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Redbook: Serve and Sell

Combining grooming services and retail products in one business promotes pet health while boosting the bottom line.
By Janet Randall

Although more mindful of their spending, pet owners seem to be as conscientious as ever about their animals’ care. The decision to purchase innovative grooming products and services that provide health-related benefits may be easily justified in their minds, so retailers who offer grooming services—and groomers that sell product—can get a leg up on competitors that have only one or the other.

Adding a self-serve dog wash is one way retailers can incorporate grooming services into their stores. Photo Credit: Cris Kelly
“Some people argue that it is self-defeating for a pet groomer to sell retail products, the thought process being that the customer will buy grooming products and attempt to tackle all of the pet’s needs themselves,” said Liz Marquardt, marketing director for Glo-Marr Products Inc. in Lawrenceburg, Ky. “Historically speaking, that is not true. Groomers who sell product actually increase their bottom line.”

Tami Vornbrock is one of these groomers offering product to customers. Vornbrock, who owns The DogSpa of Seattle, a full service grooming salon in the Washington city, said she’s “new school” and likes to build relationships with her customers by teaching them anything they want to know about grooming.

“I like to offer my customers an alternative to antibiotics and steroids for treatment of hot spots and yeast infections,” Vornbrock offered. “I perform the initial service for them and then send them home with product. I’ve had great success with DERMagic Hot Spot Lotion.”

In turn, groomers’ needs have been a focal point for product development at DERMagic Skin Care for Animals Inc. and other grooming product companies. With manufacturers considering these needs, the result can be better-made products for groomers to use in their businesses and sell to their customers.

“Groomers are the first line of defense when it comes to healthy skin and coat,” said Dr. Adelia Ritchie, president and founder of the Bellevue, Wash.-based company, which manufactures a comprehensive skin care system for animals. “I have spent a great deal of time trying to figure out what groomers need. I learned they are looking for ways to treat skin problems, which could help avoid vet bills.”

Thomaz Nicoletti, international business specialist for Pet Society, a grooming product manufacturer based in São Paulo, Brazil, agreed that pet owners expect groomers to take some responsibility in pet health.

“A good groomer is one who will spare no expense when taking care of an animal, one who uses top-of-the-line products and is attentive to the smallest detail,” Nicoletti said.

And these top-of-the-line items may be permeating the grooming market more than ever before.

“Pet products are becoming more competitive; the technology to develop them is better, and they are more innovative,” Nicoletti said. “The quality and the benefits are what distinguish one product from another. These innovative products offer high-quality solutions which can provide a better quality of life for pets.”

Once groomers purchase items to sell to their customers, they can benefit from knowing how to display and market them.

Noting pet owners’ trend of using spa-type grooming products at home to extend the time between grooming, manufacturers have packaged their products for retail sales as well as in bulk, according to Lisa Jordan, sales and marketing director for Espree Animal Products in Grapevine, Texas. 

“Retailers should display companion products together, making it an easier buying decision for the customer,” Jordan recommended. “And the staff should be knowledgeable on product benefits and what is appropriate for various breed/skin types and coat types.”

Just as many groomers sell products to bring in more revenue, many retailers reverse the trend by adding grooming services.

“New high-tech tubs on the market now allow a retail store to add basic grooming services with a limited amount of space,” said Judy Hudson, National Certified Master Groomer and owner/operator of Groomingtails Mobile Pet Grooming in Nashville, Tenn. “The main benefit would be having a qualified groomer on staff to advise customers.”

Hudson also suggested that retail stores sell products like the RapidBath Pet Bathing System for home grooming use and offer classes on how to bathe and brush a dog. Since RapidBath uses shampoo cartridges, which mix shampoo with water as the product is applied, the customer returns to the store to buy replacement cartridges.

Julie Neva, owner of Chewy’s Bonetique in Denver, offers limited grooming services in conjunction with her self-serve dog wash. 

“We will bathe and condition by appointment only,” Neva said. “Customers drop off and pick up their dog as soon as it is ready. Many customers bring their pets in between grooming for nail trimming and sanitary clips.”

Like Chewy’s Bonetique, Pet Food Express features self-serve dog wash areas as a pet grooming option for customers.

“Our self-serve dog wash is not intended to compete with local groomers,” said Michael Levy, owner of Pet Food Express, which is made up of 34 stores in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area. “It is strictly to provide a service to our customers. The biggest advantages for them are that they don’t have to clean up, and our equipment is ergonomically designed.”

Levy pointed out that the self-serve facility is expensive, with about 7 percent of his retail space accounting for one fourth of the overhead. Nevertheless, he is committed to it.

“I can only guess about the effect this service has on our overall sales numbers, but I know one thing for sure: It bonds our customers to us,” Levy said. “We also use the facility to generate donations for local charities. The goodwill we get from community outreach programs creates synergy for growth. Our successful self-serve operation has evolved over time, and even though the benefit is subtle, I know how important the service is.”

The total care trend, combining healthful grooming strategies with high-tech pet care products, provides retailers and groomers with opportunities to enhance customer service and build customer loyalty. <HOME>

Janet Randall has a master’s degree in Applied Communication.  She worked in marketing for 17 years with a pet-industry-related manufacturing company and performs a multitude of business-writing services.


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