pamper and spoil.
"Spa products continue to grow based on their human appeal,” Campanella said. "Today there are hypoallergenic products that smell amazing and are less likely to irritate pets and their owners.
Detangling and shedding hybrid products are crossing over into spa and boutique lines. Facials, coat fresheners and aerosol-free colognes are hot.”
Groomers Need Retail
Many groomers make the mistake of ignoring retail sales as a source of revenue, citing low profit margins. This was the case for Ellie Tang of Toronto’s Pawfect Spa. Tang has owned the shop for 10 years and does very little retail. However, she maintains some stock because she realized that it was less about her and more about showing her customers she was there for them.
"We only sell shampoos and conditioners,” she said. "I don’t carry a lot. It’s more convenient for the client, not for us.”
Other groomers agreed that offering take-home products can strengthen a relationship with a client.
"I think it helps [business],” said Amanda Zink, owner of The Salty Paw, a New York-based accessory boutique and grooming spa. "In between grooming sessions, clients want to have their own tools. We want to share our knowledge.”
Although Zink and her staff advise clients to bring in their pets every six to eight weeks, she acknowledged that not all of them can or will do that. Selling product is a good way to keep a groom shop on a customer’s mind even when they’re not bringing in their dogs.
"Often we’re selling some of the things we use in the back so they can do it in between pets’ grooms, not to replace the grooms,” she said. "Especially during this time of year with the snow and the rain and with the city being so filthy.”
Pet owners who groom their own dogs religiously aren’t necessarily the groomer’s target market.
How important is smell when it comes to grooming shampoos and conditioners?
"Smell is quite important. Most clients want their dogs to smell good. Some have allergies or the dogs have allergies, but it depends on the client.”—Ellie Tang, owner of Pawfect Spa in Toronto
"I would say smell is important as long as the smell is nice. Eighty-five percent of people absolutely love it when the dog smells like a blueberry. I would say 15 percent of clients want hypoallergenic, nonscented products, and they’ll let us know.”—Amanda Zink, owner of The Salty Paw in New York
"Our products have a mild smell that is pleasant to the human nose. But more importantly, it’s pleasing to the dog’s nose. After all, they’re the ones that have to walk around smelling this way.”—Dan Rowe co-owner of Frank Rowe & Son in Middletown, Pa.
"If you’re going to groom your dog or cat, you’re going to buy shampoo whether you buy it from that grooming shop or not,” said Richard Biegun, owner of Quadruped Pet Care in Wappingers Falls, N.Y. "[Groomers are] doing themselves a disservice by not putting in retail.”
Most of his company’s products go out to groomers who then sell them to consumers, Biegun said, adding that by becoming a trusted retailer, groomers can make personalized recommendations and eventually turn DIYers into a sale.
Win Them Over
Point of sales displays and other common in-store marketing tactics are tried and true; however, Biegun said that offering free retail-sized samples is a great way to win over consumers. He often gives out full-sized samples of the company’s All in One Yucca Tearless Shampoo, which uses the plant-based yucca extract to combat fleas, ticks and inflammatory skin issues.
Full-sized samples really stand out in a world of 2-ounce sizes, he added.
"We’re not giving out 2 ounces because you can’t bathe a Saint Bernard with that,” he said. "You can’t do an Afghan hound with 2 ounces. Our response has been that 30 percent of samples that go out become customers. You find that if you have a product that you believe in, people will recognize the quality of the product.”
Another key to having a successful retail section is making it easy for consumers to find the grooming solutions they need.
"Retailers should seek out shampoos and conditioners with quality, natural ingredients and self-explanatory packaging,” Oster’s Pawlosky said. "Packaging or labeling is very important to help groomers and consumers easily identify the function of the shampoo, such as whitening, four in one, color-enhancing, puppy, moisturizing or solution-driven varieties like flea and tick, as well as the list of ingredients.”
Best Shot’s Campanella agreed that quality and diversity of products is the way to go when stocking retail shelves.
"The key to building value is offering multifaceted products that combine benefits with convenience,” he said.
He suggested using before and after pictures to show what the product does. Testimonials are always powerful, especially for groomers who also use the product for their clients. Some retailers even hold monthly "beauty” contests for pets using certain products, creating a fun way for the staff and consumers to talk about the products.
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