Skin and coat grooming products are focusing on natural ingredients and properties.
BY SANDY CHEBAT
Sales of pet grooming products, including those for the skin and coat, are expected to rise, according to industry insiders.
Tom Wien, director of marketing at Cardinal Pet Care in Azusa, Calif., cited an increase in
do-it-yourself bathing and the continued treatment of pets as family as factors that are pushing
growth in the category.
“The biggest overall trend is an increase in
home bathing of both dogs and cats, which is due
to several factors,” Wien said. “First, more veterinarians are recommending giving dogs weekly
baths because this has been shown to cut down
on allergies and skin infections.
“Second, with pets being treated more like
family members today, people want to keep their
dogs looking and smelling their best at all times.
So, for practical and economic reasons, a growing number of pet parents are doing their own
bathing at home between visits to the groomer.”
As seen in other pet product categories, natural offerings and ingredients are a growing trend
in grooming skin and coat treatments for dogs
and cats, insiders reported.
“Certainly the natural trend is ongoing, and
botanicals and their natural properties are very
popular,” said Gina Dial, vice president of sales
and marketing at John Paul Pet in Austin, Texas.
Wien also reported a shift toward “gentle,
eco-friendly products made with natural ingredients,” attributing the move to the influence of human products.
Essential oils especially are popular in this category, according to retailers and
“The biggest trend we’re seeing is essential oils,” said Nadine Jolie-Coeur, co-founder
of Natural Pawz, which has stores in Texas. “Lavender has been around a long time, but
a lot of what we see in human shampoo—in terms of oils like coconut and argan, as well
as cedar, rosemary and clove—are showing up in pet products.”
Coconut is a common request at K- 9 Bath & Body in Nesquehoning, Pa., said owner
“We have more people asking for coconut treatments, and that’s working really
well,” she said. “We do offer it, and it seems to help a lot with skin and coat.”
Insiders also reported a pointed increase in cat owners seeking grooming products.
“More cat parents are bathing their pets,” Wien said. “While at one time people
thought that felines didn’t require bathing, there’s greater awareness today that giving
cats regular baths has health and hygiene benefits.”
Samantha Kent, founder and CEO of Dr. Sniff, a division of Dallas-based Kibble Pet,
agreed, adding, “Cat parents expect the same quality, and the demand for cat products
has increased, as the dog [category] already has a lot of options.”
Because cats are more sensitive than dogs to many ingredients, their owners pay very
close attention to what is going into these products.
“We tend to get inquiries about the ingredients in our cat shampoo, but rarely do we
get questions about our dog shampoos,” said Debbie Guardian, founder and president
of Opie & Dixie in San Francisco. “People buying shampoo for their cats are much more
selective, and with good reason. Cats are very sensitive beings. They typically have an
aversion to heavy scents, and certain essential oils, though not all, can be toxic to them.”
Wien added that cat owners look for shampoos that do not have extracts, surfactants
or cleaning agents.
“They want a product that won’t be harmful to their pet if, while cleaning herself,
she ingests any shampoo that wasn’t totally rinsed off,” he said.
REACHING CUSTOMERS WITH A KNOWLEDGEABLE STAFF
Effective education that meets customer needs and boosts sales begins with retailer expertise,
according to industry insiders. Pet specialty retailers agreed that relying on vendor materials
as well as personal research creates a winning combination for educating employees on
Nadine Jolie-Coeur, co-founder of Natural Pawz, which has stores in Texas, said the
company does a lot of training and conference calls with managers using materials from
vendors as well as its own company. Natural Pawz plans to create videos as well, she said.
Jackie Cain, store manager for Furly’s Pet Supply in Lake Forest, Calif., said before a
product hits the store’s shelves, employees are educated about its features.
“We also enlist the help of the brands and manufacturers themselves to give us tutorials on
current and new products,” Cain said.
Most brands offer stores helpful resources, from pamphlets, websites and videos to direct
numbers for personal contact.
“Because I’m not able to visit all our stores, I’ve recently begun putting together
an ingredient ‘cheat sheet’ to educate staff and offer them the opportunity to speak
knowledgeably to customers,” said Debbie Guardian, founder and president of Opie & Dixie in
Samantha Kent, founder and CEO of Dr. Sniff, a division of Dallas-based Kibble Pet, said she
provides retailers with the company’s brand catalog and highlights certain things in it.
“If you can home in on key points, it makes it easier when they talk with customers,” she
said. “They can convey the high-level stuff and a couple of details on why this product works.”
Cain added that extensive education from manufacturers, coupled with employee product
testing, is most effective for being able to recommend a product to any customer.
Jolie-Coeur said retailers and retail staff who can demonstrate that they’ve researched the
best solutions for common problems, as well as understand the breeds and products that work
best for them, give customers confidence in a store’s expertise and care.
Talking with customers is also critical in the grooming education process.
“The store’s retail staff should be able to steer the customer to the right products for their
pet,” said Tom Wien, director of marketing at Cardinal Pet Care in Azusa, Calif. “This means
they should ask questions about the pet’s skin and coat type and condition. Much of the
educational process consists of listening to the customer’s needs and problems, and being
able to offer effective solutions.”