Effective Joint Care
Two factors are driving growth for joint products: First, dogs are living longer lives; therefore, dogs are experiencing more age-related health issues like arthritis. Second, dogs are integrated into the family fold, which includes being a part of the family’s lifestyle. Dogs go on more vacations, participate in more activities like hiking and running, and even compete in more
organized activities than ever before. And all that means more pressure on joints than ever before.
“The biggest barrier people face with supplements is actually getting their dogs to eat it,” said David Rizzo, director of operations at Zuke’s. “Because of this, consumers are looking for joint care products that not only offer functionality, but high-quality nutrition and a taste their dogs enjoy. They are savvy about ingredient and sourcing choices, often seek out allergy-friendly options, and value supplying their pets with wholesome nutrition.
“To meet these demands, Zuke’s Enhance Mobility Functional Chews are grain-free, available in tasty peanut butter and chicken recipes, and are crafted in the USA with some of the best herbs and high-quality ingredients that nature has to offer,” Rizzo said. “The product includes functional ingredients like glucosamine hydrochloride to help support cartilage health in joints, turmeric to help ease stiffness and chondroitin sulfate to help with cartilage maintenance and joint health.”
Ark Naturals also recognizes the need to address a dog’s joint care health. Suitable for both cats and dogs, Joint Rescue Super Strength Chewable supports cartilage and joint function and can provide comfort to pets with exercise- and agerelated mobility issues, as well as morning stiffness, according to the company’s website. Ark Naturals offers the made-in-the- USA chewables in a 60- and 90-count bottle. The company also has “senior friendly” bite size soft chews, Old Dogs! Happy Joints!, available under its Gray Muzzle product line that specifically target age-related joint issues.
The Human Connection
“As health has become a focal point and the baby boomer population ages, consumers are looking for pet treats that contain the same functional ingredients that they seek in supplements,” said Steve Ball, CMO and cofounder of “I and love and you.” “It’s a natural evolution to the humanization of pets. Ingredients such as glucosamine and manganese sulfate are important to both companion animals’ and humans’ health. Seeing ingredients like this on the label allows consumers to quickly identify that products may aid joint care. This is one of many areas where humanization comes to play because both animals and humans need the same things with regards to joint care as they age.”
“I and love and you” is launching a new functional treat in July of this year. At the time this issue went to press, the product name was undetermined.
“We are adding glucosamine and manganese sulfate to a grain-free, soft, heart shaped treat to meet animals’ joint care needs,” Blass said. “In addition, we’ve added turmeric and green tea extract for added benefits. And at only five calories each, it is a treat you can feel good about giving to your pet.”
Because the demand in this category is expected to increase, so will product development. Ball said he expects “more focus on things like joint care and the humanization of companion animal products.”
“As baby boomers, Gen-Xers, millennials and, subsequently, their pets, age; having functional products that allow your pet family members to help stay stronger longer, is important,” Ball said. “We also expect to see other key human trends translate into the pet functional treat category—everything from beauty ingredients to dental health.”
Rizzo made similar observations.
“An aging population of people and pets is supporting the demand for health-centered or supplemental chews, and the category is expected to deliver strong growth over the coming years,” he said. “Just as people are becoming increasingly interested in natural ways to maintain good health and prevent ailments, they’re seeking the same for their dogs. In addition, pet parents are experiencing pill fatigue and looking for natural, food-based ways to prevent ailments and maintain the joint health of their four-legged friends. Products like our Enhance Mobility Functional Chews provide an appealing solution.”
Despite products like his fitting among the treats in store, Ball said that retailers should emphasize the functionality when making a sale.
“Consumers are looking for a clinically proven product that their dog will enjoy eating,” said Sarah Batterson, brand manager at H&C Animal Health, producers of the joint product ActivPhy. “Sixty percent of consumers prefer soft chews.”
ActivPhy is available in a soft chew that is guaranteed by the brand to improve a dog’s mobility within 30 days of directed use.
“Currently, ActivPhy uses bluegreen algae extract, turmeric and glucosamine, all ingredients proven to improve mobility [and] which are all ingredients consumers recognize and might even take themselves,” Batterson said. “We are currently working on providing innovative joint care products that include other healthy ingredients for all-around health such as multi vitamins with added joint health ingredients.”
“We recommend that retailers display joint care products near supplements and functional chews versus within their traditional treat set,” Rizzo said. “We provide marketing materials and FAQ sheets so that they are informed and well-versed about our products. This helps them to both proactively share information about Zuke’s Enhance Functional Chews, understand our brand and answer any questions consumers may have while in the store.”
ActivPhy’s packaging is conducive to stocking the shelves.
