Picking up in Style
“Waste bags are a necessity—every dog poops!”
So said Earth Rated’s Project Manager Tara Garland.
While waste bags are a perennial must-have, sustainable waste products are newer to the market but growing rapidly in popularity. Gemma Rose, a new brand to the market, launched with premium oxo-biodegradable, rose-scented, handle-tie bags. Nick Fuchs of Gemma Rose explained the construction of the sustainable bag.
“Currently, the best available option, which balances degradability and still has the durability consumers are requesting is to incorporate an oxo-degradable additive made by EPI,” Fuchs said. “EPI has created a food-grade additive that is mixed in with the plastics during the manufacturing process, which allows the plastic to break down via oxo-biodegradation when disposed in the proper environment. This means that these now oxidized plastics will fragment into very small pieces that can then be consumed by microorganisms and turned into CO2, H2O and bio-mass, and eventually they will be used up in photosynthesis and return back into the environment over the course of about three years or so.”
However, Fuchs pointed out that it’s a tricky balance. Though the brand will launch a new product soon—the current bag’s on a roll—they’re watching for new trends in plastics.
“It’s tough to predict the future, but we’re hopeful that plastics technology will continue to move forward and we can find new formulations and additives for our bags that help them break down even quicker in the environment while still retaining durability and integrity during storage,” he said. “That is one area where it’s hard to find a balance. The waste bags need to break down under the proper disposal conditions while not degrading in the box while they are sitting on the shelves or tearing into pieces when you are trying to use them. It’s a pretty unique set of product requirements and we’ll be constantly pushing to make the best product which meets those requirements.”
Gemma Rose also supports animal rescue by donating a portion of each box’s sales to established and reputable 501c3 rescue organizations.
“It’s a win for the environment and a win for the animals,” Fuchs said.
“Our bags on small rolls are a very popular format since they are dispenser-compatible, and we have a white-colored format that is vegetable starch-based,” Earth Rated’s Garland added. “These white bags can be disposed of in municipal compost facilities where pet waste is accepted. As with our complete line of dog waste bags, these bags also have packaging and inner roll cores made from recycled materials, and can be recycled after use.”
When choosing which sustainable waste products to carry in store, Garland said, “identifying your customers’ needs is a great start.”
“We offer a variety of formats and styles and have realized that preferences differ greatly between customers,” she said. “We recommend stocking multiple formats to ensure you have what your customers are looking for, as well as offering both scented and unscented options as many customers have strong scent preferences. Placing your bags’ display close to the counter is also a great way to remind customers to restock. We’ve even just launched a new counter display with single rolls, which are great impulse-buy items.”
“There seems to be a trend towards more sustainable and eco-friendly products,” A Pet with Paws founder and President Ann Greenberg said about customers who want to show their unique style while being sustainable about pet waste.
A Pet with Paws has reimagined the poop bag holder, integrating a fashion-forward, eco-friendly bag pouch and wristlet into the mix. The newly-designed Jackson Poop Pick-Up Bag Pouch and Zuzu Wristlet also promote a sustainable lifestyle because they’re made of recycled plastic bottles.
“The grey and red Jackson Style Poop Pick-Up Bag Pouch and Zuzu wristlet are the perfect size to take on a walk with Fido,” Greenberg said. “The Jackson pouch easily attaches to a leash, pet carrier or belt loop. While the Zuzu wristlet has enough room for the pet owner to carry their house keys, cell phone and credit cards, there is a separate zipper compartment for the roll of poop bags. Both Jackson and Zuzu have a discrete small opening on the backside, making it easy to access poop bags. Simply pull, tear off bag, and you’re ready for scooping.”
Greenberg suggested how retailers can increase sales, including specialty point-of-purchase displays, offering waste management products near the checkout area as a “grab-and-go” purchase and, of course, a well-trained staff that can educate customers. She also recommended a creative event to increase sales.
“Organize ‘There is No Poop Fairy’ events in various communities and have dog waste products available for sale,” she said. “A lighthearted approach keeps the conversation going. At Earth Rated, we pride ourselves on having fun with a product where its intended purpose can sometimes be less than glamourous. We recognize that along with all of the joys pets bring into our lives, they also bring plenty of mess. We genuinely want to offer products that help consumers with their needs and are always receptive to feedback from our retailers to ensure we’re meeting that goal.”
“Have fun with your displays,” Garland added. “All pet owners need to pick up, so why not do it in style and have a little fun with it?”
Look at Me
Shampoos and conditioners form the foundation of the at-home grooming market. Despite the flood of products, a few key trends drive sales for this category: effectiveness, a unique selling point and an increased demand for natural and safe. Product efficacy is crucial. A customer won’t make a repeat purchase if a product doesn’t work.
“Consumers are looking for an effective and easy-to-use product line to groom their pet,” said Larry Cobb, CEO of the U.S. Division of The Company of Animals. “Not only does Pet Head clean well with our time-tested formulas, but the great scents we have will keep pets smelling great for longer. My dog, Sebo, and I like the fresh orange scent of our Dirty Talk Shampoo the best. He smells like a clean orange from a Florida grower, which is where our Pet Head offices are based.”
Livening up Shelves
The effectiveness of a specific product doesn’t necessarily spark the initial purchase, though. Instead, customers are attracted to eye-catching packaging.
“I feel that to ‘billboard’ the brand offers the best presentation,” Cobb explained. “To offer a full selection of Pet Head on the dealer’s shelf adds color and fun to the otherwise boring grooming category.”
At Glo-Marr, the brand has gone back to its roots: 1965 was when the original Pink Pup was born. The award-winning KENIC Retro line of pet shampoos added four “hip” formulas, including Pink Pup, the degreaser on which the company was built; Mellow Mutt and Meow, a calming aromatherapy option; Purple Pooch and Purr, the ultra-moisturizing product; and Blue Bow Wow, the whitening formula.
Staying true to the company’s history, the shampoos are detergent- and soap-free.
Among market segments with larger amounts of expendable income—millennials and baby boomers, typically—the demand for luxury drives product sales. Many of these consumers expect the same quality and sometimes even the same brands that they demand for themselves.
M. Boutique, the luxe natural home and personal care company, offers pet products that provide the same luxury that their human customers expect for themselves. The Pet Shampoo includes global ingredients like neroli, a high-end citrus oil that might help alleviate anxiety and hyperactivity, along with aloe, rosemary and avocado to sooth sensitive skin.
When it comes to M. Boutique’s Oatmeal and Honey Conditioner, the rich properties of colloidal oatmeal soothe and relieve dry, irritated and itchy skin while wild honey merges with Moroccan argan oil, aloe vera, and vitamin E to deliver deep conditioning and hydration.
The natural trend is fueling product sales in nearly every segment of the pet industry. Elizabeth Sanders of Horse ’O Peace founded her company to create goat milk soap and skin care products for people with sensitive skin. Many of her customers asked if they could use the products on their pets, so Sanders recently expanded into pet-specific products.
“When we started our pet line, Healthy Pets, we wanted products with the same kind of quality that we use in our skin care line for people but a different formulation,” Sanders said.
The products contain 100 percent raw goat’s milk along with plant-based, raw, whole ingredients, and no chemical fragrances or dyes. The initial launch featured two unscented products, including Purely Basic, which is base ingredients with nothing added for pets that are extremely sensitive. The Gentle Coat product utilizes calendula oil for an unscented but moisturizing soap.
“When we scent, we use 100 percent pure essential oils,” Sanders said.
Her best-selling scented product is Be Calm with lavender essential oil, for skin issues like eczema and dandruff, or for dogs who are excitable.
Ultimately, because there are so many brands and options for shampoos and conditioners, a strong product mix with variety is key to consumer appeal. While eye-catching packaging and clever names might spark the initial purchase, the product’s effectiveness is what ultimately will inspire return buyers.
All About Style
Not long ago, customers looking for a leash or collar had limited options: Leather or nylon? Red or black? Buckle or… buckle?
