Get the Grain Out
As dog owners shift their own eating habits because of prevailing trends, they are scrutinizing their pets’ diets more than ever before.
“There are a few motivating factors in choosing grain-free options,” said Bette Shubert, Bravo Pet Food’s co-founder and senior vice president of sales, new product development and education. “The primary one is pet parents’ desire to feed a better, more nutritionally-sound food benefitting the overall health and well-being of the companion animal. Cats and dogs are carnivores, or meat-eaters. Many pet foods are at least 50 percent (or more) grain because the carbohydrates are needed to hold the food together. But as The Merck Veterinary Manual tells us, dogs and cats have ‘no dietary requirement for carbohydrates.’”
Like Humans Do
The human food industry is experiencing massive change with an emphasis on what the Institute of Food Technologists calls “the intersection of health and convenience.” And, as most trends do, that is trickling into the pet space.
“Pet owners are becoming more conscious of ingredients and paying closer attention to food labels and nutritional benefits, which is primarily driving their increasing belief that grains are bad for dogs with digestive sensitivities,” said Adrian Pettyan, CEO and co-founder of Caru Pet Food. “In fact, this belief is backed by veterinarians that agree that pets do not need as much grain in their diets as originally thought, and [they] often recommend that pets eat little or no grains, as to not trigger metabolism difficulties or potential diseases. Overall, as pet parents make healthy decisions for themselves and their families, they are doing the same for their furry companions by purchasing wholesome foods that contain nutritious benefits to support their individual needs.”
Caru’s Tetra Pak cartons deliver on the convenience factor because they are easy to open, close and store. The recipes inside provide the healthy, grain-free formulas.
“Caru recipes are ‘just like homemade’—we focus on carefully choosing our products’ ingredients and treating each with integrity to maintain its most healthful qualities to benefit the pet’s diet and promote an overall healthy lifestyle,” Pettyan said. “That said, we recognized consumers’ need for grain-free pet food and treats, and also formulated our grain-free Stews and Treats with GMO-free ingredients. We also recently launched a new line of GMO-free dog treats with exotic proteins: alligator, rabbit and wild boar. These items were created for owners who believe a change of proteins or novel proteins will help alleviate food sensitivities or simply want to satisfy their pets’ wild cravings.”
Part of the grain-free trend, which Bravo embraces, is a push for a raw food diet. Some consumers have been reluctant to make that shift for fear of preparing and storing raw meat. Bravo has combined the desire for that feeding approach with packaged convenience.
“Bravo has always offered single-source protein, limited and grain-free ingredient formulas that all serve a specific nutritional purpose,” Shubert said. “Using our raw foods as an example, the muscle meats provide energy, the organs are nutrient-rich, and the bones are great for dental health and as a source of calcium. In some cases, we add vegetables for added nutrients. Our fresh-frozen raw foods are simple by design and provide a great foundation for creating a custom food based on the specific nutritional needs of the companion animal. Our grain-free freeze dried dinners meet the AAFCO standards for complete and balanced nutrition right out of the package. And if you look at our treats, you’ll find they are made from 100 percent muscle meats and/or organs, making them highly nutritious and delicious and 100 percent grain-free.”
Treats Going Against the Grain
These shifts in consumer demands aren’t exclusive to food; grain-free treats are also popular.
“Currently, pet parents are regularly seeking products that are grain-free and corn-free, as well as products that offer limited, natural ingredients,” said Jeff Camosci, vice president of sales and marketing at Paragon Pet Products. “WHIMZEES dental dog chews are an incredible solution because they offer all of the benefits that help to promote healthier gums and teeth, but in a more fun, delicious and highly digestible way than anything else on the market. The limited, natural ingredients in WHIMZEES offer a high quality vegetarian option that promotes dental and oral health but with a taste and texture dogs adore.”
Camosci emphasized that “simple, limited ingredients are very on-trend, and we see this trend evolving to be the standard versus the exception. Our company is continuing to see grain-free as a highly sought requirement with regards to dogs with all different kinds of allergies.”
For those considering grain-free products to stock your shelves, these products were previously specialty but are now a basic consumer expectation. A range of treats and grain-free kibble, plus alternative options like Caru and Bravo, hit major pain points for consumers who want the health of a grain-free meal with the convenience of simple-serve packaging.
An Ounce of Prevention
What steps do you take to keep your salon safe, not just for the pets entrusted in your care but also for you and your employees?
A safe work environment is crucial to successful operation. Each staff member needs to be trained in the salon’s policies and procedures, and it starts when the first client walks through the door.
Earlier this year, Andis Company announced a partnership with Animal Behavior College (ABC). ABC certifies professional dog obedience trainers, pet groomers and veterinary assistants. Andis will provide educational support for ABC’s grooming students in their Grooming Instruction Program. For one year, Andis will provide Grooming Instruction students with Andis products and tools training, along with product samples, breed grooming guidelines and best practices training.
In 2015, the Professional Pet Groomers & Stylists Alliance (PPGSA) released standards for safety and sanitation. Last fall, Pet Age staff reported “the document includes sections addressing pet housing standards, equipment standards, general professional standards and work standards, and demonstrates responsible grooming practices within the industry. These standards establish industry-wide guidelines that pet owners can rely on when entrusting their pets to the care of a professional groomer or stylist.”
The PPGSA was created as the collaboration of expertise of the three major national dog styling associations—International Professional Groomers, Inc., the International Society of Canine Cosmetologists and the National Dog Groomers Association of America, Inc.—along with other industry and retail partners to develop industry-wide safety and sanitation standards for pet grooming. Membership in the PPGSA provides a salon with the guidelines that ensure safe operations.
Salons can be hectic places, especially at drop-off and pick-up times. However, to ensure staff safety, ask pet owners specific questions about their animal’s behavior and medical history. If you can discover that a dog snaps when his paws are touched, staff can make accommodations in advance without risk. Ask about medical issues, particularly problems with the skin, coat, ears, eyes and anal glands. Grooming methods may need to be altered to accommodate any issues, including referring the client to their vet.
Safety also includes basic precautions like walking slowly on the often-wet floor to avoid slips and keeping the work environment clean and orderly. Each state has its own laws and regulations regarding these and many more, so educate the entire staff on those rules.
Keep tools in safe, working order and ensure that all staff members are trained in how to operate them properly. This is critical for large pieces like tables, lifts and any arms or restraints. Safe operation of those heavy pieces of equipment keeps both groomer and pet safe.
Consider apparel designed for safety, like the scrubs made by Insect Shield, which integrate insect-repelling technology.
“Regarding the safer environment, wearing Insect Shield apparel helps protect staff from fleas and ticks that can carry dangerous illnesses such as Lyme,” said Insect Shield’s Janine Robertson. “It also helps prevent staff from potentially bringing the critters home after work.”
Safety for the pet starts with restraint. Have a plan in place to ensure every animal in the salon is restrained at all times. It’s never a good idea to let any animal wander around the shop.
Dogs can bite. Cats can scratch (and bite). Have the appropriate equipment, like muzzles and emergency bite-proof gloves, within easy reach. Having them tucked in a cabinet won’t do anyone any good in an emergency situation. Make it part of the routine to check that equipment for rips or tears and replace as needed. Train staff on how to use the appropriate equipment and when to do so.