“We advise retailers to merchandise ActivPhy Joint Health in the joint supplement or health and wellness section,” Batterson said. “Since ActivPhy comes in a convenient air tight tub, it can be stacked on shelf, or arranged in center store displays.”
Tasty, functional treats and chews are an expanding segment. Retailers should make room on their shelves for effective, palatable joint treats as this segment continues to be a big seller.
Tables and Lifts
Safety is paramount when choosing tables and lifts for the grooming salon. While these pieces of equipment might seem like a static product—certainly less exciting than the ever-changing array of available shampoos and conditioners—these are arguably the most important aspect of the salon.
Not only do these large-scale purchases keep the groomer safe and comfortable, they also ensure the safety and comfort of the animal on the table. The goal? Remove both stress and physical discomfort for the groomer and the handler. Luckily, product development has kept pace with the needs of this physically-demanding job.
For instance, The Flying Pig Super Low Electric Lift Grooming Table gives groomers closer access to the animal being groomed while encouraging the animal to stay centered. The design reduces the need to stop and bend and reduces stress for the animal with the walk-on and -off feature—which provides back-saving relief to the handler. It lifts from 11¼ inches to more than 40½ inches in seconds, can accommodate pets up to 220 pounds and includes a removable non-slip surface.
For groomers on the go, the Flying Pig Medium Bone Shape Stainless Steel Foldable Grooming Table does the job at a lower price in an easy-to-carry size and shape. Made from rust-resistant stainless steel and a steel frame, it can support pets up to 330 pounds. A nonslip rubber top comes with a decorative bone-shaped pattern. The table is equipped with an adjustable grooming arm that can either attach to the right or left side of the table, enabling the groomer to work from whichever position is most comfortable.
According to many groomers, one of the most important elements when making a table purchase is the warranty, and The Flying Pig pieces come with a one-year warranty.
Go-to brand PetLift manufactures a range of tables in sizes and shapes to meet every need. From the simple folding grooming tables—available with and without adjustable legs—to hydraulic lifts, the brand builds tables to fit in any salon. For example, The Classic Mini Grooming Table serves a niche and small spaces with its classic size. It reduces the roaming area for small breeds, including cats, and fills smaller gaps in grooming areas as an extra table while utilizing the same heavy-duty base pump as the brand’s large models. The top measures 24-inches round.
Another uniquely-shaped table from PetLift is the MasterLift. It’s an extralong, surf-board shaped table top. The top is 24 inches by 54 inches with an oval at one end. It includes an added feature: the 3000 Ultra Post that rotates 180 degrees.
While PetLift has created tables and lifts for 46 years, the brand recently underwent a change in structure. PetLift partnered with S & B Metal Products, an industry leader in custom sheet metal fabrication, to form a new company, PetLift S & B Manufacturing.
Beyond the basics of functional tables that help dog and groomer stay comfortable, business owners shouldn’t neglect their brand when selecting new equipment. Manufacturers now offer an array of design options that can complement the interior design of a salon. Shor-Line allows work areas to be color coordinated with options beyond the basic black. Available in Plum Perfect, Screamin’ Green, Burnt Orange, Electric Pink and Silver Vein, the tables can even coordinate down to the brand’s Kennel Gear Professional Grooming Caddy.
Tables in those color options include the Elite Grooming Tables, which are the only CSA/UL Certified Grooming Table. It can be adjusted in four different ways, keeping the groomer comfortable and efficient. Another option is the Big Top, which also includes four different adjustments, but now features a new, larger 48-inch table top, great for larger breeds.
While color selection may not be the most important factor when choosing a table or lift, the reality for most salons is that these are bigticket items that hopefully don’t need to be replaced often.
The Perfect Fit
Further, measure the space carefully before purchasing new equipment. While a larger table size might sound appealing, it must fit the floor plan. Space planners recommend taping the floor with the table measurements and walk around the salon to ensure that the equipment fits without an awkward—or dangerous—flow.
Once it’s clear what will fit within the space, business owners should get their hands on tables and lifts that they’re interested in. When shopping for new equipment, it’s best to attend grooming shows to try out the products in person and network with other groomers at shows to find out what works.
Groomers should take their time on this purchase. It’s worth the research and maybe even the added expense to find the piece that fits well within the layout of the space and allows staff to groom clients safety, comfortably and efficiently.
The singular trend driving sales and product development across the industry holds strong in the food sector: dog owners want products for their pets that are equivalent to what they purchase for themselves. Pets are integrated members of the family, and owners feed their pets accordingly.
“It’ll probably come as no surprise [that] people want to feed their pets the same way they feed themselves,” said Cathy Enright, Pet Food Institute CEO and president.