“Once upon a time, collars and leashes were a ‘commodity’ item: choice was limited and most shoppers did not have strong feeling about what they bought,” said Tracy McCarthy, part of marketing and product development for LupinePet. “Now the category carries about the same prestige in pet supplies as clothing does for people. Function, durability, style and material quality are important. Price is a component of the buying decision, but value is considered in relation to the other factors.”
The array of options available today is seemingly endless. Product is still available in the traditional leather and nylon, as well as modern iterations, like odor-resistant neoprene, upcycled seatbelts, hemp and organic cotton. The designs also encompass nearly anything your customer could imagine: licensed sports teams and cartoon characters, rhinestones and studs, holidays and even night-safety reflective strips.
Ultimately, this category is about style. Dog owners use collars, leashes and harnesses to reflect their own personalities. While not every dog owner wants to dress their pet in costumes, every dog owner needs their pet to wear these items, so it provides an opportunity to reflect their own sense of style.
Kurgo Chief Business Officer Gordie Spater said that his company noted a shift away from flashy designs to products that are purposeful, durable and secure.
“That doesn’t mean that people aren’t still interested in fashion or matching colors between collars and leashes,” he said.
He cited two trends affecting consumer demand. The first is that pet owners are taking their dogs more places and need to maintain security and control.
The second: The rise of the “athleisure” trend in human fashion.
“We see with the rise of the athleisure trend in human sportswear, a similar trend with pet accessories. People are looking for the sporty, rugged styling and reliability they like for themselves in their Lululemon yoga pants, North Face jackets and Patagonia wicking shirts that they wear every day,” he said. “While they may not need a tech shirt to go get a coffee, they like the style and the knowledge that the apparel has purpose and can be used on their adventure days, too. It’s natural that this fashion trend translates to their dog who reflects their personality. We see more popularity with products with outdoor styling and features like durable ripstop or reflective materials.”
Kurgo offers the Quantum Leash; it’s an award-winning dog lead that comes in seven colors—in reflective and non-reflective nylon—and converts into six different styles. With a carabiner adjustment, this leash switches from a 6-foot lead to a 3-foot lead to a hands-free dog leash that goes around the waist or over the shoulder, courier-style. It also has the ability to become a two-dog walker.
The brand also offers a practical but stylish Muck Collar, which comes in a suite of bright, colorful designs and resists odor. It’s a solid solution for dog owners who want the combination of practical and cute. Kurgo is launching a Patriotic Flag Muck Collar to expand the line.
Coastal Pet Products manufactures every type of collar for every type of dog owner. For the littlest pups in the pack, the L’il Pals line includes adjustable collars and harnesses in bright colors and prints, along with a fashion-forward glitter overlay. The line also includes specialty pieces like suede, jeweled leash and collar sets.
The Coastal Soy Adjustable Dog Collars are natural, soft and eco-friendly with anti-bacterial properties. The line is made from natural fibers that feel like soft cashmere. While there are few color choices in this line, the leash, collar and harness coordinate and appeal to an eco-conscious consumer.
Coastal Pet Products also offers licensed products from popular, best-selling brands, like Harley-Davidson.
Another fashion-forward manufacturer to consider is Hip Doggie. The brand carries an NFL license, which is a great pet product for a football fanatic family.
In addition, Hip Doggie’s collars and leashes appeal to the young, fashionable set. With designs like its bowtie collars and matching leashes, and glittery options with coordinating charms, the brand’s offerings allow dog owners to showcase their—and their dog’s—style with flair. Jeweled and studded pieces that include decidedly feminine and masculine options round out the offerings.
“There’s always going to be that person who doesn’t have a closet full of clothes or a closet full of shoes, but they still buy clothes and they still buy shoes—that carries into their pets,” said Alisha Navarro of 2 Hounds Design. “They’re just going to use their collars until they wear out. Others use collars to express their personality and express their pet’s personality.”
Navarro says that some of her customers stock up on the brand’s unique designs, some boasting collections of up to 50 collars.
This year, Navarro plans to launch a collection close to her heart.
“I’m a geek by preference. I have an MA in applied physics, and my background is in electronics, programming,” she said. “The collection that we’ve got coming out in time for Global, we’re calling our geek collection: monsters, aliens, robots, ninjas, full force, that whole geek line.”
Even for owners who love the practical, there are options for leashes and collars that are both functional and fashionable.
Eran Konorty, CEO of Angel Pet Supplies Inc., noted that more dog owners training their dogs has caused a shift.
“I believe one of the largest, if not the largest growing trend is training,” he said. “Training has gained immensely in popularity, and so many products which aid in training a puppy, security dog, guide dog, et cetera, are very popular. The Angel Rio Martingale collar collection is very popular amongst many consumers seeking a humane approach to training collars. They are constructed of top grain leather with a soft-padded bottom and stainless steel hardware. Our Multi-Function leash is great for training as well. It can be used in several different lengths, hands-free and more.”
For eco-conscious customers, Planet Dog offers leashes, collars and harnesses made of hemp. In a range of five colors, from a neutral green to a bright pink, these are persistent bestsellers.
The eco-friendly products are naturally dyed pure hemp. The natural strength of the hemp fiber makes a strong fabric and a safe product. Their Hemp Leashes are made with chrome hardware for extra durability and safety. The products are also fleece-lined for the comfort of both person and pet, and all three product lines can match one another.
Style emphasis tends to fall on collars and leashes, yet Charlie and Spike is a brand that manufactures lightweight harnesses in its fashionable WagSwag line. The line includes harnesses with superhero emblems, leopard prints and sassy sayings, such as “Single & Looking.”
An important aside: There is a large and growing sub-category within the harness segment. Consumers are looking for crash-tested, safety-rated car harnesses as distracted driving laws around the country come into effect. Those pieces are best merchandised separately from the fashionable set, simply because the consumers are two different shoppers. Safety products, though, group well together or in a dedicated travel section.
Ultimately, pet owners are defining themselves through their pets’ style. Plus, many pet owners like to showcase their pets’ personality in these purchases. Though safety will always be a concern when it comes to picking these products, style is the deciding factor for most purchases.
One key to success in merchandising these pieces is to group similar items together in a thematic display or endcap.
“We have always suggested a traditional collars-above-leashes, although that doesn’t work for every store. One SKU per hook and color-blocking are two points that will have good results every time,” McCarthy said. “Waterfall displays are difficult to keep tidy and don’t do a very good job of encouraging people to browse. Handling the merchandise does increase sales, but requires more frequent straightening. Any display will sell better if it gets a daily touch-up. Harnesses seem to get handled the most, and readjusted the least, which greatly reduces unit sales.”
The jumbled leash, collar and harness aisle can sometimes obscure standout designs. Instead, create a theme—like an NBA endcap during the height of basketball season, or a display that showcases all things studded for a cowboy display. This type of grouping allows for cross-merchandising with other categories that hit on the same theme. Rotate the displays throughout the year to showcase your most fun, fashionable and forward-looking lines.
Caring for the Skin
Skin care products need to do two jobs: prevent problems and solve problems. Consumers need an array of options to meet those disparate demands. And, as demand for transparency and accountability in the human health and beauty aid industry rises, the same sentiments are trickling into the pet industry. Pet owners demand the same quality and results from their pets’ skin care products as they do for their own.
“Consumers are looking for skin care solutions for their pets that are… effective, convenient and luxurious. As pet parents consider their dogs and cats members of the family, they seek out the highest quality products to pamper their pets,” said Stephanie Boone, CEO of Wondercide. “Wondercide’s pet shampoo bar meets consumer needs because it’s a true soap with a coconut oil base that cleans effectively without harsh chemicals or detergents.”
PL360’s Lori Lefcourt, director of sales and marketing, reported similar demand among her brand’s customers. According to the company’s website, PL360’s mission is to create products that keep “pets healthy, happy and clean in the simplest way possible.”
For the company, “that means using natural ingredients that are safe for pets. It also means finding innovative ways to make pet care easier so [owners and their] pet can get back to doing the things that [they] love.”
“People have learned that what you put into your body will reflect in the appearance of your hair and skin, and it is no different for our pets,” she said.