Remember that you aren’t required to groom every animal that walks through the door. If the situation becomes unsafe beyond the staff’s training, simply call the owner to come pick up their animal. While they may be unhappy, safety comes first.
An often-overlooked procedure that ensures safety: Don’t overbook. A salon is already busy and can become chaotic. Overbooking stretches the staff’s ability to properly restrain every animal at all times, and it often forces groomers to work too quickly. An overbooked, stressed staff can make mistakes that can lead to injuries to themselves or to the animals in their care.
Finally, a safe work environment is a clean work environment. In addition to sterilizing tools and work surfaces, have a cleaning procedure in place that all staff members can follow. In addition to daily tasks, schedule in larger ones like cleaning out vents, ducts and filters that can become clogged with fur and, thus, a fire hazard.
Everything outlined here can be planned in advance and procedures developed (and trained). Safe operations ensure that employees and customers stay happy and healthy. That keeps your business running smoothly.
Something to Chew On
Nearly every dog owner—91 percent, according to the 2015-16 APPA National Pet Owners Survey—purchases dog toys annually. The need for toys continues throughout a dog’s entire life, from durable chew toys that last through the puppy stage to chews that provide dental benefits as the dog ages.
According to Andrea Fleer, PetSafe’s senior product manager for toys and behavior, consumers are looking for three things when shopping for chew toys: durability, price and function.
“Customers are looking for chew toys that will withstand the test of time due to Fido’s natural instinct to chew,” Fleer said. “Dog owners often purchase classically shaped chew toys, such as a bone, ball or disc. However, customers often have a toy box for their dog filled with toys made from different materials with unique designs.”
“Consumers are looking for variety in materials to occupy and enrich their dogs,” said Sarah Bell, vice president of sales at Hyper Pet. “Durability is the most important factor, but the extra features like squeakers and the ability for the toy to dispense treats or float is also desirable. Toys with multiple features deliver on the value proposition.”
Hyper Pet’s products include a selection of functional chew toys. For example, the Hyper Chewz line is made of durable foam used for fetch or for floating. Others, like Flav-A-Bones are designed to occupy a dog, to provide dental benefits or mitigate loneliness.
At Ethical Pet, national marketing manager Susan McCann said there is always a demand for durable chew toys.
“We use different materials, textures and shapes to address these demands,” McCann said. “Knowing a dog’s chewing habits are key to purchasing the right toy for your dog. Our line of Play’N Chew toys combines durable thermoplastic rubber (TPR) with an edible beef flavored treat. The raised ridges on the toys help massage teeth and gums for a healthy mouth. Combining a treat with a toy helps prevent destructive behaviors through a play-and-reward system. The dog can chew on the toy, not your shoes, and the treat is the reward. Our Play’N Chew Nylon Bones offer the same features and benefits.”
Replacement treats are available for repeat sales.
“Last year, PetSafe brand created a line called Busy Buddy Squeak ‘n Treat toys, which make a squeaking noise and also dispense treats,” Fleer said. “The toys are made of durable natural rubber and come in three different shapes—Booya, Troog and Ooga—and have been well received by customers.”
However, the brand’s bestsellers include those from the Busy Buddy line.
“The PetSafe Busy Buddy treat-dispensing, ring-holding and meal-holding toys continue to be bestsellers year after year,” Fleer said. “This is due to PetSafe brand staying true to our values by offering durable, innovative and affordable pet toys that will enhance the pet owner’s experience with their dog.”
Hyper Pet is also not resting its laurels.
“Our development team at Hyper Pet is currently working on new and innovative materials and designs to satisfy multiple desired traits of chew toys,” Bell said. “We just launched our new Tennis Chews toy assortment made of durable TPR and tennis ball material.”
“There are a multitude of new materials that offer their own unique qualities such as maximum durability or the ability to incorporate a noise maker, flavor or give a uniquely transparent look,” she continued. “Once product development teams determine the desired deliverables of a new chew toy, there is a variety of material compositions to test. Hyper Pet is innovating with multiple materials, textures and features.”
“As a manufacturer, we are faced with many challenges in developing toys that meet the demands of every type of dog and their chewing habits,” McCann said. “Creatively, we design toys that are unique in that they offer non-traditional features that aren’t found in every other toy and that will appeal to different size dogs and the various breeds. We strive to offer a wide variety of toys using the most popular materials and design techniques so the consumer has many choices and at a great price.”
“We are always listening to our retail partners and their customers as to what is being requested and make every effort to offer a well-rounded line of toys to meet these requests,” he said.
The toy aisle needs variety: squeakers, tugs, ropes, balls and all manner of interactive toy. Each of these brands indicates that consumers have such diverse needs for chew toys, from staving off boredom and anxiety to exercising a dog in the water or keeping a puppy from destroying the furniture. There are perennial favorites, like durable Nylabone chews, that customers expect to see in the aisle. The category, though, has welcomed numerous developments to achieve greater variety.
DIY Dog Grooming
According to data from the American Kennel Club, nearly 70 percent of dog owners reported that they groom their pets themselves. Only about 26 percent of dog owners rely solely on professional groomers.
For the majority who groom at home and the smaller percentage of dog owners who alternate between professional grooming appointments and at-home care, the single biggest demand driving sales is ease-of-use. Safety is another driving factor, followed closely by price. Dog owners want to be sure that they can use the product safely and effectively, especially when it comes to nail clippers and electric trimmers.
Shampoos and conditioners meet the most basic needs of the at-home groomer. Some customers seek out the simplest, easiest-to-use product, which means a single step that lathers and rinses quickly. Other at-home groomers are doing baths at home out of necessity to treat a specific condition.
When it comes to choosing which bath products to stock, Bobbi Panter, founder of Bobbi Panter Pet Products, believes quality is key.
“Consumers are looking for quality products with quality ingredients that are easy to use at home and have a great result,” Panter said, pointing out that consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of the ingredients in bath products.
“All ingredients and their functions are listed clearly on the label so consumers know what’s in them and why,” Panter said. “Every one of my shampoos and conditioners are salt free, which makes them easy to rinse, quick to dry and easy on the hands and your pet’s skin and fur. Consumers see instant results and they smell amazing. Because my products are so easy to lather and rinse, smell great and relax the consumer and their pet, it makes the bonding experience really fun for everyone.”
Beyond bathing products, at-home groomers need a variety of tools that are both effective and available at an affordable price point. Required tools range from nail trimmers to clippers and trimmers for different types of coats. These can be a tougher sell because consumers often feel intimidated by professional-looking tools.
Andis has found success in strong packaging with a clear message.
“In response to customer feedback, one of the things we’ve done this year is redesign our consumer packaging so that at-home groomers can make sure that they’re comparing apples to apples when selecting a clipper that works best for their pet,” said Karen Formico, Andis’ vice president of marketing.
“Historically, manufacturers haven’t always made it easy for consumers to understand what they’re buying, which does both the manufacturer and customer a disservice,” Formico said. “So, to make sure that customers are selecting the right clipper or trimmer for their pet, Andis has introduced a new rating scale that shows what tools work best for certain coat types and cutting techniques. For example, the clipper you use on a golden retriever is going to be considerably different than one you would use on a poodle, so our new packaging makes that easier for the consumer to understand.”
The brand’s packaging also includes grooming tips provided by the Andis Grooming Educators to help the customer understand how to use the product.
