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Professional Grooming Marketplace: Trade Suds for Success

Posted: March 19, 2012, 6:30 p.m. EST


Keeping abreast of the latest developments in shampoos, conditioners and treatments makes sense for groomers.
By Lizett Bond

While pet owners and groomers may consider artistic flair to be essential in bringing forth that perfectly coiffed, clean-smelling dog, groom shop success is also dependent upon having the proper tools for the job. Scissors and brushes are staples, but shampoos and conditioners are equally significant implements in a groomer’s toolbox.

“When you are in the business of grooming and pet styling, you have to put your money into your tools,” said Donna Walker, co-owner of South Bark Dog Wash in San Diego. “Shampoos and conditioners are tools; they need to work and they need to be good.”

Bathing
Courtesy of Yankee Clipper.

The optimal result is an end product that clients will notice, Walker stated.

“You have got to be significant in your work,” she added. “That will make you successful.”

Selection, Supply and Offerings
Attaining that favorable outcome includes assessing pet requirements, maintaining a working inventory and recommending suitable product.

Taking specifics into account, such as breed, hair type and skin conditions, includes custom-matching appropriate shampoos and conditioners to achieve ideal results, according to Janene Zakrajsek, co-owner of Pussy and Pooch, with two locations, one in Los Angeles and the other in Long Beach, Calif.

In that regard, salon owners often consider a selection of product to assist in plying their trade, and most report use of gallon or larger sized products. Smaller sizes of the same products are frequently offered for sale.

In Season
Groomers can catch extra sales opportunities by offering seasonal treatments, nail treatments and to protect pets’ coat and skin, and to make them look good for the holidays, too.

Paw Balm for conditioning paw pads is an excellent add-on during winter months, said Lisa Jordan, sales and marketing director for Espree Animal Products in Grapevine, Texas, and products such as Simple Shed and Static Spray are helpful in both summer and winter seasons.
 
Counter displays, signage, videos and catalogs are valuable promotional tools when introducing new products and educating customers.

“Groomers are offering a larger variety of services such as nail polishing, color and design in the coat, along with providing the pet owner with knowledge of skin and coat issues associated with their pet,” Jordan stated.

New products are appearing in the marketplace, as well. Espree recently introduced its new Show Style product line, featuring styling gels, sprays, shampoo and conditioner, for styling AKC show dogs. In addition, sixteen colors of nail polish, as well as a remover, are included in the launch.

As a trend, pet owners are taking grooming a step further in order to maintain that “just-groomed” fresh scent, and a cologne spray displayed on the counter is an impulse buy, Jordan said.

“Grooming does not just stop at a bath and nail trim,” Rosenblatt of Fetch…for cool pets! stated. “The trend is all about keeping pups clean and fresh for long periods of time.”

Indeed, fragrance plays an important role in customer satisfaction, and South Bark’s Walker noted that there are two types of scent; nostalgic and innovative.

“Nostalgic scent would be something like pumpkin pie, you smell it and think immediately of Thanksgiving at grandmother’s,” she said.

She continued that in formulating South Bark’s Blueberry Clove Organic Essential Oil products, the company attempted to create something unique that owners will associate with South Bark Dog Wash. That aroma may become nostalgic over time causing owners to associate it with a grooming visit.

“We use a variety of premium and all-natural professional grooming products, including Isle of Dogs, Aroma Paws, Happy Tails, Earthbath and more, in gallon sizes in-house,” Zakrajsek said. “Retail offerings range from 8 to 20 ounces, depending upon the brand.”

“Most of what we use in the Bathhouse we also sell at retail,” she added.
 
As a high-volume salon, Healthy Spot, with two locations in Santa Monica and West Hollywood, Calif., respectively, reported using gallon sizes and multi-liters in the salon, while selling five- to 12-ounce sizes of the same product on the retail floor, said co-owner Andrew Kim. With Isle of Dogs the primary grooming line, other products, such as flea and tick dip and oatmeal solutions, are in the mix, Kim added.

“We decided to use their line because it is consistent with our branding of a high-end salon and spa,” he said.

Some manufacturers offer concentrated products, designed to allow groomers to dilute and mix their own shampoo.

“Some grooming salons order in larger sizes, but gallons are the norm,” noted Lisa Jordan, sales and marketing director for Espree Animal Products in Grapevine, Texas. “Espree shampoos and conditioners are highly concentrated, so 1 gallon of our 50-to-one concentrate shampoo will make 50 gallons of ready-to-use shampoo.”

Other manufacturers concurred regarding the prevalence of groomers purchasing gallon or larger size shampoo bottles. Liz Barnes Marquardt, marketing director for Glo-Marr Products Inc. in Lawrenceburg, Ky., noted that Glo-Marr products are available in 1-gallon and 5-gallon containers, as well as 55-gallon drums.

“The trend seems to be ordering gallons and refilling from 5-gallon jugs,” she added.