“I think we can attribute the current trends for U.S. ingredients or U.S.-sourced foods to that trend,” Enright said. “The majority of ingredients in pet food manufactured in the U.S. are sourced in the United States. The U.S. is the largest pet food market in the world, and U.S. pet food is perceived very well in foreign markets as far as safety, nutrition and ingredients.”
Consumers are well-educated on ingredients and ingredient sourcing for human food, but the same demand exists for pet food. In fact, consumers are wary about ingredients sourced outside of the U.S.
Since 2007, in nearly every product segment in the pet industry, the “Made-in-the-USA” seal has resulted in increased product sales. After the sweeping pet food recalls a decade ago, consumers purchase U.S.-sourced and U.S.-made food purposefully. And, with the increased accessibility for consumers to speak directly to manufacturers via outlets like Facebook and Twitter, along with sweeping stories of pet food recalls and public outrage on social media, the demand for ingredient accountability has grown.
What does that mean for individual manufacturers? An emphasis on quality and accountability is top-of-mind for consumers. For many, that means a “Made in the USA” stamp.
“All of our pet specialty treats—Crazy Dog and Pet Botanics—are made and sourced in the USA,” said Barbara Denzer, vice president of marketing and product development at Cardinal Pet Care. “Like most pet parents, and almost all pet stores, we are also concerned about the quality of ingredients and providing our pets with a healthy, wholesome, safe and nutritious product. Quality control is number one—no short cuts.”
Matthew Golladay, president of BrightPet Nutrition Group, the parent company of Blackwood Pet Foods, shifted production from a foreign facility to the U.S.
“Blackwood Pet Foods is an American company and wanted to make sure our ‘Made in the USA’ message rang true for all of our products,” he said. “While we thoroughly vetted our previous canned wet pet food supplier from New Zealand before doing business with them, the partnership didn’t totally resonate with the story we are telling our customers. The actual cost of getting our products back to the United States figured into our decision to find a similar American partner that could be held to the same standards provided by our New Zealand supplier.”
The move provided fruitful.
“We are able to provide better lead times to our distributors with our production being here in the United States,” Golladay said. “They’re already commenting on the difference.
“While we thoroughly inspected the facilities in New Zealand, it’s easier for us to visit and ensure production is up to Blackwood’s standards,” he added. “We’re also able to track the sourcing of every ingredient that’s used in our canned wet pet food.”
Woodinville, Washington-based Grizzly Pet Products has dog food available in both a dehydrated and oven-baked formula and uses wild Alaskan salmon as its first main ingredient. According to the company’s website, all bottling, baking and dehydration take place in the Washington facilities.
Earth Animal, which sources its products from Pennsylvania and Vermont and makes all of its treats and food in the U.S., considers its ability to stamp its products with “Made in the USA” a “core pillar” of the company. According to Earth Animal Vice President of Brand and Communications Stephanie Volo, the Southport, Connecticut-based company “believes it can make more of a difference when using USA-made products.”
“Being made in the USA and being a socially and environmentally sustainable company goes hand in hand,” Volo said. “For us, and for who we are and who we want to be and where we want to affect the world and make the most impact, that is the best way for us. We’re making products that actually increase longevity for animals, and in order for us to do that, we feel it’s important to know exactly where they’re coming from and really get the best ingredients that we possibly can.”
One of the company’s products, Pork No-Hide Dog Chews, won top honors among new products at this year’s Global Pet Expo, placing first in the Natural Pet Category. The easy-to-digest, durable, long-lasting chews are made with human grade ingredients and is just one of the many products Earth Animal makes that are “respectfully sourced” and “produced with a purpose,” Volo said.
Redbarn Pet Products, maker of pet food and treats, has a bold “Made in USA” stamp on all its food and treats it sources and processes in the USA, including its Sweet Potato Slices, Turkey Stew and its Chicken Pate-Immune Support Formula. In fact, according to the company’s website, “approximately 80 percent of Redbarn’s products are made in [its] plant located in Great Bend, Kansas.”
“The products that list ‘Made in Paraguay’ on the label are made in our company-owned and operated plant located in Paraguay,” the Redbarn website notes. “Because we own the plant, it allows us to maintain and guarantee our quality control standards are met at all times.”
Plus, sometimes, as Denzer points out, there can be challenges with sourcing ingredients in the U.S.
“A few ingredients are not available in the U.S.,” Denzer said. “Tapioca comes from France and some vitamins come from South America. Therefore, we are also expanding our Limited Ingredient Pet Products.”
When it comes to marketing, Denzer says there are inconsistencies.
“Unfortunately, there are different rules in different states about the use of the term ‘Made in USA,’” she said. “We use the flag, or a heart with USA, to indicate our treats are made in the USA and we mention it in the copy on the bags.”