The brand’s line of at-home grooming products hit every major need.
“Our at-home grooming customers are looking for versatility and ease of use when it comes to Andis’ consumer grooming products,” Formico said. “At Andis, we’re meeting that demand with products like our Easyclip Cordless Li (available in August) which is a super versatile, adjustable blade cordless clipper that gives pet parents the ability to do everything from overall trims in-between visits to the groomer, to clipping around the ears, eyes and paws. We also have a line of excellent at-home grooming tools that includes nail clippers, a self-cleaning slicker brush, deshedding tools, pin brushes and steel combs. Those tools are great for daily use and maintenance.”
Bestsellers include the AGC clipper, EasyClip Grooming Kit, Deshedding Tool, Nail Clipper and Slicker brushes.
In the aisle, creative merchandising can increase sales with unexpected add-ons. At-home grooming provides an opportunity for crossovers with products like water-resistant harnesses for dogs who squirm or anti-anxiety products for owners whose dogs experience anxiety during grooming. Panter pointed out that grooming provides a bonding experience, too, and for dogs who may not love the process, unexpected goodies like treats with educational signage or even consultations with your staff groomers can increase sales.
Professional groomers and stylists are attuned to the animals in their care and focus on their health and safety. But what about the groomers’ health and safety? Investing in tables and lifts that support the functional aspects of the job can prevent injuries—such as those from repetitive strain—and accidents.
“Grooming tables are an important piece of equipment because they allow groomers to safely secure dogs and work on them at a comfortable height,” said Melissa Viera, owner of MJ’s Pet Training Academy and founder of PositiveGroomer.com.
Because there are so many options for tables and lifts, it is critical to test what’s out there.
“The most important features for a grooming table to have include a non-slip surface that is also easy to clean, no pointed or sharp corners, and it must be very sturdy,” Viera said.
As the market expands and more types of tables become available, it’s important to list your shop’s specific needs before making an investment in new tables.
“When it comes to grooming tables, groomers now have more options than ever before,” Viera said. “There are tables that fold, hydraulic tables and custom grooming tables on the market to meet just about any needs that groomers might have. When choosing a grooming table, groomers should take into consideration what their needs are. A groomer who grooms large dogs might want a table that lowers to the floor, or a table that has stairs or a ramp, especially if they work alone.”
Shor-Line offers a number in a range of custom colors so that the tables can accent the design of the salon or the brand colors. The Big Top Grooming Tables line allows for four different adjustments and a new, larger 48-inch table top. The brand’s Elite Grooming Tables with electric lifts are Canadian Standards Association- and Underwriters Laboratories-certified for safety.
“Another important piece of the grooming table is the arm, which gives groomers a way to secure dogs using a harness or loop attached to the arm,” Viera said. “When securing dogs to the arm, a safety release clip should always be used so a dog can quickly be released if they panic, try to twist around or try to jump off of the table.”
The MidWest Grooming Table can be paired with the brand’s zinc table arm. The zinc square steel tubing protects against rust and holds up well in the grooming environment. A two-inch “dial grip” and “swing over” arm with a cast aluminum clamp allows for easy adjustment of grooming arms.
Another option, the MidWest Deluxe Grooming Arm is made of epoxy-coated steel and fits most grooming tables. The arm features an aluminum clamp and easy-use dial adjustment knobs for quick and secure table attachments. It is available in 36-inch and 48-inch versions.
Shor-Line’s Big Top Grooming Tables line includes a pivoting grooming arm that travels 180 degrees around the end of the table. The arm locks into five positions horizontally, any position between 22- and 39-inches vertically and the loop hook has six position choices.
Pet Lift offers a wide range of grooming tables, including the Low Rider Lighted Top Grooming Table and the Folding Grooming Table. Both have grooming arms. The Low Rider has an arm that swivels and a lighted top to illuminate all angles of the pet. The Folding Grooming Table is portable for dog shows, house calls and other events.
Of the types and styles of tables, lifts and arms available, this only scratches the surface. Viera suggested attending grooming shows to shop for tables.
“When shopping for a table, it is helpful if you see it first,” Viera said. “A good way to do so is by going to grooming shows. You can also talk to grooming friends about what tables they like and dislike.”
When deciding to purchase or replace existing tables, measuring the tables to determine what will fit best in your salon is a critical step not to be overlooked. It is inefficient for groomers to constantly step over ramps or around corners, so whichever tables your salon considers, get an accurate measurement of both your space and the tables. Consider taping the floor with the new equipment’s dimensions and run through a work day to see if it’s conducive to business.
Viera noted that some groomers have chosen to build their own tables, but cautions against doing so because there are no guidelines or specifications about important details like weight capacity. And, because there are so many tables on the market, it is easy to attend a grooming show and scope out the array of options to find something that is safe for both the groomer and the animal.
“If a table is safe, comfortable for the animal, and it works for you, then there is really no right or wrong choice for a grooming table,” Viera said.
Keep It Simple
When it comes to taking care of their dogs’ joints, there are two types of customers: those seeking preventative care and those seeking treatment. At first glance, those seem like disparate needs; however, both consumers want the same two features—efficacy and convenience—with their joint care purchases.
“29 percent of consumers start joint supplementation after their dog starts showing signs of pain or decreased mobility and 28 percent start because their vet advised them to start,” said Vicky Mann, vice president of innovation and brand development at H&C Animal Health. “Since the majority of consumers are entering into the category because of an existing problem, the more effective the product, the more satisfied the consumer.”
Mann said that H&C Animal Health, maker of ActivPhy products, has conducted both qualitative and quantitative research to determine what consumers want in joint care.
“First, they want to know the product is safe and effective,” Mann said. “The joint supplement needs to work for their dog. Secondly, they are interested in cost per day. This is different than price. With most joint supplements, the larger the dog, the more product you need to give them. The lower the cost per day the better it is for the consumer. Finally, consumers want to know that their dog will like that taste and eat their supplement without any trouble. This makes supplementation an easier and more positive experience for the pet parent and their dog.”
On that last point, Mann reported that 60 percent of consumers prefer soft chews to other forms of supplements.
The brand has also conducted clinical research on ActivPhy products.
“Not many supplements are clinically tested,” Mann said. “Having our formula clinically proven gives both retailers and consumers additional confidence in our product. Our studies focus on the effect of our blue-green algae extract on a dog’s mobility. Our results show that 80 percent of dogs experienced a difference in their mobility after 30 days.”
At Lifes2Good, the product development focus has been on liquid solutions.
“Consumers are really looking for something that works when it comes to joint care for pet health,” said Joe Petracca, vice president of business development. “Efficacy is the first concern.”
His Pettura brand offers a liquid solution that has a pump.
“The pumping action makes it easy for pet parents to add the designated amount to food or treats, and the liquid formula absorbs three times faster than tablets, and is twice as effective,” Petracca said.
In fact, product development in this category leads Petracca to predict an increase in the number of liquid solutions available to meet consumer demand for effective, convenient products.
“As consumers continue to invest in the overall health and wellness of their pets, we expect to see a continued growing interest in pet supplements,” said Jaime McKinley, vice president of new business development at Absorbine Pet and W.F. Young. “Supplements offer a simple way to ensure our pets are getting all the vitamins and nutrients they need to be as healthy as possible. Consumers will also continue to focus on the quality and efficacy of ingredients in everything they feed their pets, supplements included. They will be looking for qualities such as organically and sustainably grown and made without fillers, preservatives, added sugars, artificial colors, or flavors, which we offer with our supplements.”
