When it comes to products such as shampoos, conditioners, and grooming wipes and sprays, dog owners are continuing to seek out high-quality products—similar to what they might buy for themselves at the salon or spa. They want something that works and is effective on their pet. But they also want to know that the products they’re purchasing are natural and have safe ingredients that won’t harm their beloved animal.
Denise Strong, co-owner of Pawz on Main in Cottonwood, Ariz., said that she receives a lot of requests for safe and all-natural products. Her customers repeatedly express concern over the safety of their pet and keep that in mind whenever they shop for grooming products, according to Strong.
"The trends we’re seeing for dog grooming products are basically the same trends that pet owners are following for themselves," Strong said. "They’re a lot more conscious of what kinds of ingredients are in the grooming products they’re using on themselves—and it’s no different for their pets. They want to know that they’re buying something that’s safe and all natural."
Justin Pohl, vice president of Longview, Texas-based Bio-Derm Laboratories, maker of the Bio-Groom brand, agreed.
"Consumers are becoming more and more concerned about what they are using on their pets," he said. "Many will do without for themselves to be able to provide a luxury item for their beloved pet.
"The biggest trends in the spa-grooming category right now are sulfate-free shampoos," Pohl said, adding that Bio-Groom has offered its sulfate-free shampoo, Protein-Lanolin Shampoo, since 1971, "before ‘sulfate free’ was even a buzzword on the world market."
At Odyssey Pets in Dallas, natural ingredients are the No. 1 consideration for customers as they shop for grooming products, said co-owner Sherry Redwine.
"We only carry all-natural, paraben-free, sulfate-free, DMDM hydantoin-free products in our store," Redwine said. "I made the switch to all-natural cosmetics, shampoos, soaps and toothpaste myself about six years ago when I found out about these hidden ingredients that may cause cancer and are potentially toxic."
After doing the homework on the products she uses on herself, Redwine removed any products in her store that had ingredients that caused her concern, determining that if she wasn’t comfortable with using products with those ingredients on herself, then she wasn’t comfortable with selling them either.
As shoppers become savvier and better educated about what they’re buying, they’re also more inclined to look for certain buzzwords on packaging, said Larry Cobb, CEO of The Company of Animals’ U.S. division in Davenport, Fla.
"Modern shoppers are scanning packages for on-trend claims like ‘pH balanced,’ ‘human-quality formula’ or ‘made in the USA,’" he said.
Narrow Down the Choices
Curating a well-planned product assortment is important in order to help guide customers to the best choice for their pet. The products that are carried in a store also make a statement about what retailers stand behind and believe in. Customers might like to choose their own product, but they also want to know that they can’t make a "bad" choice. They want to know that retailers have already narrowed down the assortment to products they believe in, said Sherry Redwine, co-owner of Odyssey Pets in Dallas.
Even though customers like to have choices, sometimes it can be overwhelming to have too many, which is why Aquila Brown, owner of The Yuppy Puppy LLC in Spokane, Wash., believes "less is more" in the grooming section. She prefers to narrow her selection down to include products she really stands behind than to have a huge variety of options.
"We only offer two brands of shampoo and conditioners," she said. "We have offered more in the past, but customers get overwhelmed. With only two companies to choose from, it’s super easy to narrow down to one or the other, and then choose from there."
Another way to help customers make the decision that is best for them is to group items by brand instead of by product type, said Larry Cobb, CEO of The Company of Animals’ U.S. division in Davenport, Fla. This is often an easier way for customers to view your product assortment.
"This arrangement also adds excitement to an otherwise messy category presentation," Cobb said. "[Our company’s] Pet Head products create an enticing billboard effect with their colorful labels, unique bottle caps and playful names."
Driving Category Interest
Grooming products provide an opportunity to do some creative marketing that drives interest in the category, according to manufacturers.
Vicki Rae Thorne, certified aromatherapist and herbalist, and founder and owner of Earth Heart Inc. in Dundee, Ill., said that social media platforms offer retailers the opportunity to share photos of products as well as their applications. She suggested creating how-to videos to demonstrate the proper use of different products.
"Contests and local events also encourage customers to visit the store and learn who won or how to redeem a special offer," Thorne added.
Larry Cobb, CEO of The Company of Animals’ U.S. division in Davenport, Fla., agreed that contests and special promotions are a great way to bring attention to the category and elevate sales in the process.