Enright says she hopes retailers choose food products for their shelves based on safety and nutrition rather than those marketing phrases, though. She says she was unsure if the conversation about food safety was happening between the supplier and the retailer, and the retailer and the consumer.
“It would be a great two-way conversation,” she said. “It’s kind of like a maturing of the relationship that began to emerge 10 years ago between manufacturers and their suppliers. Suppliers should talk more broadly about the characteristics of the product. Retailers should open up that conversation of safety with consumers.”
Consumers are savvy about ingredient sourcing and U.S.-based manufacturing and have demanded it more forcefully over the last decade, since the melamine pet food recall of 2007. Dog owners demand accountability from pet food manufacturers as well. Stocking food choices that boast both U.S.-sourced and U.S.-manufactured appeals to that consumer base. Retailers, consider merchandizing a “Made in the USA” section to group together U.S.-made products to increase sales.
The Eyes Have It
Eye care is a cross-over category. Products within eye care, whether at the salon or on the retail shelves, must meet the needs of both the health care sector and the casual pet owner. Tear stains, along with an increase in allergies among the pet dog population, mean big sales in the eye care category.
A large percentage of customers seek products for easy at-home maintenance and preventative healthcare.
“Consumers are looking for something all natural with no antibiotics; they don’t want their pets to get sick,” said Catherine Burns, CEO of Naturally Tearfree Canine, LLC. “We give them not only all natural by having no antibiotics, fillers, additives or food coloring, but also 100 percent organic herbs. [Retailers] want to know it works. We show them before and after pictures [of the results] that our customers took themselves and sent to us. I also use it on my own dog. We have been on the market for eight years and do a lot of the grooming shows across the United States.”
Match Product to Pet
Retailers need to understand their customers’ needs and the individual products to make the sale. At Naturally Tearfree Canine, the brand uses herbs deemed “safe for pets” by the FDA.
“We took the extra step to ensure that our pets were safe,” Burns said.
The company’s products are patented, made in the USA and are free from antibiotics like Tylosin, fillers or additives.
“You only get what you need,” she said. “One herb is an anti-inflammatory for allergies, the other herb is an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial for tear, muzzle and body staining.”
Burns says her product isn’t intended to be given every day like other brands, which makes it easier to use and cost less than competitors’ products.
In the store or salon, Burns recommends that retailers display the flyer the company provides that shows the “before and after” pictures collected from customers.
“We supply each [individual] jar with a tri-fold brochure that has a lot of information the customer wants,” she said.
Another bestselling brand is Angels’ Eyes. Its product line can offer a retailer an expansive range of options for eye care needs—from anti-tear products with natural ingredients to wipes and professional grooming products.
Customers who are looking for a natural solution to meet both health and aesthetic needs have two options from Burt’s Bees. The brand’s Eye Wash with Saline Solution can be used to gently flush debris inside the eye, while the Tear Stain Remover with Chamomile cleans up the gunky particles that build up to cause tear stains.
For many dog owners—especially those whose dogs dislike grooming tasks like having their eyes cleaned—a convenient wipe provides an appealing solution.
All-purpose grooming wipes provide a simple solution for the customer looking to save money. A single product with several uses, PL360’s Grooming Wipes are safe enough to use around the eye but can also be used to clean muddy paws.
Earthbath Eye Wipes for Dogs & Cats are hypoallergenic, fragrance-free wipes that work for dogs who suffer from allergies or sensitive skin. The wipes are gentle enough to clean dirt and debris without causing irritation. Likewise, TrueBlue Pet Products states that TrueBlue Safe and Sure Eye Wipes contain no detergents, parabens, phosphates or alcohol.
Many at-home groomers need a range of professional tools, like fine-toothed combs and blunt-edged scissors, to keep pets’ eyes free from hair that can scratch the cornea. Some of the most popular options include the Miracle Coat Four-Inch Ball Tip Grooming Shear and the ConairPRO Dog Rounded-Tip Shear. For most at-home groomers, especially those who are new to the task, guidance from sales staff will help them select the correct implement—and learn how to use it safely for their dog’s breed.
Whether it’s a convenience product like a wipe or a blunt-tipped scissor, eye care is a specialized category. Counseling customers to choose the correct product can prevent frustration in the owner and injury to the dog.
Retailers should be prepared to refer a customer to a veterinarian if the dog presents with eye discharge or injury, or a groomer if the customer isn’t comfortable handling trimming or cleaning on his or her own.
Regardless of need, the demand for safe, effective and, increasingly, natural solutions drives sales. Pet stores should offer an array of solutions—from safe, effective eye wash products to tear stain removers, trimmers and wipes—to find something to fit every need and should consider these educational opportunities as a chance to build a rapport with the customer to gain loyalty. Since eye care is a consumable, finding the right fit for the right customer enables repeat sales.
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.”