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Professional Grooming Marketplace: New and Natural Go Hand in Hand

Posted: Aug. 21, 2012, 12:40 p.m. EDT


Staying ahead of trends and meeting the marketplace’s desire for natural treatments can grow business.
By Cecily Koplin

Because pet grooming is a service industry, groomers are always working. If they aren’t working, they aren’t getting paid. And part of keeping paying clients coming in the door is offering quality new services to meet changing demand. Groom shops find that adding natural products and treatments to their business appeals to today’s perceptive clients, owners stated. Grooming customers seek groomers who not only have a great relationship with their pet, but can also provide the type of products and services that will cut down on trips to the vet.

“More and more, the market is turning to ‘cosmeceutical’ (that is cosmetic plus neutraceutical) products that target specific problems,” said Lorna Paxton, founder and president of EcowellDog, based in Austin, Texas. “Consumers want to know that a problem is really being solved. It is not just enough to be all-natural anymore: products need to be potent and highly effective. Oral hygiene products of all types seem to be on the rise.”

Many groom shops are finding that their biggest growth is in oral hygiene products, itchy skin treatments and those that eliminate tearstains and ear infections. Ear infections are the No. 1 reason dogs go to the vet, so product that allow groomers to deal with these problems are popular.

Natural pet grooming
More clients are interested in natural pet grooming products and services. Courtesy of Furry Face
“A store can have several different alternatives for the same problem, because especially in the all-natural category, not every product or ingredient is going to be effective for every dog,” Lorna stated. “In addition, products come in different forms—like drops, liquids, supplements, washes, and more.”

Because dogs come in so many different sizes and coat types, groomers have to be aware of what product or treatment will address each situation. Groom shop owners need to think ahead about their particular area and season to stock the right products for their clients. For one region, it may be fleas or itchy skin, and in another, it could be rough paws from snow or extreme heat.

Chris Sertzel, owner of Finer DeTails Pet Spa in Mazomanie Wis., provides her clients with natural ingredients in the products and services that she offers. Chris also loves to cater to the comfort of her furry clients to make them more at ease during the grooming process.

“As an added effort, I do little things for my clients that help me feel that I am going the extra mile for them to really give a spa quality experience,” Sertzel said. “I do things like keep my ear cleanser on a warmer during the winter months, not applying cold shampoo, hand mixing shampoo with simple added ingredients as needed for symptomatic coats, using essential oils in the laundry when warming or drying towels, not leaving pets in a kennel to dry and keeping a shorter rotation time on grooms, offering UVA and UVB lighting in the salon during our long Northern winter months, and working with clients for ‘Spa ReTreat’ days for their pets.

“I know some may see it as a bit much, but I know how I like to be enveloped in not just the experience of going to the spa, but I also want to know I did good things for my body and mind while I am there,” Sertzel stated. “I want that care for my pet clients as well.”

Shop owners have the chance to custom-tailor natural treatment offerings, which has led to many groom shops introducing novel treatments for clients’ pets.

“I have added several services that include an Intensive Moisture Fur Remedy, A natural ultra-rich deep conditioning treatment that helps bring luster and softness back into most damaged coats,” said Gladys Tay, co-owner of Bubbles & Ecouture in West St. Paul Minn. “I also offer a Purifying Anti Staining Facial Scrub, which is a spa botanical bio-natural facial with a blend of vitamin E, white tea juice and mallow that deep-cleanses, exfoliates, hydrates, soothes and remove tearstains.”

Tay offers various other natural treatments as well, including a natural paw treatment, where pets’ paws are soaked in a blend of ingredients including ginger root, vitamin E and milk thistle. Pets suffering from arthritis and sore muscles are treated with a blend of organic essential oils such as lavender and cypress, which is massaged directly into affected areas.

“Such massages help to relieve stress and promote calmness,” Tay stated.

Industry Voices
What do you do that would be considered natural grooming?

“I do not sell chemical flea and tick products but do promote natural alternatives such as brewer’s yeast, diatomaceous earth and essential oils. We advocate keeping pets clean and brushed to deter insect infestations.”
Jeanie Barrett, president of Larry’s Laundromutt in Sewickley, Pa.

“I often incorporate simple and whole ingredients such as vinegar, oatmeal, sugar, sea salts, olive oil, coconut oil, essential oils, and whole herbals to a skin and coat care program for needy pets. This along with educating the owner and working with their vet has turned around a lot of symptomatic pets’ cycles of chronic ill health.”
Chris Sertzel, owner of Finer DeTails Pet Spa in Mazomanie, Wis.

“(Our) arthritis and sore muscles reliever services and intensive moisture fur remedy services tend to be the most popular. The massage not only relieves sore muscles, but it sure calms the dogs during grooming and even when they are picked up after being groomed. It is always a pleasure for owners to come pick up a calm and happy dog.”
Gladys Tay, co-owner of Bubbles & Ecouture in St. Paul, Minn.

Pet owners have started to shy away from groom shops where dogs are held for long periods of time in cages awaiting grooming, shop owners stated. Also, owners want the opportunity to have an in-depth conversation about the type of product and services that their pet will receive, according to industry participants.

A high majority of owners and shop managers find that the more communication they have with pet owners, the more natural services can be added to the visit. Also, the customers return at a more frequent rate. Shops that are this hands-on are experiencing great growth and are finding it necessary to schedule their clients out for months. The reputation for personal care with safe natural products keeps these shops in high demand.

Many grooming businesses said they promote natural treatments and products by having specials to try new additions to the product line, by offer discounts for frequent visits within a set period of time, and through the use of shelf talkers, signs, and suggestive selling.

To attract new business, shops use colorful websites with menus of treatments, services and products to reach out to clientele. Shop owners reported they find that the most important aspect of adding on new natural products and services is to have trainings and demonstrations. This will ensure that staff will be at ease answering questions, able to identify and suggest a product based on their experience and knowledge of the features and benefits.

“The really savvy ones are creating prominent displays of products,” Paxton stated. “When groomers just order a couple of products that never seems to work because it is not a big enough statement and their clients do not take it seriously. In addition, they are doing ‘prescription pad selling’ that is, the groomer will write down on a list the products that they recommend for their dog and why.”

Cecily Koplin joined Animal Behavior College in 2009 to assist in the development of its Grooming Program. She owned of A Dog’s Life Grooming Salon & Spa, where she created and specialized in Gentle Touch Grooming techniques, and is a published writer, a script doctor, and was in the computer industry.

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