Additionally, McKinley said that they’ve seen an increase in demand for ingredients made in the USA.
Aborbine’s line of supplements includes specific lifestage formulas: Ultimate Canine Hip & Joint Formula, Ultimate Small Breed Hip, Joint & Coat Formula, Well Blend Food Sensitive Hip, Joint & More, Ultimate Puppy Health Formula and Ultimate Canine Senior Health Formula.
The company is also leveraging kelp as a hot ingredient in the market.
“Our Pet Kelp Joint & Bone formula combines the benefits of organic kelp with omega-3 and omega-6 rich flaxseed, as well as glucosamine and chondroitin, to support joint mobility and strong bones,” McKinley said. “Absorbine Pet’s Pet Kelp formulas for dogs and cats use a special blend of four kelp varieties, all of it organic and sustainably grown. It’s then hand-harvested, sun-dried and ground into a fine powder, to ensure high bioavailability of nutrients.”
“Pet Kelp powdered supplements deliver more than 70 different vitamins, minerals and micronutrients that support canine health Pet Kelp Joint & Bone is a great complement to raw food diets or for virtually any pet that would benefit from kelp and flaxseed’s natural nutrients to improve wellness, mobility, and skin and coat health,” McKinley said. “It’s also easy to use—simply sprinkle the easy-to-use powder on your pet’s daily food, or combine it with water to create a gravy you can pour over their regular meal.”
The results of each manufacturer’s research resulted in similar findings: Whether it’s a chew, a liquid, a powder or even a treat, consumers want to give their dogs an effective, convenient joint care product. With a handful of options on the shelf, retailers can hit on those major pain points to help owners prevent pain in their dogs.
“We see that there are really two different types of consumers in the category,” said Doug Gleason, president of TrueBlue Pet Products. “One group is made up of those people who have dogs who get tear stains, and the other group is looking for more general eye care.”
“For the people who are dealing with tear stains, they are looking for a product that is both effective at removing the tear stains and also safe for the pet,” Gleason said. “And that’s no small order. Years ago, many people were using food additives that included antibiotics. These products did a great job of eliminating the tear stains, but many consumers began to think that it was overkill to be giving their dog antibiotics every day just to treat this condition. So they began looking for other ways to deal with tear stains. Tear stains are very stubborn and hard to remove, but the strongest cleansers that most quickly remove the stains can be very harsh and irritating to the skin.”
For customers whose dogs aren’t prone to tear stains but who are looking for a daily maintenance solution to prevent problems, safety is still key.
“For the consumers who just want general eye care, they are primarily concerned with safety,” Gleason said. “They want to feel comfortable that it’s okay to use the product so close to the eye. For example, they may want a wipe that they can use to remove the crust that can appear in the corner of the eye in the morning.”
Safety-minded customers benefit from an in-store demonstration about how to quickly groom their dog’s eyes with the products available for purchase.
TrueBlue’s Safe and Sure Eye Wipes strike a balance between strong and safe. It includes all-natural witch hazel to clean, and chamomile and cucumber to soothe the delicate skin around the eyes.
“Also, our pads have a special texture that helps pull dirt away from the fur, and many people tell us they are the perfect size and shape for the job,” Gleason said.
Because eye care should be a daily grooming task, consumers seek simple, easy-to-use options like wipes and cloths. Grooming tasks should be an enjoyable experience for both dog and person, but that isn’t always the case with eye wash solutions. Quick and easy wipes solve that problem.
Miracle Care Sterile Eye Wash Pads are formulated to clean and remove uncomfortable debris from the eye. The formula is soothing and non-stinging on pre-soaked pads.
Another wipe option is Angels’ Eyes Gentle Tear Stain Wipes. Recommended for daily use, Angels’ Eyes Gentle Tear Stain wipes help remove dried mucus secretions, discharge and tear stains.
“Used daily, our award-winning Angels’ Eyes Gentle Tear Stain Wipes will keep a pet’s eye exterior clean and reduce the risk of irritation caused by foreign matter,” said Lynda Winkowski, president of Angels’ Eyes. “Our unique formulation requires no rinsing and is safe to use daily.”
In the future, product development in eye care will be shifting toward natural.
“The trend that we think is most important is that consumers want products that are both natural and really work well,” according to Gleason. “Ten years ago, people were willing to accept a less effective product if it was natural. Now they expect both: all-natural products that truly get the job done.”
Demos and Dedicated Sections
Some owners prefer at-home grooming to salon appointments, so when planning your eye care section, blunt-tipped scissors round out the wash and wipe options. Long-haired breeds risk eye injury if the hair around the eyes grows long enough to scratch the eye. Those owners––even the ones who bring their dogs for regular grooming sessions––could benefit from a demonstration and a scissor purchase to learn how to trim at home between appointments.
Gleason recommended that all eye care products be merchandised in an easy-to-navigate section.
“I do believe that it’s smart for a retailer to create an eye care section with all the products in the category,” he said. “For the consumer who is looking for an eye care product, that’s the easiest way to be able to compare all the different products at one point at the shelf.”
Offer an array of product solutions but be prepared to discuss with customers their eye care needs. This category walks the line between health and aesthetics. Many dog owners are unaware that a quick, daily swipe of the eye can prevent health problems from cropping up. Likewise, many dog owners are unware of the distinction between debris that can be wiped away each morning and debris that signifies a health concern. Dog owners who come into your store looking for eye care solutions may be dealing with a medical condition that should be referred to a veterinarian. Be prepared to guide customers to the right product, grooming service or veterinarian.
Some puppy-owning homes previously had dogs and so may have some supplies on hand, but many puppy owners are first-time dog owners. These newbies need to stock up on the basics, like crates, food, toys, grooming supplies, leashes and collars, and cleaning solutions. From the first-time puppy person’s perspective, this can be overwhelming—and expensive.
“Over half of American households have dogs and this figure is growing, meaning the number of puppies being bought is also growing,” said Gordie Spater, founder and chief business officer at Kurgo.
“We are following this trend by developing products that make it easier to get through the rewarding but exhausting puppy stage. A lot of the puppy stage is about training and our line of leashes and gentle leaders help you maintain control. Our car seat protection products protect your car from puppy accidents and our crash-tested harnesses protect your pup in case of a sudden stop or crash. Our Go-Stuff-It Treat Bag is a must-have for puppy kindergarten.”
Spater also recommended Kurgo’s no-pull walking harness, the Journey Harness; the Enhanced Strength Tru-Fit Smart Harness and the Impact Harness for car-riding puppies.
Puppies Need Playthings
Play for puppies is critical to prevent destructive behavior and to stimulate energetic little ones. Spater recommended Kurgo’s Classic Yard Games Dog Toys to prevent furniture eating.
At PetSafe, the Busy Buddy puppy line is specific to puppies.
“The soft, natural rubber is scented with vanilla, and many of our items have our patented treat meter, which randomly dispenses treats to keep puppies playing for longer periods of time,” said senior product manager Andrea Fleer.
