Trends seen in the human industry oftentimes eventually trickle down to pets. This is the case with professional grooming skin and coat treatments for dogs and cats.
"Many trends that we see are that if something comes out in the human beauty and spa world, it will have a chance to make it in the dog world," said Eric Bittman, CEO of Warren London in New City, N.Y. "Most customers we talk to highly prefer natural ingredients as well as made in the USA."
One example is coconut oil.
"Coconut oil has not only picked up in the use for humans, but also in use for our furry companions," said Lizz Cook, manager of Land of Paws in Prairie Village, Kan. "Customers really appreciate seeing things that are all natural."
Retailers and manufacturers report that some of the trickledown trend is more fad or marketing buzzword than necessity.
"The newest thing is gluten free, which is another hype by the industry to capitalize on the mistaken belief that somehow a shampoo with oat extract can be harmful to an itchy dog," said Adelia Ritchie, Ph.D., president of DERMagic Skin Care for Animals Inc. in Kingston, Wash.
Other popular label language in this category features hypoallergenic, all natural, oatmeal, silicone free, soap free, paraben free and sulfate free, essential oils and made in the USA.
On the frontlines with the pets actually experiencing the skin issues, groomers and retailers listed medicated, hypoallergenic, oatmeal and limited ingredients as important aspects of the products they use and recommend.
"I only use hypoallergenic and oatmeal shampoos on my customers," said Elizabeth McNeilly, owner and groomer at Equus and Paws in Missoula, Mont. "I get a lot of dogs with skin issues, and it’s easier for me to stick with a shampoo that is easy on their coat and skin and won’t cause more problems."
Pet owners also want fast and effective treatment to relieve their pets.
"Customers appreciate products that make their dogs look and smell wonderful, but they really appreciate products in which they can see the results," Cook said.
Steven Rosenfeld, president of The F.C. Sturtevant Co. in Windsor Locks, Conn., agreed, adding that customers want safe, effective and fast-acting medicines for treating irritations and itch caused by mites, dandruff, dermatitis and hotspots.
Savvy stores tackle these issues from several fronts by pairing topical skin and coat treatments with nutritional recommendations.
For example, Brook Bickford, co-owner of Gone to the Dogs Boutique in St. Pete Beach, Fla., said when clients say their dogs are itching and scratching, he tries to find out what they’re feeding the dog.
"We also recommend salmon oil and (therapeutic) organic coconut oil for skin issues," he said.
New to the Category
Last year saw plenty of new products enter the professional grooming skin and coat treatment category. From sprays and shampoos to conditioners and lotions, there are myriad options to treat pets and increase sales.
DERMagic Skin Care for Animals Inc. released Skin Rescue Grooming Spritz and Skin Rescue Conditioner Bar with lemongrass and spearmint.
"Both are designed specifically to eliminate skin problems in our pets, from so-called allergies to hot spots, yeast infections and black skin disease, all without steroids or harmful chemicals," said Adelia Ritchie, Ph.D., president of the Kingston, Wash., manufacturer.
After listening to customers and groomers who are handling the dogs and seeing the problems, Bobbi Panter, founder and president of Bobbi Panter Pet Products in Chicago, launched Sassy Cece Conditioner and Nourishing Dog Conditioner, which contain essential oils and are formulated to enrich the skin, Gorgeous Dog Cologne and Moisturizing Dog Cologne, which she said "smell fabulous, are moisturizing for the skin and coat, and are all natural," and three sprays: Itchy Dog Solution Spray, Stinky Dog Spray and Charlie Dog (for insects, flea and tick).
At SuperZoo in Las Vegas last year, Espree Animal Products Inc. introduced five Waterless Baths formulas for spray and towel-dry quick cleansing, four Dry Baths in powder formulations to cleanse without water, Hip & Joint Cooling Relief Shampoo and Gel to help elderly pets with sore muscles and achy joints, Extreme Odor Relief Shampoo and Spray to deal with skunk odor, and a blueberry-fragranced line featuring a shampoo, a conditioner, a cologne and a wipe, said Lisa Jordan, sales and marketing director for the Grapevine, Texas, company.
Following a holistic approach, Marie Svet, principal of Organic Oscar in San Diego, released Deodorizing Touch-Up Spray, which is formulated to neutralize odors and has grapefruit essential oil for a fresh, energizing scent.
Because of an increase in reported skin irritations among pets, The F.C. Sturtevant Co. in Windsor Locks, Conn., released Sturtevant’s Veterinary Remedies, canine formula, which helps promote healing of damaged skin, said Steven Rosenfeld, president.
Two companies took their years of experience in the human skin care category and translated it to treat pets.
Warren London, the sister company of Cuccio Naturale, a human skin care company, launched Exfoliating Butter Wash, "an ultramoisturizing shampoo/body butter wash created using natural jojoba beads to help remove dead skin and hair," said Eric Bittman, CEO of the New City, N.Y., company. "We use all-natural, high-quality ingredients that are all cosmetic grade."
