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5:01 PM   April 19, 2015
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Redbook: Selling the Experience

Spa goods can boost boutique sales between groomer visits.
By Meghan E. Murphy

Although spa products seem like a luxury, many industry players report that adding shampoo and conditioner lines to boutiques’ store shelves can boost their bottom lines in tough economic times.

Many groomers are finding additional income in spa product sales, as clients reduce their appointment frequency during difficult economic times and opt for at-home care.
As customers demand all-natural items for their pets, a new generation of spa products has served as both a necessity and a nicety.

Boutiques that traditionally carried mostly upscale accessories and clothing—so popular in the boom years—are now turning toward fashionable basics to keep customers spending.

“If somebody’s going to spend money, the product has to look cute, but it’s also going to [have to] solve the problem,” said Lorna Paxton, owner of Happytails Canine Spa Line in Los Angeles.

Adding a spa line can also help customers who, in a down economy, are visiting the groomer less often and need take-home products that help keep dogs maintained between salon treatments.

Meeting a Need

Every dog needs a wash every now and then, especially those Minnesota mutts who wade around in lakes and streams, said Karen Howe, co-owner of Lulu and Luigi with locations in St. Louis Park and Wayzata, Minn.

Her boutiques carry a wide array of spa products, from shampoos to toothpaste, displayed in the style of a hair salon on glass shelves.

The “pawlor,” as she’s dubbed it, is full of items that pet owners need and brands that Howe considers the best. Howe carries shampoos, conditioners, face washes, toothbrushes, colognes and perfumes, and even mini-bathrobes.

“We’ve always had a spa area,” Howe said. “I just think it’s an essential part of the business.”

Boutiques should provide customers with high-quality products not found at local box stores, Howe added. She focuses on all-natural, hypoallergenic brands that she can attest to. She carries Le Pooch and Isle of Dogs brands because she uses them on her own pet.

“People are looking for effective natural products that are safe for their pets,” said Lisa Jordan, director of sales and marketing for Espree Animal Products in Grapevine, Texas.

Pet owners who once made monthly grooming appointments are also stretching the amount of time between salon sessions, Jordan said. This is good news for boutiques selling spa products.

“It’s really helpful if they have something to keep the face clean, keep the paws clean and a spray to keep the fur combed out between appointments,” she said.

A Wide Array

Following the human salon market, pet spa product makers have diversified their lines to offer shampoos and conditioners that work for different breeds and hair types.

Both groomers and consumers are more educated about what works best on the pets, Jordan said.

Groomers are a lot more knowledgeable than in years’ past and so are the consumers,” she added.

Offering a variety of shampoos, combs and skin care products prepares boutiques to better meet the needs of different breed owners who come into the store.

“It’s good to have a variety of products available to cover all the most basic problems that dogs have,” Paxton said.

With all that diversity, boutique owners should bone up on their salon products and customer base in order to recommend the right lines of spa items, said Jamie Brant, spokesperson for Pet Head brand licensed through Skaffles LLC in New York.

Retailers need to know their customers’ needs and the products’ purposes in order to make a good match and a sale.

Market, Market

Experienced industry sources also offered marketing tips on how to keep spa products moving off shelves.

Before Howe had an in-store grooming service, she worked with a mobile dog salon to cross-promote their businesses and choose products.

The match grew both businesses, as Howe recommended the stylist to her customers and the groomer told her clients to visit Lulu and Luigi to pick up products for at-home washes.

When dog owners pick up their pups from the groomers and they smell great, those last-minute recommendations can drive the sales home, Jordan said.

Howe said suggested for boutique owners and their staff to be assertive in why the products they carry are the best. Howe often recommends her shampoos to customers who come in looking for different brands, and she makes sure she can explain her choice’s advantages.

“They should know why they went with that line—why it’s better,” she said.

Spa packages can also help boutiques make extra sales. Creating an attractive kit of shampoo, conditioner and tear stain remover can convince a customer to buy a little something extra, Brant said.

Back to Basics

When it comes to spa products, or any other line for that matter, the bottom line in today’s economy is that stores need to focus on effective products that solve customers’ pet dilemmas. Retailers should look at each product and ask what benefit it provides to customers, Paxton said.

“The stores that go with the problem-solution approach sell tons of products,” Paxton said. “The stores that try to go for an exclusive feel don’t succeed.” <HOME>

Newspaper reporter Meghan E. Murphy has written articles on pet industry trends for more than three years.

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