Posted: Oct. 16, 2012, 6:00 p.m. EDT
Focusing on marketing eye, ear and nail care for pets can increase revenues per customer and build trust.
By Eileen Moon
Even in difficult economic conditions, pet owners still want pets to look and feel their best. But pet owners have become more selective, and having a strategy to sell specific services may help bolster bottom lines, groom shop owners reported. By offering an array of a la carte services targeting ear, eye and paw care, salon owners can increase sales while helping clients pamper pets without resorting to a hard sell.
“My customers are very particular about what they spend their money on in this economy,” said Bo Sommer, owner of Shaggy Chic Pet Salon in rural Bangor, Pa.
Groomers can increase sales by offering functional add-on services, such as special skin-soothing baths.
Selectivity is the current trend in service sales, and groomers are focusing on selling benefits over pampering pets. There is a definite trend toward purchases that are made to solve a specific problem, said Lorna Paxton Ladd, co-founder and president of EcoWellDog Inc. in Austin, Texas, a maker and distributor of natural pet products.
“I think the concept of ‘spa’ is fading,” she added. “Consumers want to know what a product is going to do, more than just pamper a dog, so instead of a ‘pawdicure,’ it should be called a ‘Salty Sidewalk Paw Soother’ for areas where it snows.”
The types of services—and the products they use—are a big consideration for customers. All-natural grooming products are in demand, industry professionals reported.
“It’s almost a given these days,” Paxton noted.
The company’s most popular product lines include those intended to address oral hygiene, products to eliminate tear stains and ear infections, and itchy skin treatments. The company’s Sleepy-time Tonic, a liquid herbal supplement designed to have a calming effect on pets, is also a big seller, Paxton stated.
Warren London, a manufacturer of natural pet products with offices in New York and Valencia, Calif., has developed Pawdicure Polish Pens that are water-based, nontoxic and dry in less than 40 seconds, said company CEO and president Eric Bittman.
More and more pet owners are looking for natural grooming services. Watch this video to see how one shop does it naturally.
“It allows groomers to do nail art, which can be a lot of fun,” Bittman stated.
Warren London also offers Deep Cleaning Paw Fizz tablets that can be dropped into a tub or basin filled with enough water to cover a pet’s paws. The tablets fizz for about five minutes, providing a deep cleaning along with a soothing sensation for the pet, Bittman added.
These types of products facilitate groomers’ work in performing add-on services, and may influence what shop owners choose to offer. But a part of the decision involves thinking of financial considerations.
When deciding on add-ons, it’s critical to consider whether that investment will pay off in additional revenue, cautioned Julie Pilas, owner of Elephant Nose Pet Center in Morristown, N.J.
“When introducing a new service, always take into consideration the additional time you need to put into it to make sure it’s successful, and be sure that it’s a service that your customers would be interested in,” she noted.
Focus on Paws and Nails
In Laval, Quebec, Canada, where harsh Canadian winters take a toll on pets’ feet, “pawdicures” are a popular choice at Le Salon et Spa Poochie Glam, a luxury pet spa and boutique. The spa also offers paw balm as a take-home purchase to alleviate the dryness and cracking that can make paws painful during winter months.
“As a retailer, you have to understand that there are different types of clients,” said owner Tania Fournier. “There is the client who would rather have a professional take care of their pets, or the client that would rather do it themselves.”
Promoting Sales With Service
Extra services can drive up profits if positioned correctly, said Joe Zuccarello, national accounts manager for Tropiclean in Wentzville, Mo. He emphasized that it is best to select products that are formulated to be tear-free.
Shop owners can also set up prominent displays of take-home products so that clients can look and learn about items they may want to use at home, said Lorna Paxton Ladd, co-founder and president of EcoWellDog Inc. in Austin, Texas. She suggested doing “prescription pad” selling by writing down a list of products to recommend that clients can use for at-home care.
“Customers love to feel that their dog just had a great spa day, and when you tell them about a few of the add-on services you provide, they love it,” said Eric Bittmann, CEO and president of Warren London in New York City.
The degree of a business’ success depends on giving great service, said Tania Fournier, owner of Poochie Glam in Laval, Quebec, Canada.
“When putting a pet’s needs first, and doing extensive research around the globe for pioneering products, you have essentially built yourself a reputable, trusted business by building ongoing relationships with clients,” she said.
Groomers in parts of the country where inclement weather is a problem reported some novel solutions when it comes to maintaining clients’ pets’ paws. When clients ask her about protecting their pets’ paws in wintry Wisconsin, Laurie Bandy, co-owner of Camp Bandy, a full service boarding, grooming, training and competition facility in rural Amherst Junction, Wis., suggests an inexpensive, kitchen cabinet remedy: Pam cooking spray.
A wide variety of treatment options exist, and finding the right mix for a particular market and clientele may take some experimentation. Groomers also have to consider how to get their customers interested in the treatments.
“If you want to grow your profitability, you must gear up your business with great marketing techniques for all clients,” Fournier stated. “One method we have had great success with is displaying sample bottles of our paw balms for clients to smell, touch and feel. We also attach an info card to the product to highlight the uses and benefits.
“The first thing groomers should consider when deciding on what products to use is a pet’s overall well-being,” Fournier added. “There are many companies today trying to make a quick buck out there, and oftentimes they’re jeopardizing the quality of ingredients.”
Sulfate- and paraben-free shampoos and conditioners are big sellers at Poochie Glam. Also, Poochie Glam uses nail polish made of nontoxic products. The color in the polish comes from vegetable extracts, Fournier stated, adding that groomers shouldn’t use regular nail polish for clients’ pets because of harmful chemicals.
Taking care of pets’ nails is increasingly common, groom shop owners stated, and catching customers’ attention can take little more than demonstrating a treatment.
At Platinum Paws in Indianapolis, nail trimming is included in every grooming appointment at no extra charge, and when a product is recommended to a client, the first use of the product is at no charge so that clients have a chance to see what it does for their pet and then decide whether it’s something they want to purchase, said managing partner B.C. Henschen.
Some popular add-ons are nail coloring and Soft Claws, which are rubber caps glued over cats’ claws to prevent damage to floors and furniture.
“Thankfully, declawing has fallen out of favor,” Henschen noted.
Competition and Care
Competition is traditionally viewed as fierce in the grooming space, shop owners reported, and it isn’t just small mom-and-pop groomers that those in the business have to contend with.
For Bandy, co-owner of Camp Bandy, that means keeping her prices in line with those of the big box stores, such as Petco and Fleet Farm.
“I’m not money hungry,” Bandy said. “I want my customers to buy from me because I have good prices.”
In addition to regular shampoos, she offers hypoallergenic and oatmeal baths for animals that have problems with itching or other skin issues, but she doesn’t charge extra for them. And while she does do ear cleaning, she doesn’t do it routinely.
“I use Biomed ear cleaning powder, but I don’t clean ears that look healthy because you could actually harm them by doing that,” she said.
Knowing what works, and what groomers prefer to use on their own pets, can instill confidence in a particular treatment. At Platinum Paws, an upscale pet spa and boutique in Indianapolis, Ind., the staff tries out new products on their own pets before they decide whether or not to offer them at the salon, Henschen said.
“We won’t ever offer anything as a gimmick,” he said. “Our salon doesn’t want customers to feel like we’re nickel-and-diming them.”
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