“Puppies should be introduced to toys as early as possible, but they don’t even have teeth until three to six weeks of age and therefore need softer toys to protect gums and baby teeth,” said PetSafe’s training and behavior education manager, Michelle Mullins. “Consider dog-safe plush toys and puppy lines like our Busy Buddy Puppy or Pogo Plush at this stage. Puppies start to lose baby teeth around four months. This teething period can be difficult and you will want to have lots of appropriate chew toys on hand to avoid having your puppy chew up your favorite shoes. Safe chew toys can help keep a dog’s teeth healthy throughout their lifetime.”
Another enrichment option is the new, interactive bowl from PAW5.
“When retailers understand that healthy, well-rounded dogs grow from puppies that are introduced to a wide variety of sights, sounds, smells, places, people and challenges, they can more easily position enrichment products as solutions for their customers,” said Dennis O’Donnel, co-founder of PAW5. “Luckily, many of the puzzle feeders and toys don’t have to be puppy-centric to work, which means retailers can market them for dogs of any age. If they are attempting to capture puppy owners specifically, then a display, shelf talkers or end caps can work wonders in attracting a customer’s attention.”
Meeting Nourishment Needs
Nutrition is a huge sub-segment of puppy. Puppies, especially large breeds, grow rapidly.
Kirill Tikhomirov, vice president of brand commercialization at Nutram Pet Products, explained his brand’s take on puppy nutrition.
“At Nutram, we know very well that puppies, much like babies in a family, have very specific, important nutritional needs,” Tikhomirov said. “As they are growing and developing, they require higher levels of certain nutrients in their foods as well as varied amounts of high quality proteins, carbs, fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Plus, their recipes and the ingredients included must be highly digestible going through their baby stomachs and digestive systems. That is why Nutram offers both Puppy and Large Puppy food (specifically called S2 and S3) in our Sound Balanced Wellness line. Those recipes are specifically crafted and cooked with natural ingredients to meet the puppy’s nutritional needs, be highly digestible, delicious and have the holistic benefits our brand is best known for on top of a very solid base nutrition.”
Another option, Evanger’s USA Made Puppy formula combines fresh meat and produce with a special formulation of vitamins ideal for puppies.
Many first-time puppy owners will have more questions about food than anything else and may have to try several brands before hitting on one that works for their needs. Stock a selection at a range of price points to hit the sweet spot for new pups.
Cleaning up the Pups
Grooming and cleaning supplies also top the list of new puppy must-haves.
Ara Bohchalian, chief executive officer of International Veterinary Sciences (IVS), said that puppies have delicate skin that is prone to irritations, so adult grooming products should be avoided.
“At IVS we’ve specifically formulated our puppy shampoo to gently cleanse and protect a puppy’s delicate skin and help rejuvenate the essential oils needed for a healthy skin and coat,” Bohchalian said. “Our Puppy Shampoo is also pH balanced to help prevent dry skin, infused with natural ingredients such as oatmeal, coconut oil, aloe vera and chamomile and does not include any harsh chemicals or cleansing agents.”
All-natural, non-toxic cleaning supplies should be merchandised with puppy, of course, as well as durable bedding options, like those offered by Molly Mutt, which can be stuffed with the puppy owner’s clothing to prevent separation anxiety.
GoDog’s signature durable mesh lining and double stitched seams make goDog BedZzz with Chew Guard Technology great for chewing puppies. BedZzz is available in six sizes to fit any dog breed or fit inside any dog crate. BedZzz features a 30-day replacement guarantee if the bed does not last longer than a standard dog bed.
Because there are so many puppy products, when it comes to merchandizing, Spater summed up the sales strategy for this category.
“We find that solution-oriented selling works best,” Spater said. “Christmas and summer are popular times for people to get new puppies, so that’s a great time to merchandise a section just for puppies, showing people what they need. Creating a bundled puppy essential package can also be a great way to help out overwhelmed new puppy parents.”
Cut the Shed
Pet hair is the scourge of many pet owners. In fact, Kelton Research conducted a survey of pet owners and found that more than half would skip their summer vacation or even take a pay cut if they never had to clean up pet hair again. Shedding is a major pain point for your customers, so offering an array of products and services to cut down on shedding—if they are effective—will build a loyal customer base.
For pet owners concerned about allergens in the home, de-shedding products can offer an effective solution to the build-up of fur and dander. This is especially important in homes with an allergy-prone family member. Excess fur floating around the home can also clog dryer vents, air filters and appliance bases. In the store, emphasize an educational approach with signage and specific displays, like a well-designed endcap that calls attention to de-shedding products. Customers need to understand that de-shedding is important for their pet’s health—and for cutting down on those annoying tumbleweeds.
Brush It Off
“Regular grooming is critical to keeping your pet’s coat and skin healthy and shedding under control,” said Rikki Mor, founder and owner of Groom Genie. “Pet hair loosens naturally so removing that excess hair regularly helps keep it from ending up on your couches, floors and black pants.”
Available in fresh colors and two sizes, the Groom Genie was designed to reduce stress during a grooming session. The brush contains bristles of different lengths to mimic the feel of fingers patting the animal while detangling and removing loose hair.
“The Groom Genie gently untangles knots and helps remove loose hair without pulling it so pets enjoy the experience,” Mor said. “Many dog and cat owners tell us that their pets who normally hate being brushed actually like the feel of the Groom Genie. That’s because it’s more like a petting session than a grooming session. It doesn’t cut or pull the fur. The brush does not have a handle so pet owners hold it in the palm of their hand, giving them more control over the pressure they use when brushing their pets. All of these factors make the grooming experience enjoyable.”
FURminator brand products round out a de-shedding mix because it’s a grooming brand with almost immediate customer recognition. According to the manufacturer, FURminator products can reduce up to 90 percent of loose hair from shedding. Because there are so many sizes and shapes available for both dogs and cats, FURminator products can cover a range of customer needs.
For customers whose dogs have thick undercoats, ActiVet’s Silver Firm Coatgrabber removes undercoat and, according to the brand, saves 70 percent of brushing time. They also recommend the brush as a finishing tool for breeds with light undercoats, making it an appealing option to stock to meet the needs of both undercoat types.
Beyond the Brush
Beyond brushes, specific shampoos, conditioners and sprays help minimize shedding and offer additional solutions to fur-frustrated customers. FURminator’s deShedding products merchandize nicely beside their grooming tools.
For a natural alternative, Earthbath offers a Shed Control Shampoo that contains a mix of naturally-derived antioxidants and moisturizers, like organic fair trade shea butter, essential green tea leaf extract, ginseng, omega-6 fatty acids, awapuhi and other natural humectants and emollients.
Leave-in products are also popular options because they deliver long-lasting moisturizing benefits, which helps keep the dog’s coat and skin healthy.
For instance, Jorge at M Boutique Fur Hydrating Butter mixes neroli and wild mint, providing a rich conditioning treatment for dogs with long coats or dry, damaged coats. It includes natural shea butter, palm butter and Moroccan argan oil.
When choosing de-shedding shampoos to stock, look for products containing the most popular and reportedly effective de-shedding ingredients, like omega-3 fatty acids, coconut and vitamin E.
Regardless of the cleanser’s ingredients, a de-shedding shampoo simply isn’t enough by itself and most pet owners with heavily shedding animals will find that they need to use the shampoo in conjunction with a grooming tool. This provides a unique opportunity to display these products as a package deal or as add-ons to an existing de-shedding purchase.