Space limitations can create storage issues, and Joe Zuccarello, national accounts sales manager for Tropiclean in Wentzville, Mo., stated that the company packages shampoos in rectangular containers, thus reducing the size of each bottle’s footprint and allowing for space conservation.

“Most shops prefer a larger-sized container since the majority of products cost less when purchased that way,” he added.

From In-shop to Retail
With South Bark Dog Wash Professional Pet Product’s Blueberry Facial line of shampoos and conditioners, Walker noted that the fluctuating economy sees most groom shops ordering larger sizes and offering product for retail to customers.

“We have a good number of people who have gotten into retail, which is what they need to do to be able to earn money,” she said.

The advantage for grooming shops in offering products for retail is the ability for customers to purchase products for home use in between grooming appointments, said Rachael Rosenblatt, marketing manager for Fetch…for cool pets! in New York.

“If someone likes how their dog smells after a grooming, the groomer can sell wipes for home use to keep the dog smelling fresh,” she said.

In addition, Jordan stated that offering products for customers to use at home aids in maintaining proper care and health of the pet’s skin and coat, thus making the pet and owner happy, and the groomer’s job easier.

Different breeds call for distinct grooming techniques and in–home maintenance. To meet those needs, Pussy and Pooch features a dedicated area showcasing take-home spa grooming products along with sprays and other essential items such as ear and eye wipes, tear stain remedies, nail clippers and dental products.

“Ear care products are a must to have on hand,” Espree’s Jordan noted.

In some cases, groomers make sure their clients have access to the same products they use in-shop.

Industry Voices
Are salons seeing an increased interest in the use of natural products?

“People always want to feel good about what they use and have confidence that they are doing the right thing for the planet. I’m going to call it a movement of consciousness, not a ‘natural’ fad. It transcends into shampoo, foods and extends throughout the whole lifestyle. Most good shampoo products are natural, but in order to have a shampoo or conditioner work well, it can’t be 100 percent rocks and twigs, but it has to have ingredients that are as pure as possible.”
Donna Walker, co-owner of South Bark Dog Wash in San Diego

“Natural products are very much in demand. Pet parents are more educated than ever before and they demand superior, earth and pet friendly products to be used on their furry family members.”
Joe Zuccarello, national accounts sales manager for Tropiclean in Wentzville, Mo.

“It’s one of the hottest trends right now; it’s definitely something people ask about.”
Rachel Rosenblatt, marketing manager for Fetch…for cool pets! in New York

“We are finding that the trends and innovations are coming in the natural products category. From shampoo and conditioners to wipes, we find that customers are demanding more natural products.”
Andrew Kim, co-owner of Healthy Spot, with locations in Santa Monica and West Hollywood, Calif.

“We are seeing a ton of natural products flooding the market. Something that we would actually like to see [that we haven’t] is a premium grooming line developed [to be] specifically suited to cats’ needs and not another waterless shampoo for cats.”
Janene Zakrajsek, co-owner of Pussy and Pooch, with locations in Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif.

“If a client wants to do some kind of maintenance at home, we like to give them the exact product that we use on their dog,” said Melayne Peeples, pet stylist and manager of Pet Effects Grooming, with two locations in Memphis and Collierville, Tenn., respectively.

Samples to Sales
Noting the importance of client education regarding brushing, maintenance and breed specific products, Peeples said she often requests samples before ordering new merchandise, allowing groomers to test it on their own dogs. In this way, product knowledge can be passed on to clients.

“We assess each product that we use,” she said.

Groomers can take advantage of several sample programs, which can help with product selection and streamline the process of trying new shampoos and conditioners out. Rosenblatt noted that Fetch offers 1 fluid-ounce sample sizes of Pet Head’s Life’s an Itch and Dirty Talk, allowing salon customers to evaluate Pet Head products before purchasing a larger size.

To assist customers with inventory planning, Glo-Marr Products  Inc. publishes a six-month “Monthly Specials Planner” to aid in ordering and stocking up on essentials and favorites.

“Our low minimums and ability to do short and long runs are very appealing,” Go-Marr’s Marquardt said.

Managing inventory effectively may contribute to sales success of shampoo products, as well. Keeping track of inventory at Healthy Spot consists of ordering bi-weekly and keeping a log of minimum orders on hand. Price breaks are also taken into consideration when ordering.

Having the right products on hand at the right time may mean the difference between victory and defeat. Tracking consumer habits can dovetail with planning for seasonal purchases, and groomers using foresight may be able to drive increasing sales at certain times of the year. Espree’s Jordan suggested watching for seasonal trends when stocking products.

“It starts out innovative and then becomes nostalgic,” South Bark’s Walker said. “It’s a way to use a product as a marketing tool.”

She added that while groomers and stylists are excellent craftsmen, using appropriate products in this way serves to boost the marketing aspect of the business.

“I recommend groomers boast about the products they use and why they choose the products they do,” Tropiclean’s Zuccarello said. “Pet parents can identify great grooming and appreciate the extra effort spent on making sure their pet is groomed using quality products.” 

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