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Clear the Hair

Posted: Oct. 31, 2011, 1:25 p.m. EDT

Helping customers keep houses clean and free of pet hair can be a money maker.
By Sandy Robins

It’s a recognized and resigned fact; if you have pets, you have pet hair in the home.

In fact, according to the 2011-2012 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, shedding is listed as a drawback of pet ownership by 32 per cent of dog owners and 42 per cent of cat owners.
 
While the industry is very cognizant of the problem, and there are tools to deal with the issue, it in not a sector of the marketplace where there is much room for invention. The main “tools” tend to be various types of sticky surfaces to attract the hair or vacuum cleaning systems. End of story.

What is further interesting, is the fact that while many vacuum cleaner manufacturers have crossed over into the pet world and are designing products specifically for this vital home care need, their pet-styled products still seem to remain firmly entrenched in the home care aisle in mass retail stores and haven’t penetrated the specialist pet retailer market. And, by the same token, pet retailers seem to be happy to keep them there because vacuums take up precious store space, are expensive items, and, not an everyday purchase.

“Bissell’s heritage is in the floorcare aisle,” explained Maribeth Kamstra, public relations specialist for Bissell Homecare Inc. based in Grand Rapids, Mich. “So, despite forging a presence in the pet care market for some time with specific handheld vacuum cleaners and brooms along with traditional upright cleaners with special attachments designed to target pet hair, essentially, we are taking the brand where the consumer is allowing them to expand their product offerings, and one of these locations is the pet aisle in national mass retail stores. However, because pet hair is an important area of focus for us, we are looking to expand our line of solutions for all channels.”

New pet hair products available from Bissell Homecare under their Pawsively Clean brand name in pet specialty stores include the Zoinks pet hair vacuum, Nifty pet hair hand vacuum, Arrgh pet hair broom and the Yowza pet grooming tool.
 
“In the pet retail world, the lint roller rules”, confirmed Dave Ratner owner and operator of four independent pet stores in Massachusetts called Dave’s Soda and Pet City. “In today’s world of gadgets, it may seem old-fashioned – but it works! I sell tons of them and an infinite number of refills. It’s rather like owning a razor; you have to keep buying refills on an on-going basis. I just wish the selection available included bigger sizes.”

Pet hair

Wen Boley president of Sticky Sheets based in Colorado Springs, CO has addressed the size issue in terms of the area that can be targeted in one “lift off ” with his 2 ft by 3 ft Sticky Sheets, a product designed to target both upholstered and carpeted areas.

“Over 25,000 tons of pet hair is shed by pets in the US every year,” said Boley. “Recently, we played around with some figures and worked out that Americans spend around 10 million hours a year cleaning up pet hair. Consequently, there is a huge demand for eliminating unwanted hair as quickly as possible.”

Since the founding of his company five years ago, Boley has been selling his product primarily off his website. However, he is currently working on a massive marketing campaign that will roll out in the spring of 2012 that includes a national TV campaign and he plans to extend his market reach by targeting both major pet chains and specialty pet retailers too.
 
“Pet vacuum cleaners are expensive and considered luxury items, explained Boley. The lint roller is my strongest competition. From my research, the target pet owner for my product is both cat and dog owners equally. And, taking it a step further, my consumers are both rural and city dwellers. Interestingly, consumer feedback has indicated that there is a market for a smaller size too and we are working on it to meet their needs.”

“I agree with Boley’s cat-dog consumer break down,” said Kelly Ballentine owner of The Pet Barn stores in Burtonsville and Annapolis, Md. “For me, as a pet store owner, I feel that lint rollers are a ‘must-stock’ item as pet owners expect to find them in pet stores. But the problem is that these days, their availability is so widely spread, you can pick them up anywhere and everywhere.”

While pet storeowners generally concur with Ratner and Ballentine that the lint roller is undoubtedly the kingpin of hair pick-up in the pet specialty store arena, its difficult to ignore the role that nutrition plays in the shedding arena.
 
“Whenever the shedding issue crops up with a customer, I feel compelled to mention what an important role diet and nutrition plays in the shedding game,” said Kerry Elliot, who, with Andrew Smith owns Hounds and Kitties in Maitland, Fla. “It so important to stress that with the right nutrition both dogs and cats have healthier coats and shed less, which is a direct way of targeting the home hair removal issue.”

Currently, Bamboo Pet of North Hills, Calif., now owned by Petmate headquartered in Arlington, Texas, is promoting its 3-in-1 Grooming Glove as a multi purpose pick-up tool.

“Apart from removing pet hair from the pet, it also removes hair from all home surfaces,” explained Jennifer Couillez, the company’s product marketing manager. “The fabric side works like a lint brush to remove loose hair. ”

If the pet hair removal game is played strictly with sticky surfaces or vacuums, then there is perhaps one new innovation making an appearance in this restricted marketplace – that of the throw used to protect surfaces and work as a pet hair “catcher.”
 
Throws have become popular interior design accessories, and, working with this concept, various pet product manufacturers are now marketing them as a way of keeping home surfaces devoid of per hair.

“Our dog Molly B. helped inspire our latest product called the Throver,” said Randy Rubin, co-founder of the West Bloomfield, Mich.-based company Crypton that manufactures a patented process designed to protect against general household detritus.

“It feels soft like a blanket, but acts like a tarp, protecting furniture and the general interior of the home from pet hair as well as spills and stains,” Rubin continued. “The idea is to simply toss them in to the washing machine from time to time.”

The range includes colors and designs to make them an attractive accessory in any interior design setting, Rubin added.

“Personally, I like to keep Throvers in different rooms of my home to keep our furniture looking clean and fresh,” Rubin said. “And, as an added bonus they work equally outdoors and in cars too.”

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