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Solve Pet Health Problems with Grooming Products

Posted: Oct. 16, 2012, 7:05 p.m. EDT


Solutions turn into sales with a range of natural skin and coat care items.
By Maggie M. Shein

Pet owners want to keep their pets healthy, and they are looking for natural grooming products that do just that—and limit their time at the vet’s office. As the grooming products market expands, so has consumer demand for products that are natural, eco-friendly and, perhaps most importantly, solution-focused.

“A major trend is that people actually are willing to spend the money now on natural products that keep their pets healthy,” said Lesley Hunter, marketing and sales facilitator at Natures Formulae Health Products in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. “Natural products that keep the consumer from getting [more chemically-based] products are huge.”

Natures Formulae makes products for ear, eye, skin and paw care and common ailments, under the NaturPet brand, which is undergoing a product re-launch, including new packaging to appeal to the health-conscious consumer, Hunter reported.

Natural grooming products
Recommendations from knowledgeable retailers help consumers decide which products best meet their pets’ grooming needs—and boost store sales. Sherri L. Collins/BowTie Inc. at Dogma in Irvine, Calif.
Customers might look for a natural product for cleansing, odor control or preventive skin and coat measures, but the list of demands doesn’t stop there. One of the biggest things consumers ask for with natural grooming items is a solution-based product that will solve their pet’s specific problem, whether it’s tear stains, oily coat, dry skin, shedding or flea and tick control.

“When I first started in pet grooming 22 years ago, people just wanted a clean dog,” said Tammy Siert, a pet stylist at The Velvet Touch Pet Salon in Hinsdale, Ill. “Now it is, ‘Help me with eye or ear allergies, itchy skin or more.’ Our clients are more proactive about their pet’s health than ever before, and they are willing to spend money on all-natural or organic products to do that.”

Some of the salon’s most popular products include hypoallergenic shampoos, de-matting sprays, hydrating sprays, Aloe Oatmeal Facial Cleanser and a chemical pesticide alternative for fleas and insect-related skin problems called Citrusil Plus Shampoo from Espree Animal Products.

“People are looking for solutions, in general,” said Justin Jones, co-owner of Espree Animal Products in Grapevine, Texas. “It’s important for customers to see what the purpose of a product is immediately, especially when they are looking for a solution.”

Of the new products launched for 2012, many of Espree’s are solution-oriented to keep up with trends, such as a texturizing shampoo for wiry coats, a shampoo for oily coats, and finger-mitt-application products for ears, eyes and teeth.

Natural dog grooming
Pet owners are seeking products that solve problems and are earth-friendly. Courtesy of DERMagic Skin Care for Animals Inc.
“We definitely see the solution-based customer, and having [solution-based] products really helps them weed out everything that’s on the shelf because it can be overwhelming,” said Teresa Miller, owner and founder of St. Louis-based Treats Unleashed, which carries grooming and health products from several manufacturers, including Tropiclean and Natural Chemistry. “Some of these products are very specific, and it helps a customer to target in on what they’re looking for, such as allergies, dry skin, white coats or tear stains.”

Environmentally Conscious
In addition to solution-based products, more consumers expect their natural products to be eco-friendly, biodegradable or from an environmentally conscious company, according to industry experts.

“People really are starting to be more aware of the pet products they buy,” Siert said. “There are more plant-based, all-natural products, fewer aerosol sprays and more products that are all-around better for the environment.”

One reason for the trend, according to Brian Collier, marketing and PR coordinator at Tropiclean in Wentzville, Mo., is that consumers request the same things with human grooming items.

“Trends in the pet industry typically are affected considerably by human consumer markets, almost like an aftershock,” Collier said. “With this in mind, we can see growing trends in natural grooming products with areas such as biodegradable ingredients, packaging materials and eco-friendly production processes.

“Tropiclean’s products are soap- and detergent-free, and the company makes its bottles from recycled materials and uses sleeve labels made from corn,” Collier continued.

“Both consumers and retailers are becoming more socially conscious, which influences their purchasing decisions,” he said. “They are concerned about the social responsibility of the company that makes the product and how it makes the product.”

