Safe, Natural  Ingredients Top Demands

Sales of skin and coat grooming products are up, according to pet specialty retailers, as manufacturers strive to meet pet owners’ increasing demand for natural, yet effective, formulas.

At the end of November, B&B Pet Stop in Mobile, Ala., reported a 3 percent increase over the same period in 2016, and Dog Style Canine Supply Co. in Longview, Texas, reported seeing an 8 percent increase going into December compared with the previous year.

"I attribute the increase to focusing on quality and innovative items that my customers can’t find at the local big-box stores and by presenting them in a more ‘boutiquish’ setting," said Barbara Herman, owner of Dog Style Canine Supply Co.

Driving this growth in grooming products for skin and coat is "the migration of ingredients from the human market to the pet market," said Shannon Moore, grooming education director at Espree Animal Products in Southlake, Texas.

Products that are free of certain ingredients are top-of-mind for consumers, according to manufacturers and retailers.

"Recently, we have seen an uptick in demand for chemical-free and all-natural products both in cat and dog lotions, flea and tick remedies, shampoos and conditioners," said Jackie Cain, store manager at Furly’s Pet Supply in Lake Forest, Calif.

Alina Smith, CEO and co-founder of Pet Releaf in Denver, agreed.

"Just like we’ve seen in the kibble and supplement space, groomers are turning towards effective chemical-free products that contain all-natural ingredients that aren’t 12 syllables and are genuinely organic," said Smith, whose company offers the Canna Care brand of cannabidiol (CBD)-based topical products.

Safety and efficacy are important attributes in skin and coat grooming products, sources said.

"[Pet owners] want everything to be mild, clean their dog and smell good," said Justin Pohl, vice president of BioDerm Laboratories in Longview, Texas. "Customers look for products made in America. Even the international market prefers U.S. products because of higher quality and regulations."

The types of skin and coat products owners typically request are those that "replenish the natural moisture balance of the skin, heal dry skin, and relieve itching due to allergies and skin conditions," said James Brandly, copywriter and public relations specialist at TropiClean in Wentzville, Mo.

Moore reported that "products that provide an easy application like waterless baths and wipes have been in growing demand with consumers."

Dog and cat owners are seeking products that will reduce shedding, tangles and matts, said John Vasone, head of sales for Conair Pet Products in Stamford, Conn.

However, no matter what function the product is intended to perform, Sally Adams Trufant, general manager of B&B Pet Stop, said, "Customers always ask for ‘something that smells good,’ and then proceed to open every bottle and sniff it."

In many pet categories, trends in human products show up in dog and cat offerings. Industry sources report this phenomenon occurring in grooming products for the skin and coat.

"Ingredients tend to migrate from the human care market to the pet market if the application will benefit animals," Moore said. "Since consumers recognize ingredients from the human care market, they are likely to purchase similar products formulated for their pets."

Brandly agreed, adding that certain ingredients stand the tests of time and benefit.

"We, as humans, find certain ingredients to help nourish our skin, and we carry that over into the pet care industry," he said. "Skin and coat grooming ingredients will change over time, but key ingredients like aloe, oatmeal and vitamins will always benefit the skin."

Several sources said argan oil is a popular ingredient found in grooming products today.

"For a while, coconut oil was the buzzword, but now it seems to be argan oil and sulfate-free," Trufant said.

Pohl said that he’s seen argan oil trending for the past four years. Other popular ingredients reported were CBD oil and candelilla wax.

"Right now, the most popular new ingredient is anything hemp/CBD-related," Herman said. "This is especially true for treats and health products, but we expect to see more in the grooming category as hemp’s popularity increases. Candelilla wax is another ingredient that our customers have been excited about because they’ve seen it in their top-rated grooming products and want the same quality care for their pets."

Plant-based ingredients continue to thrive as consumers increasingly seek natural solutions.

People want safe and effective products, so Pet Releaf includes "plant-based ingredients like ucuuba butter, andiroba oil and eucalyptus oil along with our certified USDA organic CBD hemp oil," Smith said.

The Year’s Pro Offerings

Already in the first quarter of 2018, a variety of new products focused on the skin and coat available for professional groomers have been introduced to the market.

Last month, BioDerm Laboratories in Longview, Texas, launched Bio-Groom Indulge, a sulfate-free shampoo containing 100 percent pure argan oil. Available in 12-ounce, 1-gallon and 5-gallon sizes, the tearless hydrating and conditioning shampoo contains no thickeners or fillers and is formulated for all skin and coat types, the company stated.

"It cleans and conditions as it restores and repairs dry skin and damaged hair," said Justin Pohl, vice president. "[It] will not strip any natural oils from the skin or coat, [and it] rinses out quickly for a faster rinse time and is nonirritating."

The product is safe for puppies and kittens, and it is biodegradable and pH balanced, according to the manufacturer.

Espree Animal Products in Southlake, Texas, introduced a charcoal line, which includes Charcoal Shampoo, Charcoal Conditioner and Charcoal Mud Bath.

"The entire Charcoal product line from Espree is designed to purify the skin and coat by removing toxins and returning the skin and coat to its most natural state," said Shannon Moore, grooming education director. "It is designed to detox and re-energize the skin and coat while removing harmful toxins and brightening the natural coat color of your dog."

More releases are expected for professional groomers this year.

"Groomers should keep an eye out for even more groundbreaking groomer products joining our line in 2018," said Alina Smith, CEO and co-founder of Pet Releaf in Denver.

The company’s Canna Care Topical product contains cannabidiol oil and is intended to provide relief from a variety of conditions and skin issues.

John Vasone, head of sales for Conair Pet Products in Stamford, Conn., said his company plans to add "some premium professional items in the back half of 2018."

7 Display Strategies to Increase Sales

Safe, Natural  Ingredients Top Demands

Product placement boosts category awareness and sales. Industry insiders offered several strategies to help pet specialty retailers make the most of their displays.

1. Offer testers

"Providing testers of the products is a great place to start," said Alina Smith, CEO and co-founder of Pet Releaf in Denver. "It’s one thing to tell consumers a product works; it’s another thing to allow them to smell and touch the product and see its application."

2. Block by brand or manufacturer

"After determining that our customers became loyal to certain brands after successful usage, we quickly learned that by grouping products by brand instead of style or condition, customers were picking up more add-on purchases," said Barbara Herman, owner of Dog Style Canine Supply Co. in Longview, Texas.

3. Use signage

"Merchandise an area within the store for grooming and bathing with signage," said John Vasone, head of sales for Conair Pet Products in Stamford, Conn.

Justin Pohl, vice president of BioDerm Laboratories in Longview, Texas, recommended hanging signage from the ceiling that says "Natural Shampoos Here."

4. Place in busy areas

"Place the display in high-trafficked areas that are near where [customers] drop off and pick up their pets who are being groomed," Smith said.

5. Keep it simple

"Going back to natural wooden displays draws the eye to stand out in the minutia of everything that’s there," Pohl said.

6. Present promos

"Provide in-store promotions geared directly towards the products and display," said James Brandly, copywriter and public relations specialist at TropiClean in Wentzville, Mo.

7. Know your audience

"Knowing your customer base is by far the most important key to providing standout displays," Herman said. "In our store, we found that presenting the grooming lines in a boutique-style placement—grouped with flowers, toys or other appealing items—works best, although our store isn’t necessarily a boutique."