Dog and cat owners continue to seek high-quality spa products for their pets to create luxurious grooming experiences at home. Even pet specialty retailers that offer in-store grooming are finding that pet owners are investing in take-home grooming products.
Among the qualities that are important to pet owners when it comes to grooming products, natural is at the top of the list, said Kim McCohan, chief happiness officer for Bend Pet Express, which has two locations in Bend, Ore.
Dallas Van Kempen, president of EQyss Pet Products in Vista, Calif., said that interest is continuing to grow in ingredients and natural products. He noted that consumers are scrutinizing ingredients and using the internet to research them.
"Not only do people want products that are effective, they want them to be safe to use [and] have less environmental impact," Van Kempen said. "The ingredients in a grooming product can easily be researched on the internet to evaluate quality, efficacy and safety/environmental concerns."
Products that are made in the USA from USA-grown/manufactured ingredients are increasing in popularity, he added.
Pet owners also want something that smells good and is effective but won’t completely break the bank, McCohan said.
Another category trend is the growing consumer demand for formulas that are gentle and proven to be beneficial to a pet’s skin and coat.
"Pet parents are increasingly looking for products that not only make their pets look great, but are also good for them," said Doug Gleason, president of TrueBlue Pet Products in Los Angeles. "So, when it comes to giving a bath, they want a shampoo that makes their dog look and smell good, and won’t dry out their skin."
Many pet owners are looking for products that will solve specific problems—especially itching—said Laura Andrews, store manager at Pet Things, a Bentley’s Pet Stuff Co. in Douglasville, Ga.
"They want something that is high quality and spalike, but they often also want it to serve a function," Andrews said.
Molly Smith, owner of Republic of Paws in Denver and Colorado Springs, Colo., said that oftentimes conversations about using grooming products to solve a problem lead to education opportunities in her stores.
"We find that customers want to find spa products that will solve a problem, such as itching, but if there is an underlying cause, they’re not going to fix that," Smith said. "But it does open the door for an education opportunity, and we like to capitalize on those moments."
Grouping Grooming Products
When curating an optimum assortment of spa products, space is at a premium. But helping customers to find products they’re looking for—or that they might not realize exist—can be a great way to drive product sales.
Grouping products by brand rather than by category can help leverage customers’ existing brand loyalty, said Elyse Horvath, founder of Natural Paws in Scottsdale, Ariz.
"For example, if the customer is already a fan of Natural Paws’ paw care sprays, they might be more excited to learn about other products like the EARoma thEARapy sprayable ear wash, even if they didn’t go to the store specifically for ear wash that day," Horvath said.
Justin Pohl, vice president of Longview, Texas-based BioDerm Laboratories, maker of the Bio-Groom brand, agreed.
"I believe you have to have products beside each other that complement one another," he said. "If I am a consumer and I am going to purchase the Bio-Groom Natural Oatmeal Shampoo, it is highly likely I will purchase the Oatmeal Crème Rinse."
Yet Doug Gleason, president of TrueBlue Pet Products in Los Angeles, said that brand grouping for that "billboard effect" might work well for shampoos and conditioners, but he believes solution-based products are best organized by category.
"The most difficult question is whether to group by brand or type of product," he said. "When the pet parent is looking for a solution-oriented product, such as an ear-cleaning product, they really want to see all the different products together in one place so they can compare and make a choice."
And with so many products to choose from, retailers need to hone their grooming selections.
"Stores should carry three different ‘tiers’ of quality in a product assortment, no matter what the category," said Dallas Van Kempen, president of EQyss Pet Products in Vista, Calif. "We recommend ‘good, better, best’ as a philosophy to structure the store offerings."
Illustrate the Spa Experience
There are a lot of ways to get creative with your spa product displays. Jill Taft, founder of BarkLogic, a brand of New York-based Logic Products, said that with pet owners already humanizing their cats and dogs, retailers could have some fun with the concept.
"Displays that showcase pet humanization are fun and humorous and really drive the point home," she said. "Get a bathtub and put it on a table and create a very clean-looking spa setting around it. Get a lifelike-looking collection of stuffed dogs for your display—Melissa & Doug make some very lifelike dogs that we use for trade shows, and people always comment on how real they look."
Taft suggested putting a shower cap on one dog and a bathrobe on another, and then laying spa products throughout the display as though the dogs were enjoying a spa experience. You could even take it a step further and get a bubble machine to create bubbles and blow them in the air, Taft added.
"I love to see stores incorporate real-world objects into their retail setup—stores that add character and texture to their setup by using furniture, props, plants, or other decorations that go with the theme of the store or cater to the clientele," said Dallas Van Kempen, president of EQyss Pet Products in Vista, Calif.
The key, he said, is to know who your customer is and make them comfortable in your store, instead of "just being a place to buy stuff."
Elyse Horvath, founder of Natural Paws in Scottsdale, Ariz., suggested categorizing displays for an added effect.
"It could be as specific as ‘products with calming lavender’ or as broad as ‘products with relaxing aromatherapy blends,’" she said. "Place several products in that featured zone and people will want to find something in that category that speaks to their current needs. Are they looking for calming? Insect repellent? Mood enhancement? Give options in paw care, coat care, odor control and styling. The key is in having options."