With much of the country shut down for most of the first and second quarters this year, many pet owners were forced to shelter in place right along with their animals. This is likely the biggest factor in the recent uptick in sales of home grooming products for pets. How many pet owners will continue to groom their pets at home is an open question, but it’s one that may also impact the type of product attributes and ingredient profiles they’ll look for.
An increase in their owners’ time at home delighted many pets, no doubt, but it also made pet owners more attuned to their grooming needs.
“Staying at home can bring attention that your animal stinks, or is super dirty, or sliding around on the wood floor with long nails,” said Kim McCohan, chief happiness officer for Bend Pet Express in Bend, Ore., noting a 20 percent increase in dog grooming product sales at the store’s two locations since the beginning of 2020.
COVID-19 shutdowns forced many pet groomers to close their doors to the general public, even as some offered limited private sessions. It’s not surprising then that many pet owners took grooming matters into their own hands, said Dallas Van Kempen, president of Eqyss, a grooming products manufacturer in Carlsbad, Calif.
“During the shutdowns, people were definitely bathing at home more because the grooming shops were not open,” Kempen said, adding that he expects a return to normal as groomers continue to open for business.
Dawn Leoso Duncan, vice president of Glo-Marr Products, based in Lawrenceburg, Ky., concurred, saying that although she thinks many dog owners were able to visit their local pet groomer in recent months, home grooming did see an uptick.
“Once the shutdown began, we saw more consumers bathing and dealing with problem skin at home,” she said.
David Campanella, sales and marketing director for Frankfort, Ky.-based manufacturer Best Shot Pet Products, said he can’t vouch for “whether pet parents are grooming more … but the pandemic has enabled many of them to take a more mindful look at their pets’ coat condition and overall hygiene.”
Before the pandemic, he noted, pet owners bought deodorizers, stain removers and detangling products to solve unexpected problems, but not as a part of daily or weekly grooming routines.
Problem-Solving and Multifunctional
What do consumers want in dog grooming products? Industry insiders report that while pet owners may be looking to address a variety of skin and coat issues, there are some overarching demands.
“They want it easy, fast and one product to do it all,” said Pattie Zeller, owner of Animal Connection, a pet supply store in Charlottesville, Va.
Skin issues are a big concern for pet owners, but Zeller cautioned that grooming products are only part of the solution to skin problems and said sometimes animals benefit from better-quality protein in their diet.
“Grooming products can sometimes be a quick fix,” she said, “but never an entire solution to the problem.”
For McCohan, shampoos offering long-lasting fragrances are in demand, as are products that perform multiple functions.
“Most of our products are combo products, like shampoo and conditioner, or shampoo with flea and tick repellent qualities, because most pets aren’t patient enough to do shampoo, rinse, conditioner, rinse,” McCohan said.
Zeller noted that shampoos containing cannabidiol (CBD) foam are an attempt at problem-solving that have great benefits.
“CBD foam or external products seem to work well because, as you’re massaging them onto the dog, you are also connecting with acupressure points that govern stress, so the massage is very calming,” Zeller said.
In addition to problem-solving attributes, consumers also have an interest in natural products. If those two attributes can dovetail, the product is typically a winner.
Van Kempen recognizes the strength of natural products within the category but isn’t convinced the trend has legs.
“I’m not sure how much retention there is since more natural products just do not perform in the same ways as your traditional products,” Van Kempen said.
Campanella noted these signs of consumer fatigue with natural as well.
“Other than for food, consumers have become more wary of ‘all-natural’ claims in grooming products,” Campanella said. “Often, there is confusion over what is safe and what is natural.”
He also sees a rise in the demand for hypoallergenic fragrances, with manufacturers turning to more sophisticated fragrances that are safer and less likely to irritate or sensitize pets.
Do Your Homework
Offering the best assortment of home grooming products is a challenge for retailers, but with a little thought and effort, assortment optimization results in increased sales, industry insiders report.
Dawn Leoso Duncan, vice president of Glo-Marr Products, a Lawrenceburg, Ky.-based manufacturer of pet grooming and hygiene products, believes research is the key to creating the right mix.
“Research the brands you are selling in the store,” she advised. “Talk to the manufacturers. Find brands that have been in the marketplace for a long time. Don’t pick a line because it smells good. Know what is in the products; know the benefits. When you know more, you sell more.”
David Campanella, sales and marketing director for Frankfort, Ky.-based manufacturer Best Shot Pet Products, also recommended retailers do their research on manufacturers.
“Look for reputable products manufactured here in the USA,” he said. “How long have they been making products? Are the products private labeled or directly marketed by a manufacturer? Are ingredients fully disclosed? Is there integrity behind marketing claims?”
For Kim McCohan, chief happiness officer for Bend Pet Express, which has two locations in Bend, Ore., getting staff excited about products is a great way to turn store associates into advocates for those products.
“When we get samples, we have the staff try them out in our dog wash,” she said. “If there is something they rave about, then we look more into that line. We try to have three options for any type of issue and are always on the lookout for items that the public may be asking for.”