Itching for Immediate Relief

Treating a dog’s skin problems—especially in warmer climates—is a year-round challenge for many customers. Manufacturers of skin and coat products report that tangible benefits drive product sales.

"Pet owners want results; they want relief for their pets," said Steve Nicolosi, national sales manager for Glo-Marr in Lawrenceburg, Ky. "Whether it’s itchy skin and allergy relief, hot spots, eczema, or any ailments dogs have, they want a cure."

According to Pete Stirling, president and COO of Skout’s Honor in Irvine, Calif., "Better results are very important and drive the direction of consumers’ purchasing behavior."

Pet specialty retailers across the nation agreed. For example, Heather Moran, owner of The Doggie Bag Boutique in Lakeland, Fla., said her customers want instant relief for their pets and something that smells good.

"They are so desperate because their dogs are miserable, and they want to give relief from the itching, scratching and licking," she said, adding, however, that the product also has to smell good to the customer. "They open up the products and pick it based on smell."

Also trending with customers are organic products that are made in the USA, said Julie Creed, vice president of sales and marketing for Pura Naturals Pet in Ardsley, N.Y., a company that manufactures pet shampoos and conditioners with certified organic oils.

"As people continue to humanize their family pets, they look for cleaner options for their overall health and turn to natural and organic options," she said.

Elaine Marlier, owner of Destiny’s Paws Natural Pet Market in Littleton, Colo., agreed.

"What consumers want is pure and natural, nothing artificial added," she said.

This desire comes from a similar consumer focus in human products, said Gina Dial, vice president of sales and marketing at John Paul Pet in Austin, Texas.

"Following the trend on the human side, ingredients in shampoos and products for skin and coat must be natural and healthy," she said.

Pet owners are seeking products with the same or similar ingredients as those found in human grooming solutions.

"The biggest trend affecting the demand for products is the humanization of pets and pet owners wanting the same high-quality products for their pets as they would demand for themselves," said Dan Archetti, national sales director for Pet King Brands in Westmont, Ill. "As a result, pet owners have become better educated regarding products and certain ingredients, [and] the demand for higher-quality products has become a higher priority."

Several sources said this trend has gone so far that many owners want to use the same products as their pets.

"Customers are influenced by their own grooming products," said Barbara Herman, owner of Dog Style Canine Supply Co. in Longview, Texas. "They expect the same quality, results and unique ingredients. This brings to mind another trend that we’re seeing—products that are labeled for use on dogs, cats and humans. Currently, my dog and I share several grooming products."

Nicolosi reported similar findings. 

"A lot of people want to say they’re using the same thing on their pets they are using on themselves," he said.

New Products

Natural Elements Shine in the Spotlight

Already this year, the dog skin and coat product category has seen a variety of product launches designed to help pets and boost sales for pet specialty retailers. Many of the latest offerings boast natural ingredients, which appeal to consumers at large.

New from Pura Naturals Pet is the company’s USDA Certified Organic 2-In-1 Avocado & Olive Oil Shampoo and Conditioner. Made with organic hemp seed oil, avocado and olive oil, the product contains no preservatives, additives, chemical foaming agents, dyes, parabens, sulfate or formaldehyde, according to the company.

The Ardsley, N.Y.-based company also introduced Natural Flea & Tick Shampoo, which is made with organic rosemary, cedar, peppermint and cinnamon oils.

John Paul Pet in Austin, Texas, launched Wild Ginger Shampoo and Wild Ginger Conditioning Spray earlier this year. The awapuhi-based shampoo, from the wild ginger plant, acts as a moisturizer for skin and coat, said Gina Dial, vice president of sales and marketing.

"Since dry, flaky skin is the No. 1 reason owners take their dogs to the veterinarian, this product addresses the issue naturally," she said. "Also, it follows the Wild Ginger products in the Paul Mitchell line for humans—which shares the same demographic in pet shampoo consumers—so consumers can have the same great benefits for their pets."

At Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., in March, Skout’s Honor expanded into the grooming category with its Probiotic Skin Care product line for pets. The Irvine, Calif.-based company designed the line to support pets’ natural defenses against shedding, itching, dryness, hot spots and odor, said company officials.

Available in Honeysuckle, Lavender and Unscented, the line includes: Probiotic Pet Shampoo, Probiotic Pet Conditioner, Probiotic Pet Shampoo & Conditioner (2-in-1), Daily-Use Probiotic Pet Detangler and Daily-Use Probiotic Pet Deodorizer for between washes.

Later this year, Glo-Marr in Lawrenceburg, Ky., plans to launch hemp oil products, such as shampoo, spray and conditioners, said Steve Nicolosi, national sales manager.