She also said that the consumer trends driving product innovation include “the level of education on the harmful effects of certain chemicals in many of the products they are using. They will continue to look for safe, natural alternatives that perform at the same level of what they have used in the past.”
PL360’s complete product line is plant-based, and Lefcourt said that its bestsellers in skin care are grooming wipes, Shed No More vitamins and the itch relief shampoo.
“Our grooming wipes are truly unique,” she said. “Not only are they the most durable on the market, but the cold-pressed seed oil blend nourishes the skin and coat. Of course, they contain no harmful ingredients and are gentle enough for sensitive areas like the eyes, ears and mouth.”
Pura Naturals Pet LLC is dedicated to delivering the highest quality products using only the best materials the Earth has to offer, and its president, Jason Riccardi, says that consumers are becoming mindful of the ingredients in products, driven by an increase in allergic reactions and skin irritations.
“The data is all around us as well,” he said. “Natural and USDA Certified Organic food and beverage sales are up 10.7 percent in 2016. As pet parents, we worry about our four-legged friends as well. A visit to the vet with a skin problem is going to be a long and expensive one. There are so many causes including food, allergies and topical reactions. Thus, our in-house research shows natural grooming for pets is up 12.97 percent in 2016, versus a 7.3 percent increase in the general grooming category.”
However, Riccardi said that the prevalence of chemical cleansers with artificial ingredients and preservatives has made it difficult for consumers to find healthy options. Plus, marketing problems—like inaccurate use of terms “natural” and “organic”—make it difficult for consumers to understand what they’re purchasing.
“Pura Naturals Pet was created to solve that problem. We have gone through the full USDA certification process to ensure our customers that what we produce is safe, non-toxic and effective,” he said. “The official symbol and/or certifier statement tells you that the USDA has maintained clear oversight of the production and bottling of this product through inspections and testing. It guarantees the integrity of the product from farm to
store. This product has met incredibly high standards in ingredients and manufacturing. It allows customers to have a brand they can trust, knowing that any product they choose is guaranteed to be safe and effective.”
Topical products, like wipes and shampoos, aren’t the only solution to skin care problems. Bill Chilian, marketing vice president of Barkworthies, advocates for an inside-out solution. His company makes treats and chews that “are completely digestible and contain absolutely no preservative, chemicals or additives,” as per Barkworthies’ mission.
“Omega-3 Fatty Acids are known to be ideal for helping canines maintain supple skin and a glossy coat,” he said. “However, because the canine is unable to produce Omega-3 Fatty Acids on its own, it’s important to provide them with supplemental nutrition.
The Cod Skin Fillets and Salmon Skin Roll-Ups are two of the newest all-natural single-ingredient treats from Barkworthies that are jam-packed with Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Plus, these treats contain healthy fats that are also good for the heart and can help boost immunity. PL360’s vitamins are another example.
“PL360 Shed No More has been our top seller every year for a decade,” Lefcourt said. “It’s a complete fatty-acid solution that supports a healthy skin and coat and reduces seasonal shedding by addressing the key cause of it: lack of omega 3s and 6s in the diet. These vitamins are a proprietary blend of safflower oil, sunflower oil, borage oil, evening primrose oil, fish oil and flaxseed oil.”
Whether it’s a bar, a wipe or a spray, skin care products attract customers looking to prevent as well as solve problems. For those who are seeking prevention, make the most of shelf space with clever cross-marketing. Include an array of skin-specific treats, along with vitamins, chews and even food, to round out your skin care offering—there’s something for every customer.
The Fight to Limit Shedding
Shed happens. It’s inevitable, normal and it’s also one of the biggest complaints among pet owners.
Deshedding products will always be in demand, and numerous innovations in recent years have expanded this category beyond the basic grooming tools. Pet owners are also starting to take a holistic approach to shedding control, focusing on skin and coat health from the inside out.
Shampoos to Mitts
The grooming aisle contains the foundation of the deshedding routine. Shampoos and conditioners labeled for deshedding, like those from FURminator, are popular for the at-home groomer.
In addition, grooming mitts, like Tall Tails’ one-size mitt, pull double duty. After a bath or a play outside, the mitt cleans or dries the dog while pulling out loose hair. The Tall Tails Grooming Mitt is made of machine-washable and dryable absorbent chenille microfiber, making it a durable solution for cleaning, drying and pulling up and out those loose hairs.
A Variety of Brushes
The workhorse of shedding control is a brush. Andis and Wahl are popular in part because there’s strong brand recognition among consumers. Other standard tools, like the FURminator and KONG’s ZoomGroom, round out a reliable brush selection.
New innovations are expanding upon those traditional designs to provide bespoke grooming solutions. The BendiBrush, for instance, took the general design of a hand-held brush and tweaked it to provide a customized grooming solution for any shedder—dog or cat. From Anipure Pets, a woman-run business out of New York, the BendiBrush was created by designer Mary Fitzgerald to solve a number of grooming problems at once.
“We developed the BendiBrush to help with the issues that Maxi and Charlie were having: deshedding, along with a fear and phobia of brushing,” said Fitzgerald, noting that the brush was inspired by her pets Maxi, a cat, and Charlie, a dog. “We wanted to develop a brush that was friendly and easy for the home groomer and very effective on the pets.”
“Lots of people don’t groom their pets in between going to the professional groomer because it’s such a hassle,” said Ruth Canaan, director of sales and marketing at Anipure. “The dog is so upset. It becomes a fight. I don’t think that people realize that you should be grooming your pet in between appointments for their health, not only for the detangling and the de-shedding.”
The brush was designed to be comfortable and ergonomic for the groomer, while bending in a number of ways—even at the corners—to feel more like a massage to the pet.
“When we developed the BendiBrush, we focused on the engineering of the bristles, the individual tines,” Fitzgerald said. “The tips of the tines are rounded to protect the skin. We created a multiple-height system and focused on the placement of the tines. It can really get in the coat to separate and pull out the tangles, and it can sandwich in half so that you have tines from the top to the bottom. The knot can go right in between the tines and they gently pull through the knot. The BendiBrush allows you to gently work through tangles and the double-coated dogs to get through the loose fur to prevent knotting.”
Canaan pointed out that consumer education is one of the most important factors in helping customers understand the product.
“It’s not just a matter of selling, but educating,” she said. “We’ve been able to do some demos, but we’ve also got some great store managers who partnered with us because when we come in and talk to them, they’ve fallen in love with the brush and recommend it to clients. And a lot of even regional pet stores have that kind of holistic approach to what they sell and the products that they offer.”
That holistic approach brings together other product categories. Outside the grooming aisle, a host of treats and supplements designed to keep skin and coat healthy have increased in popularity. As dog owners take a holistic approach to their own health and beauty, the same is trickling into grooming.
Pet Naturals of Vermont offers a Skin + Coat treat that contains Vitamin E and salmon oil. Likewise, Old Mother Hubbard makes a crunchy Skin & Coat option. Numerous dog treats now have additions like Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids (also sometimes labeled as Essential Fatty Acids, or EFAs) to be marketed as good for the skin and coat.
Supplements have also risen in popularity in this category. Nutramax, NaturVet and Vet’s Best are among the brands that have healthy skin and coat recipes. Oils that can be drizzled onto the dog’s food are also popular simply because of the ease of use. Versions of fish oil are among the bestsellers.
However, skin and coat additives aren’t limited to treats and supplements. They’re also cropping up in dog food. Nature’s Recipe even offers a healthy skin formula of dry dog food.
Finally, as you round out your deshedding offerings, don’t forget to display near the cash register a stash of the dog owner’s perennial need: lint rollers.
Dental spans nearly every category in store, from food, treats and toys to chews, specialty items and grooming. The good news: There’s a product for every customer.
Dental disease is prevalent in upwards of 80 percent of dogs over age two. Since February is the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Pet Dental Health Month, it’s a natural opportunity to create a display and educate your customers on product choice.