Spa Products & Services Take Off
As the variety in natural grooming products expands, retailers and groomers reported that the customers seeking natural products are also looking for innovative products that safely pamper their pets. Spa treatments and expanded creative offerings, such as skin care treatments, facials, massages, nail polish and coat coloring, are increasing in popularity with customers.

“There are more spalike services now; people really are catering to their pets these days,” said Tammy Siert, pet stylist at The Velvet Touch Pet Salon.

In addition to “pawdicures,” natural aromatherapy treatments and facials, the Hinsdale, Ill., pet salon reported increased owner interest in nail polish, pet stenciling, feathering and coloring.

“There are natural dyes and colors that you can use, and people really have a lot of fun adding a little extra touch,” Siert said. “They can do all these things safely now with the right products. In the last two years, we’ve seen creative groomers bringing this up to the next level, and it mirrors what’s popular in human salons.”

Espree Animal Products launched several products in the spa and creative services grooming arena, including nail polishes and sparkle sprays.

“There definitely is growth in the concept of making your dog beautiful,” said Justin Jones, co-owner of the Grapevine, Texas-based company, adding that this is what has prompted a lot of these products and services in grooming.

The company also recently released several pampering products in single-use retail packages for consumers, including its Dead Sea Mud Bath Treatment and Hot Oil Treatments.

“Customers can see the value of this, without question, because the price point is not too expensive,” Jones stated. “They can use something at a lower cost rather than buying a bigger container that they might not be able to finish.”

In response to this trend, DERMagic Skin Care for Animals released several shampoo and cleansing bars that cut down on packaging, water and weight for the environmentally conscious consumer.

“We are trying to reduce our footprint,” said Adelia Ritchie, owner of the Seattle-based manufacturer. “People are looking for natural solutions with no junk, fillers or emulsifiers and that don’t produce any waste. They don’t want anything leftover.”

The company’s Organic Skin Rescue Shampoo Bar is its No. 1 seller, Ritchie said. However, the latest addition, the Diatomaceous Earth Flea Shampoo Bar, which was brought about through customer demand, quickly is catching up in popularity, she said.

“People were begging us to do something about fleas, and that’s difficult to do without toxins,” Ritchie noted.

Consumers and retailers are looking for natural alternatives to problems such as fleas, because some pets have skin irritation from topical applications or consumers just don’t like the idea of the chemicals being absorbed into their pets’ bodies, she added.

Preventive Measures
Specialty grooming products, such as flea and tick solutions, really are taking off in the natural product space, retailers and manufacturers reported. Last year, Pet Naturals in Essex Junction, Vt., released a line of flea and tick wipes and sprays for dogs and cats. The product contains lemongrass, cinnamon, sesame and castor oils to keep pests from detecting a pet’s scent, according to Katy Bacon, division manager at the company.

“The flea and tick products really have piqued a lot of interest, especially this year,” Bacon said. “People are looking for alternatives that contain no toxic chemicals to harm a pet or a child. It’s the harsh chemicals that are in a lot of these formulas that are driving the demand for a natural and safe alternative.”

With more options for preventive health and grooming products, retailers find that consumer demand continues to increase each year.

“There are so many more options now with flea and tick products,” Miller of Treats Unleashed said. “Those are definitely big trends. There have been huge advancements in these areas, and people really are looking outside the prescription or typical chemical-based brands for natural alternatives, even if that means they have to put in a little more work or apply the product more often.”

Retailer’s Role
Consumers expect a lot with natural grooming products. In addition to natural or organic ingredients that they can understand, customers want solution-based products from environmentally conscious companies, and they often rely on the retailer to point them in the right direction.

“More often than not, customers buy based on a recommendation,” said Debby Zuber, owner of Best Buddy Dog Wash in Duvall, Wash. “People don’t usually ask for a specific product when it comes to grooming. They have a problem to solve, and when we explain the benefits of different products or how to use them, it helps them decide.”

Natural shampoos, odor control, dental care and flea products are very popular with her customers, according to Zuber, who carries a range of grooming products including DERMagic and Envirogroom. Often, just a knowledgeable recommendation turns into a sale.

“Some of our customers tell us that they trust the criteria we use to decide what to carry, and that makes their decisions easier,” Miller said. “Educating them and giving them recommendations helps customers find out what’s best for them.”

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