New Ingredients

What’s Trending Hails from Human Products

It’s no surprise to experts in the pet industry that many trends in human products make their way into dog products. As in the pet food segment, manufacturers in the grooming category report that several ingredient trends in human grooming are showing up in pet products.

"Botanicals continue to top the list in both pet and human products," said Gina Dial, vice president of sales and marketing at John Paul Pet in Austin, Texas. "Plant extracts have been around for many centuries and have come full circle."

Heather Moran, owner of The Doggie Bag Boutique in Lakeland, Fla., also reported seeing more natural ingredients in skin and coat products for dogs.

"When we were at Global [Pet Expo], we saw a lot more companies promoting natural products—sulfate free and natural oils," she said. "By eliminating chemicals, you’re tackling the issues with more natural means, especially with botanicals like lavender and rosemary. And by eliminating sulfate, the products will naturally hydrate the skin and coat, and then naturally hydrate with the oils they need."

Another significant trend seen in grooming products lately is the addition of enzymes into the products, said Dan Archetti, national sales director for Pet King Brands in Westmont, Ill.

"Enzymes and enzyme-based technology are among the most innovative ingredients on the market because they are incredibly effective, safe and work without the need for toxic ingredients or antibiotics," he said.

Manufacturers and pet specialty retailers said cannabidiol (CBD) and hemp oils are also on the rise in the skin and coat product segment.

"Hemp oil helps regenerate cells in the dry skin and makes the coat more pliable for groomers and others using the products," said Steve Nicolosi, national sales manager for Glo-Marr in Lawrenceburg, Ky.

Another giant buzzword on the human side that is also big on the pet side is probiotics, said Pete Stirling, president and COO of Skout’s Honor in Irvine, Calif.

"[Pet owners are] trying to treat these specific issues—hot spots, odor, etc.—and a lot of that has to do with animals’ skin health," he said. "By dealing with it directly, we can stop the treat-and-repeat habit."

Because ingredients are so important to customers, Pura Naturals Pet in Ardsley, N.Y., created an ingredients page in its new catalog and features them on its website for added transparency, said Julie Creed, vice president of sales and marketing.

How to Boost Sales Through Displays

To increase sales of skin and coat products for dogs, pet specialty retailers and manufacturers said they rely on in-store merchandising. From endcaps to cross-merchandising, experts share their top strategies to highlight and move these grooming products.

1. Sign Says! 

"A good display is one that addresses the need of the pet and explains the benefits," said Dan Archetti, national sales director for Pet King Brands in Westmont, Ill.

Keeping signs short is most effective, added Julie Creed, vice president of sales and marketing for Pura Naturals Pet in Ardsley, N.Y.

"Add a few well-placed, well-worded signs," she said. "Make sure your message is brief and easy to read. If your customers are mostly seniors, use a larger font to make it easier on them."

2. Get Organized

To make it easier for customers, Heather Moran, owner of The Doggie Bag Boutique in Lakeland, Fla., said the store groups products by line and puts complementary products together.

Because fleas and ticks are an issue in the area, products in that category are merchandised together in their own section.

Steve Nicolosi, national sales manager for Glo-Marr in Lawrenceburg, Ky., recommended that retailers choose an appropriate high-traffic area when merchandising the category, and emphasized putting the most popular products at eye level and avoiding holes in the display.

"We tell retailers to not only buy the display, but also back stock so you don’t have holes in the display," he said.

Creed offered similar advice, also noting the importance of good lighting.

"Create outposts in key traffic areas," Creed said. "Have several levels of height and enough products so that the customer can remove what they need without dismantling the display.

"Light your display and adjust any overheard lighting or spots. Proper lighting will help merchandise ‘pop’ nicely."

3. Make It Functional

"Make the display area inviting, uncluttered and provide attractive displays that also have function," Archetti said. "The most successful retailers realize the value in this section and don’t treat it as an afterthought."

Customers, and especially millennials, want to buy an overall solution, said Pete Stirling, president and COO of Skout’s Honor in Irvine, Calif. He recommended that retailers carry a well-curated collection of products and display them in "kits where product selection has been essentially made for them, and there’s a system in place to get them the best results for their animals."

He added that when retailers carry multiple SKUs of a brand, it makes the customer feel the retailer supports or believes in the brand.

Similarly, Archetti said that choosing a few products that address the most common needs reduces the chance of overwhelming customers with too many options. Savvy retailers "provide a few selections based on different price points but, most importantly, they offer products that are proven effective," he said.

Creating a functional, one-stop shop benefits both customers and stores, said Gina Dial, vice president of sales and marketing at John Paul Pet in Austin, Texas.

"Create an endcap with multiple brands during peak shampoo selling times of the year," she said. "Add all accessory products that you would need to bathe a pet safely at home so it is a one-stop shop."