A fun, easy way to fight bad breath is with a food additive. For the natural customer, Woofmints are an effective way to help fight bad mouth odor. These vegan and gluten-free gel capsules freshen a dog’s breath naturally with a blend of organic sunflower oil, organic peppermint oil and parsley oil. Small enough to hide in food or a treat, Woofmints gel caps dissolve in the stomach, providing long-lasting fresh breath from within. They’re available in 60- or 120-count bottles.
Chews and Treats
“Consumers are looking for any product that will keep their dog’s teeth clean,” said Laura (Jones) Lang, president of Jones Naturals, LLC., which produces several products that benefit a dog’s oral health. “Our types of natural chews, including bones, pig ears, ligaments, etc., all help promote healthy teeth and gums because they naturally create an abrasive chewing action on the dog’s teeth.”
Greenies are also a perennial bestseller. Because they’re available in a variety of sizes, there isn’t a lifestage or breed that can’t find appropriately sized Greenies. They also carry the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal of approval, which lends weight to a consumer’s purchase decision.
Zuke’s Z-Bones are edible dental treats that are formulated without wheat gluten, cornstarch or synthetic chlorophyll. Instead, the chews are potato-based and maintain dental hygiene by scraping and polishing the dog’s teeth. Z-Bones may be sold individually or in multiple-count pouches in three recipes: Clean Carrot Crisp, Clean Berry Crisp and Clean Apple Crisp.
Nylabone offers a range of chews, some edible and some designed to be long-lasting. The Advanced Oral Care FreshBars and the Tartar Fighting Treats both include the brand’s Denta-C, a scientifically-formulated blend of ingredients clinically proven to reduce plaque that harbors bacteria.
Nylabone remains one of the top sellers for consumers who seek a long-lasting, toy-style chew. The chews are infused with flavors like beef to entice dogs to chew, and the raised nubs and various textures scrub teeth and promote gum health.
Mammoth produces Flossy Chews, a line of dog toys designed to floss dogs’ teeth as they play with the toys. Some products include knotted ends or rubber to scrub the teeth. The brand’s line for tough chewers, Flossy Chews Extra with Z-Core, is made from premium material that is two times stronger than rope.
Dental treats are favored items because dog owners can feel like they’re spoiling their pup while helping to prevent dental disease. Functional treats have emerged in nearly every category—from joint care to skin and coat to, of course, dental care.
Isle of Dogs has three different versions of functional dental treats. Smile is made from crunchy baked grains and apples to help scrub tartar and Norwegian kelp to help maintain healthy teeth and gums, along with parsley to fight bad breath. For dogs who need a bad-breath formula, the Breath line includes a blend of parsley and toffee flavor extract.
Daily Essentials are a power food option that target dental health through whole food-based treats. Crunchy apples help scrub tartar, while parsley and peppermint help to fight bad breath. All are sourced and made in the USA and are a popular choice among customers who want function balanced with flavor.
Treats aren’t always the best option, especially if the dog is battling obesity along with dental disease. While tooth brushing is an option, many dog owners don’t brush their dog’s teeth because they’re intimidated by the process or their dog reacts poorly to it.
For those who do brush, Petsmile by Supersmile toothpaste received the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal of approval. When paired with a soft-bristled, flat toothbrush, brushing really is the best option for long-term oral health. Since many customers are so reluctant to attempt brushing, consider hosting events like in-store demos for brushing best-practices featuring product recommendations.
For February’s Dental Health Month promotion, educational signage or employee demos might attract customers to try new products. The American Veterinary Medical Association houses educational materials on their website for free that can be downloaded and passed out to customers or hung in the dental aisle.
Consider using in-store signs to call out dental items in aisles outside the dental-specific one. Endcaps are also effective, along with smaller items—like the individually-wrapped Z-Bones—at the cash register.
The Flea and Tick Boom
Flea and tick populations have exploded across the United States and Canada. Drought conditions have allowed flea numbers to increase, while a mild winter in 2015 kept those pests alive for longer throughout 2016. Plus, a rise in global temperatures has elongated the lifecycle of ticks.
These global temperature trends and corresponding shifts in weather patterns will continue, so manufacturers of flea and tick products are innovating solutions that meet consumer demands while tackling the real dangers associated with flea and tick infestations.
“The flea control and heartworm preventatives market has been one of the most innovative areas in animal health, with a variety of new active ingredients and novel formulations,” said Senior Consultant Dr. Lynn Fondon in a new study from Brakke Consulting. “Sales of flea control products have quadrupled in size since the introduction of Program, the first of the new-generation products, in 1995, and the new generation of oral flea and tick products are transforming the landscape once again.”
So, what is the next generation?
According to Susan Goldstein of Earth Animal, after years of relying on toxic products, like the earliest nerve gas to the insecticides and pesticides prevalent today, consumer demand is shifting to natural, organic solutions.
This shift has been occurring in nearly every vertical in the pet industry, so it makes sense to be a growing part of flea and tick.
“There’s been a huge shift in consumers who are pet parents,” Goldstein said. “They’re very enlightened. They’re extremely on to side effects. They’re very open to organic approaches. It’s just amazing. The time has come. Everyone wants safety. Everyone wants organic. We need to be really careful of our animals’ immune systems. We need to be careful not to compromise them.”
Started in 1979, Earth Animal made herbal collars out of her natural food store, and from there, the company “embarked on a mission to do a cause-no-harm product line for dogs and cats, to really look to the earth for solutions,” according to Goldstein.
Goldstein and her husband, Dr. Bob Goldstein, run a veterinary practice in addition to formulating natural pet products. She said that in the practice, they’ve seen cancer become an epidemic.
“There are triggers that we can take control of,” she said. “One of them is to eliminate insecticides and pesticides. We should not be putting them on the bodies of dogs and cats.”
Earth Animal’s flea and tick line includes a powder and drops that are added to food, along with a shampoo and a spray.
The goal of the food additives is to change the odor of the dog’s blood to make it distasteful to fleas and ticks, as well as mosquitoes and black flies.
“I call it ‘vitamizing’ the blood,” Goldstein said.
The brand intends to expand their line into an organic flea collar and a spot-on by spring.
“There are more ticks in more places than ever before, and more tick-transmitted disease, too,” said Thomas Mather, a professor and director of TickEncounter Resource Center, in a release published by tweezer manufacturer Tick Ease. “It is critically important to educate and equip people to take appropriate tick bite preventative actions.”
Product innovation in this category becomes increasingly important as global temperatures rise. Ticks are spreading further and faster than ever before; the population in many parts of the United States is booming. With that population growth comes an increase in tick-borne illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), tick-borne diseases have tripled since 1995.
Reliable tools, like tweezers, still sell well because they’re effective and can help dog and owner avoid exposure to the pesticides that Goldstein discussed.
One such tool is the TickEase, which was designed to comply with the CDC’s guidelines on tick removal. It’s a dual-tipped tool with a tweezer end and a scoop end that works for both people and pets and on engorged ticks.
Knowledge is Essential
This category faces tremendous challenges with the increasing threats of flea and tick population explosions, along with disease prevalence. Educated consumers likely will shop for products based on disease prevalence in your geographic region.
However, one of the strongest techniques for selling flea and tick products is to be educated and prepared to share that information with your customers. The CDC website includes distribution patterns of specific ticks and the diseases they carry. Those tools can be incredibly effective sales aids.
In addition, a variety of products—from food additives to spot-on treatments and shampoos to flea collars—appeals to the widest range of consumers. Most consumers want to purchase the products they’re most familiar with, so the range allows for that comfort level.
Finally, while these products have been considered by some consumers to be a seasonal item—skipping the purchase and, thus, the application—in winter months, the longer-term effects of the increase in the flea and tick population should make this a year-round purchase.
A Boost to Salon Products
The nail care vertical has blossomed beyond simple clippers. Though the segment still includes traditional basics like clippers and styptic powers, it has expanded into the growing fashion market with products like stick-on rhinestone nail decals and more. However, nail care is fundamentally about nail health and starts with a regular trim.
Nail trims provide an added value to grooming clients. More often than not, though, nail trims are a walk-in, on-demand service that many dog owners have come to rely on to keep their pets’ nails in shape. However, because the cost of consistent nail trims can add up, and because some dogs simply don’t feel comfortable in the salon, some owners are turning to at-home nail care for maintenance.
