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Naturally Clean

Customers increasingly want grooming and spa products and services with stripped-down formulas.
By Maggie M. Shein

Anthony Arsenio, brusher and bather at DogSpa in Beverly, Mass., gives Sophie a skin and hair moisturizing treatment.
The pet food recall of 2007 and 2008 did more than catapult natural pet foods into a new type of market success; it also resulted in the growth of the natural pet market in general, including natural grooming products and services.

“When the big dog food incident happened, that scared a lot of people over to natural products—particularly natural food—and the grooming market is just a natural extension from there,” said Vincent Hourihan of Natural Chemistry, a manufacturer in Norwalk, Conn.

So while natural grooming products like deodorizers, paw balms, facial cleansers, healing lotions, natural flea and tick products and conditioners are growing in popularity, so are all-natural wellness services beyond a bath and a haircut. Acupressure and massage are offered for show dogs, arthritic and senior animals, hyperactive animals, or animals that could just use some relaxation and comfort.

“In North America, [animal massage] is still a relatively new area, but it has definitely increased over the last nine years, and particularly over the last year as people become more cognizant that massage is valid to employ for their companions,” said Nicola Way, owner and massage therapist at Vancouver Animal Massage in B.C., Canada. “As people’s education and awareness increase, I see a proportional increase in the number of calls I get.”

DogSpa, a groomer and retail store in Beverly, Mass., offers a large range of all-natural grooming services and products. In fact, operations manager Christopher Keohane said DogSpa originally began its natural grooming services to help dogs with allergies and other conditions.

The store has a three-phase all-natural allergy treatment beginning with a Dead Sea salt massage. Other treatments include natural aromatherapy baths, deodorizing and moisturizing treatments and blueberry facials. As an add-on for animals with particularly bad skin, DogSpa offers a DerMagic's Skin Rescue Lotion treatment—an all-natural product that Keohane called “a dream.” The newest and best-selling treatment at DogSpa is called Excessive Shedding, which uses a combination of all-natural shampoos and a brushing technique. DogSpa’s natural grooming services are so successful that about 75 percent of customers coming in for grooming services get a spa treatment, said Keohane.

Finding Success

Harnessing this market takes more than merely stocking the shelves with natural products.

“It’s all about education, first and foremost,” Keohane said.

In addition to a knowledgeable staff, DogSpa has talking signs throughout the store speaking about a product’s beneficial properties and why the store chose to carry it.

Justin Jones, president of grooming product manufacturer Espree Animal Products Inc. in Grapevine, Texas, said employee education can be key to moving these items out of your store.

“It’s especially important to have a marketer that knows how to market these products,” he said. “They need to know the features and benefits of the products and communicate that to the consumer.”

Manufacturers can help retailers and their staff learn about the benefits of their products, which benefits both parties.

“We have a full-page glossary at the back of our catalog with definitions of different ingredients,” Jones said.

Dr. Harvey’s, a manufacturer in Keansburg, N.J., joined the all-natural grooming market about a year ago and currently has plans to release training videos for retailers on each of the company’s products, including herbal protection shampoo and spray and organic healing cream. Set to debut this year on the company’s website, the videos will educate the retailer on benefits of chemical-free products, said Wendy Shankin-Cohen, company president.

Growth of an Industry

“It has taken consumers a while to realize that we are what we eat,” said David Yaskulka, vice president of marketing communications at Halo, a manufacturer of natural shampoos, deodorizers, ear and eye wash and healing salve in Tampa, Fla. “It is that same awareness and due diligence we saw after the pet food recall.”

While this category moves out of the niche and into the mainstream, retailers continue to see growth.

CanisMinor, a grooming and boutique shop with three locations in New York and New Jersey, has carried natural product since its first location opened.

“In 2005, we had about 50 percent of our product inventory as natural, and since then we have increased our natural product selection and started to weed out the non-natural products,” said Darryl Ng, general manager of the business.

Today, according to Ng, 75 to 80 percent of CanisMinor’s product mix is natural and about 50 percent of shampoo sales are from natural shampoos. Still, Ng said that the natural grooming product and services market has grown less than the natural product market in general. “People have yet to come in looking specifically for natural grooming products. It’s still really up to the independent retailer to tell the customer the benefits,” he said.

The Trend

Much of this market’s growth can be credited to anthropomorphism. As people see human characteristics in their pets, they come to think that their product choices for their pets should be similar to their own.

“You have a mirroring of the idea that people are changing products and moving toward natural and, [therefore], pet products are moving toward natural because this market trends with the human market,” Jones said.

To capitalize on this trend, manufacturers and groomers are offering all-natural products lines and services that are familiar to consumers in their own lives, such as massages, facials, mud baths and salon products. Amanda McLeod of Ren’s Pets Depot, Ontario, Canada, a distributor that carries all-natural lines of shampoos, conditioners, facial scrubs and bubble baths, says the company also sells a natural line of colognes by Show Season that is particularly popular.

Manufacturer Tropiclean of Wentzville, Mo., released a line of natural products called SPA for professional groomers too.

“Our SPA line was evidence of our research that people are humanizing their pets more. This trend will continue to strengthen,” said Joe Zuccarello, national account sales manager at Tropiclean.

Espree Animal Products’ will soon be offering a styling series for grooming professionals and the show dog market. The line includes hair spray, hair volumizer, hot oil treatment and styling gel—all products familiar to the consumer.

“Natural grooming products have ingredients that you recognize and understand—ingredients that you might see in your own products or in a health store,” said Yaskulka.

One of Halo’s most popular grooming products is its shampoo with well-known ingredients such as sage, peppermint, rosemary extract and tea tree oil.

As the market changes, the product profile will continue to diversify.

“I think this is a growing sector and will only get bigger,” said MacLeod. “People want the same thing for themselves that they want for their pets and natural is definitely the trend.” <HOME>

This article first appeared in the June 2010 issue of Natural Pet Product Merchandiser. Click here to become a subscriber.

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