Safety is top of mind for dog owners looking for high-quality grooming products.
BY LINDSE Y GE TZ
When it comes to products such as shampoos, con- ditioners, 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 follow-
ing for themselves,” Strong said. “They’re a lot more con-
scious of what kinds of ingredients are in the grooming
products they’re using on themselves—and it’s no differ-
ent 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, “be-
fore ‘sulfate free’ was even a buzzword on the world market.”
At Odyssey Pets in Dallas, natural ingredients are the No. 1 con-
sideration for customers as they shop for grooming products, said
co-owner Sherry Redwine.
“We only carry all-natural, paraben-free, sulfate-free, DMDM hy-
dantoin-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
“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 groom-
ing 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
“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.”
& Specialty Pet Stores