Varying Price Points
For the first-time at-home groomer, files serve as the first step into nail maintenance. Electric tools like FURminator’s Dog and Cat Nail Grinder provides a comfortable, easy-to-use solution. The FURminator nail grinder starts at an affordable price point and delivers two battery-powered speeds. Its built-in automatic LED light keeps the nail well-lit for safety and control. Be sure to stock the appropriately-sized replacement bands nearby.
At a slightly higher price point, the Andis Master Grooming Tools Professional Pet Nail Grinder includes a suite of attachments and allows the at-home groomer to trim, shape and smooth pets’ nails. The ergonomic design keeps the groomer comfortable while the fast RPMs help grind the nails quickly and efficiently.
The best-selling Dremel tool delivers a solid performance but at a heftier weight—the hand tool weighs just over 1 pound, possibly making it a cumbersome piece to use for long stretches for some. However, it’s a bestseller for a reason. The removable battery pack allows the customer to buy a backup so that nail trims can continue uninterrupted. A fast speed with light pressure files the nails quickly, and a few different sanding bands allow your customer to pick the one that’s best for his or her pet.
For dogs over 40 pounds, the Millers Forge Dog Nail Clip is a heavy-duty clipper constructed from German stainless steel and is made in Italy. The sharp cutting blades ensure a quick, clean cut. It’s a no-frills clipper that provides consistent, reliable cuts.
In case of emergency—because cuts happen even to the most experienced groomer—Miracle Care launched improved formulas for its Kwik Stop Swabs and Caps. Made with the Original Kwik Stop Powder, these two products fill a need for fast, easy, on-the-spot control of minor bleeding.
The Gel Swabs come with a single-use applicator, and the new formula includes Benzocaine to help reduce the pain of a cut quick. The Kwik Tips Nail Caps are flexible caps filled with the Original Kwik Stop Powder that pet owners and professionals can push onto the nail to control the bleeding and ease the pain. The caps are also single-use and stop the bleeding while preventing blood stains.
Beyond the Basics
A small but growing segment of the nail care market seeks style alongside routine care. In the salon, groomers can offer a nail polish application as an additional service to a nail trim. However, offering the same polishes for sale allows the additional sale of a consumable. Consider a rack to display polishes just like these pet owners expect to see in salons for humans.
Style items, such as nail polish and nail applications (including decals, stickers and “bling”), appeal to this growing segment of shoppers. One effective way to merchandise these products is with “Mommy and Me” signage.
The Company of Animals recently acquired the worldwide brand, product and distribution rights for the Pet Head brand from Pet Head Inc. Many pet-safe nail products, like the polishes from Pet Head, can be used on people and pets, so style-driven dog owners can apply matching manicures to themselves and their pets.
Warren London’s patented Pawdicure Polish Pen is a water-based, odorless, non-toxic paint pen that dries in under a minute. They’re available in 13 colors ranging from a traditional red to a collection of neon brights.
Making the Sale
Reassurance is the key to selling at-home nail care products. An effective way to showcase and sell nail care items is with in-store demonstrations or one-on-one education. Many customers are nervous about taking aspects of nail care home because they’re afraid of accidents like cutting the quick. Showcasing products and ease-of-use tips will dispel those worries while boosting sales.
In the salon, groomers can make product recommendations based on the specific breed and the individual dog’s needs. And because even the steadiest hand can err, always recommend an add-on sale of a styptic powder so that customers understand that it happens (and, of course, that their dog will be fine).
Designed for Play
When it comes to dog toys, the product development focus has historically centered on durability. Dog owners wanted a toy that would last, and since most dogs destroy toys pretty quickly, toys with innovative materials—seat belts, fire hoses, ballistic-grade fabric—emerged as bestsellers. However, many dogs were still able to destroy these toys, and owners continued to look for alternatives.
A major shift in the pet industry and dog ownership is changing how play products are developed. The human-animal bond is emerging as the industry’s meta-trend, driving product development and innovation across segments. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, “the human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both. This includes, but is not limited to, emotional, psychological and physical interactions of people, animals and the environment.”
As dog owners learn more about their best friends, they seek products that fulfill their dogs’ needs. Interactive and fetch toys meet many of those needs. For customers looking to build a strong, trusting relationship, interactive toys like tugs, ropes and fetching toys help to establish and develop that partnership.
Within this segment, technology integration is a growing facet, with innovations like remote-operation, dog-triggered actions and even sensing and video capabilities.
PetSafe’s Automatic Ball Launcher, for example, allows dogs to deposit the ball into the launcher by themselves. Safety features ensure that the ball doesn’t launch if the dog is standing directly in front of the toy. The launcher has nine different distance settings, ranging from eight to 30 feet, which allows it to be used indoors or out. It’s water-resistant and can be used either with battery power or a power cord.
For interactive games of fetch, Hyper Pet manufactures options for every type of dog and dog owner. The K-9 Kannon is a hand-held ball launcher that launches a standard tennis ball up to 75 feet. Unlike electronic ball launchers, this one has a simple pull-and-shoot mechanism. Similarly, the brand offers slingshot-style toys made from ballistic nylon with a bungy cord that can launch a toy 100 feet.
For dogs who don’t love chasing down a tennis ball from great distances, the brand also manufactures their signature neon yellow fetch toys like the Flippy Flopper, a rubber and nylon flying disc.
Planet Dog toys can be another popular option when looking for fun interactive or fetch toys. For customers looking for a product that can stimulate a dog’s brain for hours, there is Planet Dog’s Mazee. Pop a few treats into the translucent toy and watch as dogs’ senses come alive. The dogs can hear, see and smell the treats inside the maze ball and have to figure out the puzzle to get them out.
For a fetch toy from Planet Dog, there is the Fetch Ball with its attached rope. The durable, three-inch ball is available in green and pink and can provide tons of fun.
There are also perennial favorites that are simple and help dog owners bond with their dogs.
According to Lisa Kamer, founder and CEO of Knots of Fun, consumers looking for an interactive toy are attracted to bright, colorful toys with lots of texture. The toys that her company produces from fleece tick all of those boxes.
“Most people don’t really think that fleece comes textured, thick, thin, heavy, not heavy, pebbled and on and on,” Kamer explained. “Using combinations of colors and textures is very eye catching.”
The fleece toys are substantially sized, with ropes reaching up to three feet in length. Kamer explained that her store displays catch customers’ eyes because of the bright colors, but the versatility of the toys entices them to buy.
“My customers are looking for a durable toy,” she said. “It also floats. It can be used for beach sports or even frozen. It becomes a whole different toy, a whole different experience.”
Beyond that, though, her customers love Knots of Fun’s made-in-the-USA commitment.
“They seem to be attracted to the USA component,” Kamer said. “That’s what I sell. That’s all I know. I think that’s one of the reasons that people are coming to me. I do manufacture a 100 percent USA-made toy. I am very pleased to be able to say that not only are my toys manufactured here, but the material is also made here.”
Regardless of the play style, safety is paramount in this category. Kamer’s toys are safe enough that, if a dog chews off a piece, it will pass. Hyper Pet’s toys comply with children’s toy safety protocols and, in some cases, exceed those standards. PetSafe’s ball launcher has a series of built-in sensors that prevent the ball from launching if a person or a pet happens to be in front of the toy.
Interactive and fetch toys are not chew toys. In other words, customers should not expect to leave these toys out and have them last. Instead, these are items that should be brought out for specific play sessions. Educate customers on this specific class of product to prevent disappointment.
These toys can also get lost in the bigger toy aisle. Consider endcaps and signage that call attention to benefits of play and interaction between dog owners and their pets.
Kamer’s sales pitch for these toys?
“Use the toy; play with your dog,” Kamer said. “Enjoy that bond that you can establish with your dog through play.”
Effective Ear Care
When dog owners book a grooming appointment, grooming professionals examine the pet’s ears and often perform an ear cleaning as part of the service. However, dog owners should conduct their own routine at-home cleaning to stave off infection and keep the ears and canals clean and odor free. Some dog owners feel uncomfortable with the task because they don’t know how to clean their pet’s ears appropriately, and many are afraid of hurting the pet.