Not all pet owners feel comfortable fully de-shedding their dogs themselves, though, so the salon has the opportunity to provide services designed specifically for heavy shedders. This is especially true for customers who want their dogs to be clipped or sheared. Most pet owners are unwilling or unable to do that at home and look to the salon to cut down on the pet hair.
Happy customers will likely schedule services out in advance, keeping the business consistent, but groomers can also use these appointments as an opportunity to encourage owners to purchase de-shedding tools and shampoos to use between appointments. For those who are interested in between-appointment trims, stock a selection of easy-to-use grooming tools at affordable price points, like those from Andis. Educate grooming clients on appropriate at-home use as part of your service.
By offering the right mix of de-shedding products and services, you can help your customers keep their pets fur-free, their homes clean and maybe even still take that summer vacation.
Keep Them Calm
According to the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association, “Separation anxiety is one of the most common canine behavior problems and is diagnosed in 20 to 40 percent of dogs referred to animal behavioral practices in North America.”
While separation anxiety is a common concern, others—like noise phobias, dog reactivity, and even travel anxiety, among others—are on the rise. In a GMI, Inc., study sponsored by Thundershirt, it was found that “over 29 percent of all dogs suffer from at least one anxiety or fear issue… nearly 23 million dogs in the United States alone. 16 percent of all dogs are suffering from multiple anxiety and/or fear issues.”
Of those, approximately half are not receiving any official treatment.
Retailers have an opportunity to provide products and solutions to help dogs suffering from anxiety and their frustrated owners. However, it’s important to remember that products may not solve everything, so be prepared to refer your customers to a veterinarian.
Not So Nervous
When it comes to anti-anxiety products, Thundershirt secured a large corner of the market with its eponymous offering, the Thundershirt. Available for dogs and cats, the vest-like product fits snugly around the animal to provide a calming effect. With the popularity of the Thundershirt, the brand expanded into other calming products. Accessories like the rain coat and trench coat cover the Thundershirt so that owners of people- or dog-reactive dogs can still walk their pets in inclement weather. Other calming products offered include the Calming Spray and Thundercap. For other behavioral problems, the Thunderleash is a no-pull solution designed to wrap around the dog’s chest.
For dogs that express their anxiety through aggression, a muzzle is a necessity, though many owners hesitate to use one. However, Larry Cobb, U.S. vice president of sales, marketing and operations at The Company of Animals, said that a muzzle, like their brand’s Baskerville Ultra Muzzle, is important to have on hand.
“A muzzle can offer a sense of comfort and safety to dogs suffering from certain anxieties because they learn to rely more so on species specific calming and cut-off signals to communicate with their owner,” Cobb said. “Similarly, pet parents can learn their pet’s stress cues while ensuring a situation doesn’t escalate without need. Unlike competitor or fabric muzzles, dogs can freely eat, drink and pant while wearing the Baskerville Ultra Muzzle. The durable plastic structure is comfortably lined with neoprene padding and is even malleable. Available in six sizes, the Baskerville Ultra Muzzle is easy to stock and fit.”
Cobb also suggested that retailers showcase training resources, like Dr. Roger Mugford’s book, “The Perfect Dog,” alongside anxiety products so that pet owners can be empowered with training methods to work on their dog’s behavior and confidence.
Sentry offers a range of calming products that utilize DAP, dog-appeasing pheromones. The Calming Collar is at a lower price point than some of the brand’s other products. The collar releases calming pheromones for up to 30 days and is useful because, unlike the brand’s diffuser products, it goes with the dog in fearful or stressful situations. The plug-in diffuser allows the pheromones to spread through the home and refill packs provide an opportunity for repeat sales. The brand’s other products, like the Calming Dog Chew and GOOD Behavior Cuddlin’ Companion Bedtime Bear toy, provide added value to pet owners looking for outlets for their dogs’ anxiety.
Calming treats are a growing segment of the anti-anxiety market. Blue Buffalo’s Tranquility Tasty Chicken Jerky Dog Treats contain lavender and chamomile, which are thought to have calming properties. Formulated with natural ingredients, Pet Naturals of Vermont’s Calming Soft Chews is a supplement designed to support dogs that are faced with environmental stressors like thunderstorms or travel.
VetriScience’s Composure Behavioral Health Bite-Sized Dog Chews are formulated for dogs exhibiting nervousness, hyperactivity or anxiety or are responding to environmentally-induced stress. The calming formula provides their C3 Calming Complex, l-theanine, and thiamine, with chicken-liver flavor. While it can be given to dogs for daily maintenance, it also works when faced with an acute stressor, like a thunderstorm or strangers coming into the home.
Because these products meet a very specific customer need, merchandising the products together can help a shopper easily pinpoint the exact aisle or endcap they need. Display a mix of product types—like training aids with calming treats, for instance—to present your customer with options. Many pet owners whose dogs experience anxiety feel anxious themselves or stressed by their pet’s behavior. Be prepared to answer questions and make product recommendations to ease their—and their pets’—anxiety.
Dog owners usually seek skin care products to solve a problem. They notice their dog is itchy, for example, or perhaps that the dog has dandruff or oily fur. When it comes to skin care, it is often an “as needed” purchase rather than a preventative one. Because of the problem-solving nature of the purchase, consumers focus on products that are simple, targeted and effective.
An increase in allergies that manifest in the skin and an emphasis on environmentally-friendly products have shifted purchasing habits.
“Our products are free of all toxins—phosphates, phthalates, sulfates, parabens, DEA, and synthetic fragrance and color—so dogs get clean, rinse clean, smell great and their parents can feel good about the choice they made,” said Jane Bond, co-owner of Eco Dog Care.
This month, Eco Dog Care will launch a new shampoo called Soothe.
“So many people have told us about their dogs who are suffering from environmental allergens and triggers, and we’re rolling out a new fragrance variant about the same time that will offer a burst of citrus freshness from Israeli orange oil,” Bond said.
Cameron Fang, who runs product development and international sales at RELIQ, expressed a similar sentiment.
“Customers want a product that will thoroughly clean their dog and leave them smelling fresh without damaging their skin or coat,” Fang said. “RELIQ’s cleansing process actually removes bacteria and toxins through an absorption process, while stimulating the skin and helping to clear problem skin, hot spots and odor problems.”
According to Fang, the products in RELIQ’s line are also all-natural and “eco-safe: safe for the pet and safe for the environment.”
Bond explained that dog owners are becoming more conscious of their purchasing decisions.
“I think folks, in general, are just more aware of how their personal decisions can affect the environment, and they want choices when they shop,” Bond said. “So, for example, adding detergents can create a lot of foamy bubbles in shampoo, but additives like phosphates and sulfates can also contaminate the groundwater and oceans. So when you rinse your dog after a bath with these products, you’re also washing contaminants down the drain and into the water.”
Part of that awareness includes the effects pet products can have on dog owners and on groomers.
“Not only are our ‘green’ ingredients important for the health of a dog’s skin and coat, but our products are healthier for the people that use them to bathe and groom their dogs,” Bond said. “Nothing harsh on your dog, nothing harsh on your hands.”
For those owners who are concerned about dry skin or are grooming novices, simple products often provide the best solution. For instance, guide those customers to a clean-rinsing shampoo that does not require a second conditioning product.