"Retailers could hold a grooming contest, inviting owners to submit photos of pets bathed or groomed with store brands—and the winner receives a grooming package," Cobb said. "For retailers who have an in-house grooming salon, they can also highlight new grooming lines each month and promote a special limited-time-only service starring that brand."
Utilizing a variety of marketing efforts can be highly effective. At the end of the day, though, it’s vital that retailers understand the products they’re carrying in order to be able to fully market them—and to promote the category in general, according to manufacturers.
"You must fully understand the products you sell and what your customers want," said James Brandly, marketing coordinator for TropiClean in Wentzville, Mo. "Technology is at our fingertips, and it’s at our customers’ fingertips, too. Invest in an online store presence, read reviews and fully grasp what pet parents seek. Engage with your customers and host special events or royalty programs."
Justin Pohl, vice president of Longview, Texas-based Bio-Derm Laboratories, maker of the Bio-Groom brand, agreed that education is key to making a marketing strategy successful.
"Educating the store staff plays a vital role to ensure that the customer is getting all the information he or she needs to make a final decision on which product they choose to purchase," he said. "Once that customer feels comfortable with your knowledge, the store will have a return customer that will not only tell all their friends what a wonderful time they had in the store, but also give a review on your Facebook page or their blog, like so many people are doing these days."
Keep It Fresh
New grooming products give retailers the opportunity to generate excitement and help keep the category fresh and interesting. Earth Heart Inc. in Dundee, Ill., recently launched Canine Calm aromatherapy wipes to help calm dogs during storms, fireworks and other stressful or unsettling times.
Earlier this year, John Paul Pet in Ventura, Calif., introduced Lavender Mint Shampoo and Detangling Spray, both of which are tea tree products that help fight a multitude of issues that affects dogs, according to the company.
In March, Bio-Derm Laboratories released its Bio-Groom Facial Foam Cleanser. Because the product is designed to be used around a pet’s face, "Bio-Groom formulated the mildest sulfate-free, hypoallergenic, fragrance-free Facial Foam on the market, that also doesn’t leave your hands or your pet’s face sticky and oily," said Justin Pohl, vice president of the Longview, Texas-based company.
Three Tips for At-Home Grooming Maintenance
By Megan Mouser
During autumn and early winter, pets often catch potentially harmful debris in their coats. Pet owners can take proactive steps to keep their dogs healthy between professional grooming sessions with two must-have tools: a two-sided pin brush and an adjustable blade clipper.
At-home grooming not only keeps dogs healthy, but it also gives proactive owners the chance to bond with their pets. Share these tips with customers to help them make the most of their grooming tools for healthier, happier pets during the cold weather season:
1. Brush Up on Daily Care
Brushing is the essential first step to at-home care, whether the dog’s hair is short and smooth or long and prone to tangles. Brushing not only increases circulation and overall skin health, it also stimulates follicles to release natural oils. This will combat dry skin brought on by cold weather and leave the coat shiny. To start, use the coarse pins on one side of the brush to loosen debris and excess fur, and then follow with the fine bristles for a shiny finish.
2. Clean from Head to Toe
Pet owners who are comfortable using a clipper can keep pets clean beyond brushing.
Trimming around the eye area can decrease irritation caused by natural tearing, which is common during cooler months. Typically, clipping occurs after bath time, but it is ideal to trim around the eyes before bathing. Set the adjustable-blade clipper, like Andis’ ProClip Pulse Ion Clipper, to #10 or #15, and gently scoop out hair in front of the dog’s eyes. Continue at #10 or adjust to #30 when moving to the paws. Excess fur between paw pads can trap everything from dry leaves to rock salt, but shaving between pads every two to three weeks will keep paws free of potentially harmful debris.
3. Tidying Sanitary Areas
A clean, dry sanitary area minimizes the risk of infections and is vital during cold months. After sanitizing the clipper, set it to #10. Remember to never run a clipper or trimmer blade over a pet’s sensitive parts, as it can cause injury. Rather, work around in gentle scooping and skimming motions, going up, then down, then side to side. Clippers should be cleaned both before and after grooming the dog’s sanitary areas.
Megan Mouser is education manager for Andis Co.’s animal division. With more than a decade of professional experience in the pet industry—ranging from corporate management roles to being a certified groomer—Mouser is responsible for developing and managing Andis’ global animal grooming education strategy and content.