It’s a good idea to start a discussion by asking customers what signs and symptoms they’ve noted. There are several topics to discuss, depending on the client’s needs. Do they see a groomer or their vet regularly? Does their dog swim often?
Safe and Simple
Observations of discharge, odor, swelling or excessive scratching should first be referred to their veterinarian. Then, for clients looking to implement an at-home maintenance routine, be prepared to walk them through a safe cleaning routine.
Be sure to offer a range of products, including those that break up ear wax, dry out the canal or are convenient, like grooming wipes. In fact, grooming wipes are a simple way for reluctant dog owners to start an ear cleaning routine.
“When we created PL360 grooming wipes, we wanted to be sure it would be a product that pet owners can use on all areas of the pet, including sensitive areas like the ears,” said Katie Rogers, director of sales and marketing at PL360 Pet Care. “The gentle, plant-based formula works really well to remove wax and discharge, as well as any other kind of crust, odor or goop that has built up in the ears.”
Just like the trends in other grooming verticals, the demand in the ear products category is for natural, safe ingredients that are also effective.
“Ear cleaning is important to help support the overall health and wellness of dogs, which is why we use natural ingredients blended in a way that is not only effective in removing dirt, but that is also nourishing so it won’t leave your dog’s ears dry and susceptible to irritation,” Rogers said.
Offer Them Options
When choosing which products to stock on your shelves, it’s important to remember that customers want a range of options. They often will select not only what works for their dog but also what they feel confident using on their pet.
“We understand that at-home pet care can be stressful, so we like to make it as easy and convenient as possible for owners to keep up on it themselves,” said Lori Fouts, vice president of sales management at MiracleCorp. “Typically, they’re either looking for something that assists with a specific problem, like mites, for example, or they may have had issues in the past and are just looking for a safe and natural product they can use on their pet regularly as a preventative measure. Our products not only work, but they are very reasonably priced and cover both aspects of ear care previously mentioned: treatment for a specific issue and ongoing care options for preventative use. The treatment type that works best for one pet might not work as well for another, which is why we have sprays, cleaner pads, creams, powders and total ear care cleaning kits.”
At MiracleCorp, product development is driven by larger purchasing trends, according to vice president of sales management Lori Fouts.
“Convenient, at-home care products and natural remedies are growing trends in the pet industry,” she said. “We also like to look at the trends on the human beauty and care side. For example, multi-step face wash systems are popular with human consumers as well as two-part nail kits and such. We’ve been around long enough to know that consumers tend to mimic their own trends and preferences when it comes to purchasing products for their pets. Our stand-alone products and total ear care cleaning kits not only follow human consumer trends, but they ultimately provide a more efficient and effective solution to at-home ear care.”
Providing options, as long as they’re all equally effective, meets the varying needs of different dog owners and variety of dog breeds.
“It’s important [for the customer] to know that a variety exists in terms of how to actually clean their pet’s ear, but also to know that the products can be used in conjunction with each other because they are made up of all safe and natural ingredients” Fouts said.
She recommends merchandizing a complete line together to show customers the options available.
As the saying goes, a little education goes a long way. Signage in the aisle or a special end-cap display help guide customers to make the right purchasing decision, but one-on-one conversations can help make the sale.
Present a range of options in all types, from wipes to liquids to pre-soaked pads, and discuss the benefits of each for your customer’s needs and breed. Help them understand what they need, along with a product recommendation to meet that need, and you’ll have a satisfied customer.
Good Ol’ Dog
Dogs live longer than ever before. With the addition of productive innovations, the senior dog category is expanding as more dogs reach their golden years. In fact, dog owners are beginning to expect to have the products they need to help their best friends live a long, healthy life.
“People are becoming more pro-active about seeking solutions for the issues that impact quality of life for their senior dogs,” said Dr. Julie Buzby, founder of Dr. Buzby’s Innovations, LLC. “Of course, we know dogs, like people, are going to slow down as they age. However, the mindset is shifting from ‘We expect this and there’s nothing we can do about it’ to ‘What can we do to support, protect and preserve mobility and wellness during the aging process?’”
The biggest demand for senior support falls in the mobility category. Joint supplements have always been a growth market, and consumers are now looking for products to help their dogs in addition to those supplements.
The GingerLead Dog Support and Rehabilitation Harness, for example, is a support-style leash that allows dogs with limited mobility the chance to get exercise while being safely supported by their owner.
“As an integrative veterinarian, I feel good about using a multimodal approach to successfully manage pain and mobility in my senior patients,” Dr. Buzby said. “But I was constantly frustrated by the issue of slipping. A dog who struggles on hardwood, tile or laminate floors is experiencing a biomechanical problem. Acupuncture, herbs, pain medications, etc., cannot stop dogs from slipping.”
Her company launched ToeGrips, nonslip nail grips that fit onto dogs’ toenails to restore traction on slippery floors.
“They are a biomechanics solution to the biomechanical problem,” she said. “As dogs regain mobility and stability, they also regain confidence, which has a huge impact on quality of life.”
Value of Exercise
Senior dogs also benefit from mobility support because they continue to require exercise—though modified—throughout their life for optimal health. StarWalk is an activity monitor that serves well for senior dogs.
“It’s important that senior dogs get some level of exercise throughout the day, depending on their breed and age,” explained Pete Fischer at StarWalk. “The StarWalk is an easy way to encourage pet owners to monitor their senior dog’s daily activity and set overall goals for them, plus set important vet and medication reminders and more. Our customers say that it’s a great, user-friendly device that keeps them connected to and constantly aware of their pets’ overall activity on a daily basis.”
Another category for senior dogs that is booming involves health and wellness. Everything from dental products to supplements to live-stage-appropriate dog food are in high demand. Herbsmith manufactures a probiotic, Microflora Plus for Digestion, which is a complete combination of probiotics, prebiotics, digestive enzymes, and herbs that support proper digestion and bowel health.
According to Lisa Senafe, founder of Bentley’s Pet Stuff, a series of 19 stores and growing across the Midwest, it all starts with healthy digestion.
“Start with a good diet first,” she said. “Gut health is a niche market. Until there’s a problem, people aren’t aware of probiotics. Sometimes seniors are lacking the enzymes to help process the food and pull the nutrients out more. Probiotics keep the guy and the immune system healthy.”
Senafe also recommends supplements for additional support, and those from Ark Naturals are among her favorites.
Beyond overall health, comfort is a topic that is of interest to senior dog owners. Larry Wright, president of The Green Pet Shop, offers several solutions.
“Just as with humans today, knowledge, healthier lifestyles, and enhanced medical care have all helped in extending the lives of our pets,” he said. “There is more of an emphasis on exercise, healthier ingredients in foods and treats, and creative products that solve problems and keep pets healthy and comfortable, thus reducing stress. Many of our products help in this manner.”
Wright outlined three options for owners concerned about their senior dogs.
“Our patented Cool Pet Pad keeps pets cool and comfortable without the need for refrigeration, adding water or electricity,” he said. “This helps prevent overheating, calms pain from achy joints and arthritis, cools sore muscles and helps relax your senior pet by keeping them cool and comfortable. Our Achy Paws Warming Mat uses bamboo/charcoal technology, which helps with circulation. Increased circulation keeps our pets healthier for longer and the warmth from the pad helps soothe them. Our new CBD Pet Care Lotion calms and soothes. With its patented transdermal delivery system, it is more quickly and completely absorbed into the bloodstream.”
Incontinence and accidents can often happen with senior pets, so a smart display aimed at aging dogs includes healthy, safe cleanup solutions. ECOS for Pets! Stain and Odor Remover is effective against all types of pet messes without using ammonia, bleach or other dangerous chemicals. Enzymes safely remove stains and odor without leaving any toxic residue behind. A pet-safe and senior-friendly product, the brand does not include petroleum-based surfactants, artificial dyes or synthetic fragrances, preventing the chance of those ingredients causing respiratory problems or skin irritations.