“When using our formulas, there is no need to use a conditioner following the shampoo process,” Fang said. “Our shampoos are pH balanced and low-sudsing for easy rinse. They’re also 100 percent chlorine, alcohol and paraben free. They are formulated with far fewer lathering additives. Dead skin cells, dirt and stains are separated from the hairs and are effortlessly rinsed off without unhealthy cleaning agents being left behind. Our solutions offer an easier application, quicker clean up, less wasted product, less water consumption, and pets will no longer suffer from dry skin.”
Skin care products are not limited to shampoos, conditioners or sprays. An important consideration and possible upsell is a quality brush. Dog owners might not realize just how important regular brushing is for their dog’s skin health.
The line of ActiVet brushes hits on all major needs. For instance, Pro Firm Purple has bent firm bristles on both sides with a firm flex ratio—perfect for undercoat removal. The Gold Supersoft Coatgrabber meets needs on the opposite end of the coat spectrum. It’s a soft brush for short, dense coats with little or no undercoat. ActiVet also includes combo brushes and options for various coat problems. However, many dog owners are unaware of the relationship between brushing and skin care. Consider product demonstrations in the salon to illustrate the necessity of good brushing.
Often, when faced with a skin care problem, dog owners ask for advice on which products to purchase to solve a specific problem. This positions groomers and retailers to make product suggestions that address the acute issues as well as any possible preventative steps. Be prepared with a few suggestions to answer some of the most common skin care problems your customers face. Utilize displays that are solution-focused rather than brand- or product-specific to provide clearer buying options for concerned dog owners.
The Eco- Friendly Dog
The eco-friendly trend is no longer a trend; it’s an expectation. Now, rather than just environmentally-friendly claims on packaging, the eco-savvy consumers who led the initial eco-charge are now demanding environmentally-responsible sourcing and production methods–and pet industry manufacturers are taking note.
“We have been very excited to see companies using more environmentally-friendly materials and sustainable manufacturing processes in the hard goods categories,” said Caitlyn Bolton, director of the Pet Industry Sustainability Coalition (PISC). “We have also seen a trend for companies across all categories to be more transparent in their sourcing and manufacturing processes, with a specific emphasis on the need for consumables to indicate where ingredients come from and provide certifications around sustainable sourcing, including sustainable seafood certifications, animal welfare standards and more.”
The Growth of Green
According to Larry Wright, president and CEO of The Green Pet Shop, there has been considerable growth in this segment.
“The eco or natural segment is the fastest growing segment within the pet industry,” Wright said. “We believe that this is not a fad and is a trend that will continue to realize growth at an accelerated rate as compared to most other segments.”
Wright believes the growth is accelerated b
“Consumers are becoming more educated and concerned about the environment,” he said. “Additionally, most civilized countries have prioritized global warming as an issue that must be addressed for the health and survival of the planet.”y consumers’ environmental concerns.
The Green Pet Shop is creating an eco-warming pad that will launch next winter and is looking into expanding the cooling pad line. In addition, The Green Pet Shop has created a line of eco-friendly bamboo products (Bamboo Training Pads and Bamboo Bowls for both dogs and cats) and is expanding into waste bags and wipes.
Rebecca Gadd, president of Gold Paw Series, said the eco-conscious consumer has grown more discerning.
“I’ve definitely seen an increase in the sophistication of customer’s expectations,” Gadd said. “It’s no longer sufficient to say something is simply eco-friendly. Customers want to know exactly how something is eco-friendly. There’s a newer sensitivity to sources of materials, the impacts of particular processes like the dying of fabric, and presence of potentially harmful chemicals in the finished product.”
“Our customers want to see products that are certified by third-party entities that it is safe for their pet and for the earth,” Gadd said. “We’ve had to step up our game in every step of production to ensure that we are meeting increasingly stringent standards–whether that’s using newer technologies for durable water-repellent treatments that are fluorocarbon-free or closed-cycle dying to reduce water pollution.”
Another eco-friendly example in hard goods is the new PAW5 interactive dog toy. The PAW5 uses a special FDA-compliant plastic and pigment for the Rock ‘N Bowl so the bowls are safe for food. The PAW5 Rock ‘N Bowl is made in the USA with a closed-loop, zero-waste manufacturing process to maintain the integrity of the product, avoid the possibility of phthalates, heavy metals and other variants entering the production process, and to minimize their environmental impact. When the Rock ‘N Bowl is produced, waste is re-granulated, re-melted and then re-used in PAW5 products only.
Likewise, in pet food, eco-conscious customers look for responsible ingredients, manufacturing and packaging.
“Customers today are concerned about where their pet food comes from and the impact its production has on planet earth,” said Adrian Pettyan, CEO and co-founder of Caru Pet Food. “They want to ensure that their pet food comes from sustainable, renewable resources as well as that its production–including packaging and shipping–has a low carbon footprint. Caru Pet Food’s stews for dogs delivers on that front, as we are the only pet food in North America that uses Tetra Pak packaging. This packaging is made from sustainable, selectively harvested, regrown trees.”
Greening Your Store
In the store, consumers purposely seek out products marketed as eco-friendly or environmentally-responsible.
“To be honest, I think there’s a lot of environmental impact-based guilt attached to purchases and any time you can allay that guilt, you’ll have a happy customer who is proud to tell others about their purchase,” Gadd said. “I think as long as environmental impact is a concern on people’s minds—which is certainly the foreseeable future for a majority of Americans—then I think you have growth potential. Any new ways to address those concerns is an opportunity.”
When it comes to sales, though, the bottom line, according to Bolton, is that “there will need to be an even greater push toward transparency for all companies with consumers wanting to know where, how, and what products are made from.
“We would also like to see retailers incentivize environmental and social improvements by rewarding companies who are making efforts,” Bolton said. “From highlighting great companies to setting minimum standards that all products must meet in order to carry them in their stores, retailers can have a huge impact on the sustainable practices of companies in this industry.”
Healthy Canines for Canines
Dental products are becoming increasingly important as the incidence of dental disease rises among aging dogs. This category poses a tricky element, however, because not all dog owners will have consulted with their veterinarian before seeking out a dental treatment. Always start from that point because some dental problems simply cannot be addressed with treats or supplements.
For those pet owners who strive to be proactive by taking care of their dog’s teeth or for those customers who have already consulted their vet, be prepared to offer a range of solutions from food toppers and water additives to pastes and treats. As this category has expanded, trends in dental products are evolving to meet the increased need and to appeal to human consumers.
“The pet health category mirrors the human health category, as greater importance is placed on dental health,” said Jeff Camosci, Paragon Pet Products’ vice president of sales and marketing for North America. “Humanization is also a very important factor. With more pets than ever before being considered members of the family, pet parents are reading labels and are more educated than ever before, and they seek out product-solutions that offer the best in quality and performance. Healthy products and products with certified quality are in high demand.”
Reflecting this trend, Paragon Pet’s WHIMZEES brand is produced according to human-grade standards using vegetarian ingredients.
There are three main items that most consumers are looking for in a dental health product for their pets,” said Martin Shimko, managing partner of SV Distribution, producers of ProDen’s PlaqueOff. “In varying order, they are looking for effectiveness, price, and ease of use.”
According to Shimko, ProDen’s PlaqueOff hits those three key points. It is a powder that can be used as a food topper, making delivery simple.
