Posted: July 10, 2013, 12:30 p.m. EDT
By Kerri Chladnicek
Today’s pets are in many cases a far cry from the working, hunting, rugged beasts of the past. Pointed examples of this trend abound in grooming shops, where new services and accessories populate what was at one time a mostly clean, cut and style universe.
These finishing touches—nail polish, bows, bandanas, fragrant sprays and the like—are a business option that for some has been only a minor focus and for others has been a bottom-line boon, retailers said, agreeing that best decisions in this area require knowing one’s audience.
Nadine Pranckunas, groomer and owner of Two Pretty Pups Dog Grooming in Portland, Maine, reported that she has not incorporated many finishing touches into her business.
"Maybe because the most requested cut is a puppy cut and not a breed cut, I feel like Maine is a no-frills kind of place,” she said. "I had one customer say to me, ‘We don’t do style.’ If that’s what they want, that’s what they get.”
Special touches like bows can help a salon stand apart from the competition. Carrie Brenner/i-5 Publishing at Lucky Paws Grooming
On the other hand, Amanda Byron Zink, owner of The Salty Paw, a New York salon, boutique and pet daycare facility, discovered different priorities among her customers.
"Our groomers know that it is very important to create that unique experience for each of their clients, so every chance we have to demonstrate this, we do, whether it be the bow in the hair, the bandana or a certain product that helps to style the final look,” she said.
Grooming shop owners who find post-bathing or grooming accessories popular among their customers also might discover that pet owners who appreciate fragrance or nail polish might want to purchase these items to use in between visits.
Eric Bittman, CEO and president of Warren London, which manufactures salon-type products for pets, emphasized the importance of leveraging grooming into retail revenue.
"Our advice basically would be: Don’t do just a basic grooming package for your customers,” he said. "There are so many products that they will love. There are so many add-on services. Every groomer should have retail sales to send home with the customer. If you don’t sell retail you’re losing a lot of possible money.”
Tammy Siert, grooming stylist and manager at The Velvet Touch salon in Hinsdale, Ill. and grooming consultant for Espree Animal Products Inc., which manufactures a variety of animal care products, said she has seen this from both sides.
"Being creative in marketing add-on services can increase retail sales,” she said, adding that using shampoos with a particular fragrance that can be purchased for home use is particularly effective.
Andrea Garcia, a member of West Hollywood, Calif.-based Pet Head’s product development and marketing team, said the company encourages groomers and other pet care professionals to apply some spray before owners pick up their pets.
"It shows that their dog has been taken care of during the day,” she said. "It really helps groomers stand out a little bit more.”
Some retailers suggested querying pet owners before using fragrance on pets, taking note of known allergies or aversions to fragrances.
"I come from a nursing profession where everyone was super sensitive about fragrances. I don’t put sprays on for fear of offending a sensitive customer,” Pranckunas said.
"We don’t use any perfume because so many people, myself included, have such a bad reaction to chemical smells,” said Jeff Slaughter, owner of The Muttley Crew grooming and dog daycare business in Portland, Ore. "I use a finishing spray called Show Sheen, and add a tiny amount of marigold extract to that solution. That not only smells nice and clean, but also helps repel fleas.”
Ease of application in nail polish has improved in recent years to make it popular with pet owners and groomers alike. Bittman said his company has created its lines based on what the market demanded.
"We heard the groomer complaints about how annoying and difficult polish is,” he said. "Most groomers gave up on it. They hated it. We wanted to come up with a way to make polishing easy for groomers with a product that dries fast and has no distinct odor.”
According to Bittman, the company’s Pawdicure Polish Pens are water based, nontoxic and available in 15 colors that dry in less than 40 seconds.
Garcia said that groomers’ priorities in terms of nail polish can vary, adding that Pet Head’s polish line is human grade, to satisfy customers who believe that is important. Time to dry also is critical, she said, noting that the company’s line dries in 10 seconds.
Jennifer Holland, owner of Shed, Bath & Beyond Grooming in Jefferson City, Mo., acknowledged that initially it was difficult to find a pet nail polish that fit all her criteria, but she is very happy with her current choice.
"The best I’ve ever found is sold by Davis,” she said. "They offer the best selection in terms of colors, and it dries great. The nail polish is probably the most popular [add-on service] with my customers.”
Its success has sparked an interest introducing nail caps at some point, as well, she added.
Finishing touches can help groomers to stand out from their competitors, and some, like Byron Zink, even consider these products to be a major part of their brand recognition and customer loyalty development program.
"A great haircut followed by a simple bow or bandana … really emphasizes that we want our … grooming to speak for itself when that dog walks down the street,” she said. "We get so much business just from people stopping our clients and asking, ‘Where does your dog get groomed?’”
"You have to … have the vision ready to go, otherwise your message can get muddled,” Holland said. "If you’re using 10 different colognes and you don’t keep track of them, people are not going to respond well to that…. You really do have to tailor your business and have the vision ahead of time.” <HOME>
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