Senafe suggested one way of guiding customers to find the right products for their senior pets. In her store, she said employees try to draw parallels to help customers choose the most appropriate products.
“We always try to humanize for our customers, how we feel and how we handle aging,” she said. “It helps connect the dots between their own health.”
Tools of the Trade
Dog owners who groom at home range from the basic bath-and-nail-trim groomers to the owners who clip, trim and shape their dog at home. The typical shopper in that latter vertical falls into one of two categories: the first are the at-home groomers who take care of all their dogs’ grooming themselves; the second are people who have their dogs professionally groomed on a regular basis but perform small maintenance tasks at home between appointments.
Those two types of at-home groomers seek similar types of products, and both consumers benefit from in-store education to choose the right products.
“Consumers are looking for tools and products that are easy to use, work effectively with their dog’s coat, and will keep their dog looking great in between visits to the groomer,” said Karen Formico, vice president of marketing at Andis Company. “This year, we’ve made a big push to meet the growing trend of more at-home pet parents demanding grooming tools that pack that professional performance, but are still easy to use.”
“The first product we’ve released to meet those needs is our Cordless Easyclip Li adjustable blade clipper,” she continued. “The Cordless EasyClip Li brings clipping versatility that works with a variety of coat types and dog breeds. Additionally, our lithium ion battery technology runs for two hours on just a 90-minute charge. More and more consumers and professionals are demanding corded performance out of cordless products, and the Cordless EasyClip Li is another great example of how Andis is delivering for our customers.”
According to Formico, cordless is the biggest demand from at-home groomers right now. It makes sense: Not all dog owners have the space or a professional table for grooming sessions at home. Products with versatility, ranging from the bathroom to the kitchen sink, appeal to a broader customer base.
One popular cordless item is the Sunbeam Dog Turbo Cordless Clipper. The same brand also offers a Quiet Dog Clipper Kit that, while a corded product, sells well among pet owners who have an anxiety-prone dog.
Additional bestsellers include complete kits that contain the various pieces an at-home groomer might want. The Wahl Pet Clipper Kit provides everything a dog owner might need in a convenient carrying case. Another bestseller is the Oster Complete Performance Clipper Kit, which offers a whisper quiet mode for sound-sensitive animals and a compact design that enables a user to groom those hard-to-reach areas.
Along with ease-of-use and safety, consumers are looking for stylish grooming tools. Brands like Andis, Wahl and Conair offer a range of clippers in colors like bright pink. Some specialty tools even come in patterns and prints, like leopard. While colors and designs aren’t necessities for these tools to function, fun options may help consumers make a final purchasing decision if they’re wavering between two brands.
But, as all these manufacturers attest, making the sale of any grooming product comes down to two things: first, teaching the consumers what they need for their dogs’ coat; and second, how to use the tools.
“The biggest challenge we have in the retail space is education,” Formico said. “As a grooming brand, it’s critical that Andis tools are being used appropriately, with the right breeds, with the right coat type. Not every tool works the same way with different coat types. So, what we’ve done is redesign our packaging to take the confusion out of the purchasing process for consumers.”
Beyond the packaging, though, retailers should be well-versed in the grooming tools on the shelf and for which dogs they are most appropriate.
“We’ve developed new scales, icons and comparison charts that help consumers understand which clippers, shears and grooming tools are going to work best with their dog,” Formico said. “Andis is also testing some exciting kiosk concepts with retail partners that we’re very excited about. One thing we hear a lot from both our professional groomers and consumers is they want to hold and feel the clipper, trimmer, brush or comb before making that purchasing decision, so the kiosk actually gives them the opportunity to do that with a wide variety of our products.”
While signage and displays go a long way in helping to educate the consumer, conversation can help make the sale. In-store demonstrations or one-on-one consultations can help consumers make informed decisions.
In the short term, this is a greater investment in time and staff energy. And, in the long term, closing the gap on that education piece will help at-home groomers select the right clippers and shears, which will result in a happy customer.
Bet on Wet Food
Wet food accounts for 20 percent of pet food sales in the US, according to a webinar hosted by GfK earlier this year. That represents roughly $4.8 billion of the $24 billion US pet food market. A small segment, to be sure, but a powerful and growing one.
Dog owners tend to purchase wet food for two distinct purposes: First, there’s a perception that wet food delivers higher-quality nutrition. Second, some pet owners feel that feeding wet food—either by itself or as a topper to dry kibble—allows them to spoil their dog. Either way, the product-selection emphasis is on quality.
According to Chanda Leary-Coutu, senior marketing communications manager at WellPet, “Just like dry food, high-quality, natural wet food offers the complete and balanced nutrition dogs and cats need for a happy, healthy life. More than ever, pet parents are looking for ways to add variety and excitement to mealtime, and this can be accomplished by feeding wet food recipes, either exclusively or along with dry food. Mealtime has come to represent a special moment between pet and pet parents—it’s a way for pet parents to show their four-legged family members how much they care and wet food can help make mealtime even more special by adding textures, flavors and nutrients that appeal to pets’ palates and help them feel their best.”
When it comes to premium products, consumers want nutritionally-dense formulas and are concerned about ingredients and their sourcing.
“When pet parents choose wet food, they look for quality, natural ingredients that they know will help support their pets’ overall health and wellbeing—including grain-free recipes made without fillers or artificial colors, flavors and preservatives—and exciting flavor combinations and textures that will end the monotony of mealtime,” said Leary-Coutu.
At Wellness, the brand recently introduced new wet food options, TruFood Complements and Wellness CORE Hearty Cuts. Grain Free Wellness TruFood Complements for cats and dogs are made with whole prey proteins and fresh produce, each with no more than five ingredients. CORE Hearty Cuts offers protein-packed wet food with quality proteins like beef, venison, turkey, duck or salmon, along with superfoods like spinach, sweet potatoes and kale for a balanced, highly nutritious meal.
Retailers are capitalizing on the increase in demand for wholesome, organic products by stocking organic, natural wet food. One example is Mulligan Stew, a premium wet food developed by a naturopathic practitioner. The formula aids in increasing the healthy enzymes that support detoxification, anti-oxidant production and cellular health.
Bravo’s new Canine Cafe line provides complete and balanced nutrition for all ages and breeds. The formulas include popular, trending ingredients like salmon oil, green lipped mussels and turmeric. Additionally, for concerned customers, Bravo has made their Country of Origin (COO) data available as downloadable PDFs for each product on the company’s website.
Beyond ingredient demands, consumers are using wet food increasingly as a topper to the kibble they already feed. According to Leary-Coutu, “One of the biggest trends we are seeing in the pet food industry as a whole is the rise in meal toppers which can be served over dry food or as a snack, providing delicious taste, texture, hydration and nutrients to a cat or dog’s diet.”
This makes sense with the larger trends of treating pets like an integrated member of the family and expecting the same quality for them as for your own family. Adding high-quality wet food as a topper allows dog owners to feel like they’re pampering their pet with premium nutrition and a tasty treat.
Ultimately, though, the key to successfully selling wet food: education.
“Pet parents are doing more research to educate themselves on what goes into their pet’s foods, so it’s important for retailers to have a true understanding of what’s in the foods they’re selling and how those ingredients can help pets’ overall health. Pet parents will come into their neighborhood,” stated Leary-Coutu. “This is especially true in the natural category. Pet parents who feed their dogs and cats natural recipes have already done part of their homework. They know natural ingredients are a fundamental source of health for their pets, so retailers need to know even more than the basics. They need to understand the order in which ingredients are listed, where the ingredients are sourced, and the nutritional value and health benefits of these various ingredients, which are all key factors to help pet parents find the recipes that are best suited for their pet’s nutritional needs.”
Work closely with brand partners to understand how wet food recipes benefit dogs, and help your customers make educated decisions for their pets’ needs.
Choosing the Best Cosmetics
Pet cosmetics: Few other niches cause as varied reactions as this, with some consumers clamoring for more and better products, while others tease the coifed dogs. Regardless, the segment is growing—and quickly—though it’s still a small market. Those clamoring for more, however, tend to be millennials, often child-free, with expendable income they’re willing to spend on pampering their pets.
