With consumers so focused on their pets’ well-being, skin issues are a hot topic in grooming.
“The biggest trend in spa products right now is skin care,” said Dawn Leoso Duncan, vice president of Glo-Marr Products, a manufacturer in Lawrenceburg, Ky. “Consumers want their pets to look and feel good.”
In her store, Katie Ast, co-owner of Just Dog People in Garner, N.C., said that skin care conversations happen quite frequently.
“The most common concern pet parents voice about skin care is itching,” she said. “They are looking to help soothe their dog from constant scratching and chewing. Often pet parents don’t know where to start because they are not sure of the root of the problem. Is it diet, environmental, a combination of both, or just boredom, a habit or a self-soothing process?”
Ast said that they help customers attempt to get to the bottom of the problem by matching them with the right product.
“Most are interested in a personal reference for a product or a recommendation,” she said. “Too much choice can overwhelm the customer—and all products look good in pretty packaging with fancy words touting their attributes. But pet parents would rather have a personal reference of how the product actually works.”
Interest in spa products that can both pamper and soothe is rising.
Eric Bittman, owner of Warren London Dog Spa & Grooming Products, a manufacturer in New City, N.Y., said that the trends are focused on pampering and improved health. Being able to combine these two areas is a win-win.
“When it comes to how to pamper our pets these days, we always want to treat them well and give them a spa day while also solving some of the issues they face,” Bittman said. “For example, we sell a relaxing paw soak that will fizz for five minutes. [It is] not only relaxing for the pup, but will also help to fight any fungus, bacteria or yeast which can cause itching. Another example would be our milk bath, which is a powder you pour in the bathtub. This product smells amazing and has many aromatherapeutic characteristics while also [being] soothing. It does amazing work on a dog’s skin and coat.”
Dallas Van Kempen, president of EQyss Grooming Products, a manufacturer in Vista, Calif., added that pet owners are looking for products that mimic products they’re using themselves.
“Pet parents who are shopping for spa products for their pets want quality products that smell good, rinse clean, or are leave-on or leave-in,” he said. “They want these products to be close to something they would use on themselves.”
Retailers and manufacturers report that pet owners are asking about what’s in the products they’re using.
Leoso Duncan said that many pet owners are educating themselves when they can and turning to retailers for more information.
“Pet parents are smarter than ever,” she added. “They look for products that are safe to use and won’t penetrate the skin. Along with that, ‘made in the USA’ is always important to pet parents.”
Ingredients also come into play in terms of trends. Van Kempen said that one of the biggest trends he’s noticing is an interest in calming products, adding that with pets experiencing more anxiety and stress-related issues than ever before, offering these types of grooming products is crucial.
“Popular ingredients are cucumber and lavender because of their soothing and calming properties,” Van Kempen added.
Meeting Customers’ Needs
For pet specialty retailers, having a varied mix of skin and coat products on the shelves is key to helping shoppers find the right option for their pets.
“Pets are just like people in that they all are different—so one product won’t work for everyone,” said Dawn Leoso Duncan, vice president of Glo-Marr Products, a manufacturer in Lawrenceburg, Ky. “You need a variety of products to offer—shampoos, sprays, creams and more. Retailers should also be sure to stock a dry skin product, a greasy-oily skin product and, of course, a deodorizing product to ensure they’re covering all of the bases.”
Creating an optimal assortment of products also comes back to meeting customer needs, said Rob Flanagan, president and “pack leader” of Wag N’ Wash Natural Pet Food & Grooming, a retail and grooming chain with headquarters in Denver.
“We focus on solutions,” he said. “We need to have products that cover all of the different needs including dry and itchy skin, dull coat, flea and ticks, skunk or foul odor and sensitive skin. We also include products that prolong maintenance. These vary from waterless shampoo, leave-in conditioners and colognes. We make sure that all of the products selected fit our values of being natural and having no harsh chemicals while also being pH balanced.”
Eric Bittman, owner of Warren London Dog Spa & Grooming Products, a manufacturer in New City, N.Y., agreed that focusing on problems and solutions is a great way to ensure that retailers are stocking the products their customers might be seeking.
“Pets face many issues, and an ideal assortment would solve most of these issues,” he said. “At Warren London, we are very aware of the most common issues dogs face, and we not only want to have a product for those issues, but we want to have the best product to solve those issues using the most effective ingredients we can find.”
Sherry Redwine, co-owner of Odyssey Pets, a pet store in Dallas, also said curating a grooming product assortment comes down to thinking about the customer base. In each category, there are going to be multiple wants and needs. For example, different shampoos will be important for different reasons, she said.
“You should always have a ‘hypo’ shampoo, a puppy shampoo, an oatmeal shampoo and then some that just have fun scents,” she said. “We listen to what our customers are requesting and adjust our assortment as needed. I love to carry products that are local, and we only carry spa products that are all natural.”
Kim McCohan, chief happiness officer for Bend Pet Express, which has stores in Bend, Ore., agreed that variety in shampoos, in particular, is important—and that it’s key for retailers to stay on top of labels, too.
“We try to have as much variety in shampoo as possible, but still in line with our values,” she said. “We actually had a realization moment recently that the ‘oatmeal’ shampoo we carried didn’t have oatmeal in it anymore. The company changed the formulation, didn’t tell us, and after awhile [we] noticed it. We had to really seek out a company whose ‘oatmeal’ shampoo truly had oatmeal in it! We wanted customers to be able to read the ingredient list and see oatmeal in their oatmeal shampoo.”
Katie Ast, co-owner of Just Dog People, a pet store in Garner, N.C., said that when selecting an assortment of products for her store, she’s looking at four categories—filling a need for the store (product category); providing a solution to a common problem; selecting a product that has been proven through testing, reputation, etc.; and selecting a product that meets the store’s standards after it has been personally tested.