After being in business 43 years and primarily selling its products as human supplements, CAW Industries Inc.’s Dr. Willard’s brand rolled out a pet line that includes Rejuvenating Skin and Coat Spray and Soothing Aloe Gel for Pets.
"Directions for pet usage are substantially different than with humans," said John Willard III, president and CEO of the Rapid City, S.D., manufacturer, adding that he knew people were using their products on pets and livestock, so it was time to launch the pet line.
Dog Fashion Spa uses its new gallon-size pet stylist lotions in Rilassante and Semplice formulas to partner with groomers who use the products as an upgrade service in their salons, said Elena Volnova, co-founder and CEO of Dog Fashion Spa in Stamford, Conn.
"Most successful groomers use upgraded spa packages," Volnova said.
Educating the Consumer
When talking about educating customers about skin and coat treatments, industry insiders agreed that it’s important and contributes to extra sales as well as improved pet care.
"Educating customers is important so they feel comfortable in caring for their pets and know that they are making the best decisions for them," said Lizz Cook, manager of Land of Paws in Prairie Village, Kan.
Manufacturers agreed that when it comes to educating customers, nothing replaces employee knowledge.
"It’s the best advertising you can get for products and knowledge about the skin care products," said Bobbi Panter, founder and president of Bobbi Panter Pet Products in Chicago.
And first-hand knowledge is the very best, industry professionals said.
"Most of us here are always excited to try new things," Cook said. "We will usually try things on our own pets first and share our experience with fellow co-workers and customers. We also encourage our customers to give us feedback on the products they are trying so we have a larger opinion base."
The sales advantage of consumer education comes from making sure pet owners know about the products that can help them and their pets.
"Eight out of 10 dogs will lick their paws for many hours a day, and we have a great product that will help to eliminate paw licking, but many customers will not even know that a product in front of their face can help them if they are not told about it or do not catch the label in front of them," said Eric Bittman, CEO of Warren London in New City, N.Y. "If the store owner or employees ask questions and can show them some great easy-to-do-at-home grooming products, they can add many sales per day."
Display & Marketing
When customers visit a groomer or pet store, product displays are effective tools in creating awareness of the product within the store.
"Displays help to differentiate products and call attention to the items you want the customer to see," said Steven Rosenfeld, president of The F.C. Sturtevant Co. in Windsor Locks, Conn.
"Made in the USA sections will attract a lot of buyers right away," said Adelia Ritchie, Ph.D., president of DERMagic Skin Care for Animals Inc. in Kingston, Wash.
At Gone to the Dogs Boutique in St. Pete Beach, Fla., co-owner Brook Bickford maintains a section dedicated to spa and treatment that includes spa shampoos, dental products, supplements, brushes, and treats that are good for skin and coat health.
Industry participants also recommended calling out natural healthful ingredients, a counter display or product grouping, signage, video of the product and ingredients benefits and results.
"I love to see salons or stores with charts for needs and results: a listing of skin an/or coat needs and issues and the products recommended to best care for those needs," said Lisa Jordan, sales and marketing director for Espree Animal Products Inc. in Grapevine, Texas. "A chart makes for simple, easy choosing by pet parents to achieve the best results."
For groomers, using the products and showing them to their clients sell them best.
"Explain what they see on the dog and how it should be treated," Ritchie said. "Many of our groomers also have self-wash stations with our products offered for sale."
Domenico Ponti, co-founder of Dog Fashion Spa in Stamford, Conn., said they ask the stores they work with to leave one jar open, like at a Chanel counter, so customers can see the product, test it, feel it and smell it.
More manufacturers report ensuring their product packaging acts as a display.
The best-sellers at Land of Paws in Prairie Village, Kan., are eye-catching products with interesting-shaped packaging or bright colors, said Lizz Cook, manager.
Stores should stage the products in a creative way to display the products they want to feature and increase sales in that category, said Marie Svet, principal of Organic Oscar in San Diego.
"Large pharmaceutical companies and mega-food manufacturers have banded together to hype and promote allergy treatments or hypoallergenic foods, and pet parents have flocked to these products in an attempt to stop that incessant itching. This is a huge problem, as more than 90 percent of dogs that are diagnosed with allergies actually have a yeast infection under the skin, easily gotten rid of with DERMagic."—Adelia Ritchie, Ph.D., president of DERMagic Skin Care for Animals Inc. in Kingston, Wash.
"When I started, there were few things for all the skin conditions or things that were eco-friendly and safe. Now products are more earth friendly, and the way people use them has changed."—Elizabeth McNeilly, owner and groomer at Equus and Paws in Missoula, Mont.
"People are into natural ingredients, which they weren’t so much before. Pets are more humanized, and people want to use something on their pets that they would use on themselves. And I’ve noticed people are much more aware of ingredients."—Bobbi Panter, founder and president of Bobbi Panter Pet Products in Chicago