Once thought of as bling and polish, the cosmetics aisle is expanding rapidly into beauty and style products that mimic human products. Whatever the product, though, consumers are expecting the same level of quality for their pets that they expect for themselves.
“The grooming industry has piggy backed the ride in human cosmetics opting for a healthier alternative,” said Tara Pellegrino, a groomer who also serves as a distributor for Envirogroom Professional Pet Products. “Keep in mind, it is not only the pet’s skin and coat we are monitoring but also our own hands that are soaking in these products as well.”
Eric Bittman of Warren London said consumers are seeking better products.
“Consumers are starting to look for high quality products that actually work,” he said. “There are many watered-down products in the industry that are imported very cheaply from China and many companies don’t put ingredients on their bottles. We believe in all-natural, high-quality ingredients made here in the USA and are happy to show all of our ingredients on every product. Just like human products, we believe it’s important to know what ingredients you are using on your dog.”
“Be wary of claims,” she said. “Pet stylists need to learn how to read labels. Just because it says ‘all natural’ or ‘organic’ in bold on the front of the packaging, doesn’t necessarily mean it is. In fact, if it is organic, the percentage of ingredients that are organic must be listed on the label, for example: organic jojoba oil (50 percent).”
Consumers are becoming hyper-aware of ingredients and label-savvy when it comes to their own beauty and cosmetic purchases, so the same demands are trickling into cosmetic grooming products.
“Another thing groomers need to keep in mind is that just because a product is natural, does not mean a pet will not have an allergic reaction,” Pellegrino said. “I often say grass is natural, yet more dogs are allergic to grass than anything else. That’s one of the reasons Envirogroom invented their certified gluten free product line for groomers and bathers with celiac disease. The general trend in the grooming world has to do with natural products. For the past few years, all product manufacturers have gone natural, organic, gluten free, soy free and the like.”
These trends follow along with the bigger shifts in the pet industry as a whole.
“Also driving this growth is now that many families are humanizing their dogs, they are consuming products that will give their pup a better quality of life,” Bittman said. “For example, 10 to 15 years ago no one cared if their dog licked their itchy paws, had dandruff and dry skin. Today, many concerned dog parents have great high-quality products to choose from to fix these ailments and give their puppy the happiness they deserve.”
These products are similar to what their human owners purchase for themselves. Exfoliation has been big in the human cosmetic industry for decades. Now, it’s popping up in products like Warren London’s Butter Wash with Exfoliating Jojoba Beads, which is a moisturizing shampoo that removes dead skin and dead hair from the dog.
At SuperZoo, Warren London launched a new product that is Dog Sunscreen with Aloe Vera Moisturizer to provide sun protection while moisturizing the coat.
When it comes to decorative cosmetics, just about anything goes: pet-friendly dyes, along with trendy cuts and bling applications, plus the standard nail polish.
“Groomers are also artists, so anything fun, such as creative color products and bling are hot right now,” Pellegrino said. “Few actually do full blown coloring in their spas due to the time and energy it takes to creatively color a dog, but most pet stylists dabble. Coloring tips of tails, ears and mohawks has become the norm. Stenciling products and blow pens sell out at all the groomer trade shows.”
When deciding what products to stock, consider your customer base. For at-home groomers, stencils and dyes, along with packets of adhesive bling, make great additions to endcaps and POP displays. For those who don’t groom at home and rely on your staff, try offering cosmetic services like bling applications and nail painting as an add-on to existing services.
Thinking Outside the Bag
Dealing with waste is one of the least favorite but most important tasks for any dog owner. Whether it’s addressing accidents in the house, cleaning up the yard or stopping problematic behaviors, waste products are needed by all dog owners. Diversify your product mix and capitalize on cross-merchandizing to maximize these sales. Poop products cross a number of aisles by offering creative product and dietary solutions to messy problems.
Supplements make up an unexpected but important part of the poop product mix. Dog owners whose dogs exhibit problematic behaviors like coprophagia (stool eating) or butt scooting seek out food, treats or supplements that combat those problems. Solid Gold’s S.E.P. (Stop Eating Poop) product is popular and easy to administer. It makes the stool distasteful to the dog. Likewise, NaturVet’s Coprophagia Deterrent Soft Chews is given like a treat to deter the stool-eating behavior. Both products also include a breath freshener.
For butt scooting, a visit to the vet is recommended to eliminate any underlying medical conditions, but for maintenance, products like NaturVet’s No Scoot meet customers’ needs. For a unique solution, Pet Naturals of Vermont offers Scoot Bars. Scoot Bars provide immune, digestive and colonic support. Pet Naturals’ 2800 mg proprietary pumpkin blend includes three sources of fiber: larch tree extract, digestion-resistant maltodextrin and pumpkin powder. The product, though, is the size and texture of a chew, so dog owners feel like they’re rewarding their pet while treating the condition.
Accidents Will Happen
In case of accidents, a selection of training and clean-up products is at the ready. For puppies and elderly dogs, potty pads and diapers help dog owners keep their homes clean while providing their pet with an elimination spot. Simple Solution, Arm & Hammer and AKC training pads are among the most popular, but this is one category where consumers typically seek the lowest prices regardless of brand because they’re a quickly consumed product. To educate your customers on the best products for the money, consider having in-store demo pads or allow customers to trial a pad from a sample box.
For indoor accident clean-up, the trend is toward natural cleaning solutions that are non-toxic and eco-friendly. Nature’s Miracle is a perennial best-seller and is branded specifically for pet accidents. Skout’s Honor also offers a complete line of eco-friendly, non-toxic stain and odor removers for pet messes.
One eco-friendly brand, PL360, offers a range of pet-safe, non-toxic, eco-friendly products in fresh, modern packaging. The household line from PL360 includes a citrus-scented Stain & Odor Remover, as well as Odor Neutralizing Carpet Powder.
Lifestyle brand ECOS launched an array of pet cleaning products, including a safe, biodegradable Stain & Odor remover. Among the products in their pet line is the innovative Powdered Pick-Up Sponge. The enzymes in the formulation do the work: Sprinkle on pet accidents and watch the mess absorb into the sponge material and disappear. Once absorbed, the pet owner only has to sweep up and throw away.
While there are numerous product lines to diversify your waste product selection, the basics are pick-up bags and poop scoops. With pick-up bags, two major trends are growing: eco-friendly and style choices.
The overarching trend toward eco-friendly options in nearly every pet product category includes pick-up bags, though the options are limited. Poop Bags by Earth Rated hit on a number of consumer demands: They’re an affordable, eco-friendly option with some customization available. The bags, in their traditional green style or white vegetable-based style, are available lavender scented or unscented. Matching dispensers or tissue-box-like dispensers round out the selection.
A wider range of personalized pick-up products appeal to consumers who are searching for ways to show their (and their dogs’) personalities. Bags in different prints and colors, along with leash-clip holders that feature everything from licensed professional sports logos to cartoon characters and fashion prints, allow pet owners to choose products that express individuality.
Pooper scoopers fill out the waste product aisle, and customers who purchase these products are looking for ease of use. Nature’s Miracle offers its Advanced Jaw Scoop made of durable plastic with a special antimicrobial coating that keeps it odor-free and easy to clean. Plus, it enables the pet owner to scoop the poop without having to bend over. Other popular options include cost-conscious pan-and-rake sets.
With the number of waste-related products available, combined with the fact that waste is one of the least pleasant aspects of dog ownership, merchandizing opportunities abound. An aisle dedicated to waste-related products is a natural fit to any store setup, but sprinkling endcaps and free-standing displays throughout the store captures those customers who come in seeking other products. For instance, a display of potty pads naturally fits into any puppy training or puppy product aisle, as does a display of cleaning solutions. Cleaning solutions also fit well among senior-specific products. Since poop bag rolls are a universal need, displays throughout the store, especially at point of purchase, allow customers to stick them in the cart as an impulse. Cross-merchandise and cross-promote waste products where they naturally fit to grow these sales.