“PlaqueOff has many other beneficial attributes as well, such as the natural ingredients, the lack of additives or harmful chemicals of any kind, and the high palatability of the product so that it exceeds the requirements of most customers,” he said.
Treats that provide dental health benefits appeal to consumers who want to spoil their pet while providing health benefits. Treats like Zuke’s grain-free, potato- and pea-based Z-Bones are popular options because pet owners already have brand recognition with Zuke’s from their typical treat lines, so it is not as big of a stretch to get your customers to shift to the dental version.
Swedencare, the manufacturer of the Proden PlaqueOff Dental Powder, has created a new product in a treat form that contains Proden PlaqueOff. The new Proden PlaqueOff Dental Bites are palatable, crunchy bites that give the pet owner an alternative form of PlaqueOff to give their pets. Camosci said that this is beneficial to owners with picky pets or owners who free-feed multiple pets.
Smile for Safety
As with any edible or supplement product, consumers are concerned about safety. In particular, there’s an emphasis on ingredient origin and manufacturing process after numerous recalls have worried pet owners.
“Pet parents don’t have to worry about questionable ingredients or additives with Barkworthies since we pride ourselves on simplifying the process for pets and their parents,” said Bill Chilian, marketing vice president at Barkworthies. “For instance, with our antlers, we simply sort, clean and round any sharp edges to protect the pet. It’s all about delivering a premium, safe chewing experience for the pet while they naturally receive the associated health benefits.”
Barkworthies makes a range of bones and chews, like bully sticks, elk antlers and chews made from a variety of proteins from the typical (cow and pig ears) to the unusual (kangaroo chews). They also have a specific selection of Made in the USA products with corresponding POP displays.
In store, it is important to convey the benefits and features to customers. However, Camosci recommends limiting messaging to one key point.
“Dogs need good oral care to keep them healthy,” Camosci said. “Good oral care does not come just from feeding the right kibble, but a combination of regular veterinarian check-ups, brushing the teeth and providing effective chew treats to keep the teeth clean and healthy.”
WHIMZEES has created a variety of displays and POP materials that are available to achieve clear on-shelf communication.
“The goal of each display option is to clearly explain the benefits of oral health while highlighting our products’ features and benefits in a ‘WHIMZ-ical’ way that engage the pet-parent shopper inside the store,” Camosci said. “We want to be a partner to our retailers, since they interface with consumers every single day. We provide POS materials from signage to printed collateral, and based on the exploding growth of this category, we encourage our retail partners to create a section dedicated to oral/dental health and the important benefits of good oral care.”
Retailers and groomers often have brand loyalty to a particular line of shampoos and conditioners. This has perhaps served the shop well among customers who also develop brand loyalty, but shifting trends among consumer habits could have long-term repercussions for those who rely on brand loyalty. Keep an eye on three major trends: an influx of younger consumers, an emphasis on job-specific products and a demand for ingredient accountability.
As consumable goods, shampoos and conditioners are repeat purchases in store. However, as dog ownership among Generations X and Y increases, their spending habits impact this category because they’re proving to be spenders who prioritize their experience and the quality of a product over loyalty to a specific brand or store. This provides a unique opportunity for groomers to increase sales among these young, growing, pet-owning demographics.
In the August 2015 study “Pet Stores in the US,” conducted by international research group IBISWorld, it was projected that “in 2015 the continued emphasis on pet services will be a primary driver for sales. This is particularly important as pet stores opt to differentiate from supermarkets and other retail outlets that sell pet food and supplies.”
Capitalize on that trend along with consumer spending habits by offering cross-over products between the salon and the retail shelves. Previously, grooming consumers expected to find different “professional grade” products in the salon that would not be available on the retail side. However, with the increased demand for a consistent experience, that is shifting.
Customers who book regular salon appointments also need to bathe their pet at home between appointments. By offering high-quality products that your salon’s experts can recommend to this discerning group of pet owners, you can add shampoo and conditioner sales onto grooming tickets. For those customers who rarely or even never book salon appointments, they will often seek product recommendations from experts, turning to your salon’s groomers for suggestions. In both of those instances, you can leverage younger demographics’ expectation for quality of service and product through emphasizing your services.
Dog Fashion Spa from Groomer’s Helper offers a luxe shampoo and conditioner pair that can be used by in-store groomers and sold on the retail shelf. The shampoo has calming chamomile and moisturizing aloe, while the conditioner boasts a detangling formulation of fragrant, nourishing fruit and flower essences. Both are free of parabens, synthetic dyes and GMO ingredients.
There is an increasing demand for functional products that coincides with an increase in allergies among dogs.
The first category in the Nootie’s new line is a range of anti-itch formulas in a shampoo and a spray.
“What makes our products different is that they are true FDA-approved, veterinarian-grade formulations with our top selling fragrance cucumber melon,” said Nootie’s Lonnie Schwimmer. “Also, they have a unique combination of pramoxine HCL and lidocaine HCL that work together to give the pets the most effective relief. If you take note of the active ingredients, they are at one-percent levels and are called out separately. They are great products for pets that continually have itching issues. They are safe to use on dogs, cats and horses.”
In nearly every pet product category, there’s an emphasis on ingredient accountability. This is partly due to the overarching meta-trend that’s driving nearly every facet of the industry: the humanization of pets. Consumers expect the same types and same quality of products for their pets that they expect for themselves. Younger and newer pet owners are willing to pay more for pet products that achieve the quality level they want in their own products.
In this category, trends are also partly tied to the tremendous increase in ingredient accountability in the human Health and Beauty Aid (HABA) market. Demand for natural, nontoxic, environmentally-friendly ingredients continues to experience rapid growth, and that carries from pet owner’s HABA products to their pet’s shampoos and conditioners. Consumers are becoming savvy in industry terminology and seek out labels that adhere to their expectations, valuing qualities like being free of parabens or phthalates, for instance. Brands like Halo, Dr. Harvey’s, DERMagic and earthbath are positioned to capitalize on this trend.
It circles back around to the growing pet ownership among Generations X and Y. Despite the shifting landscape, the good news about these groups’ emphasis on shopping experience and quality of product over a specific brand is that they are open to trying new things. You can test a range of products, adding variety and occasionally swapping out old standbys to see what appeals to this growing group of shoppers.
Nail trimming is a necessity for all dog owners. While many vets and groomers offer nail trims, many pet owners choose to do it themselves, rather than booking an appointment. For those DIYers, nail care products fall into two main categories: functional and fun.
Get the Job Done
In the functional category are the scissors-style and the guillotine-style clippers, with which most customers feel comfortable. Offer both options for the home groomer.
One popular set of clippers is Safari’s Professional nail trimmer. Made from stainless steel, the clippers have a sharp cutting edge and the soft-grip handle makes it easy to keep a steady hand.
“When it comes to nail care, pet parents continue to look for products that are easy to use, durable and will not cause discomfort to their four-legged family members,” said Bob Erler, Andis’ national sales manager. “To make nail trimming as simple as possible, Andis makes two sizes of nail trimmers: one for small-to-medium breeds and one for large breeds. Both trimmers include safety stops to help ensure that the user does not clip off too much of the nail and nick the quick. We also designed these trimmers with ergonomic handles and soft-grip inserts to provide sure handling during use.”
Not all dog owners feel confident trimming their dog’s nails because of the risk of cutting the quick. One up-sell to a good set of clippers is a clotting powder, like Kwik Stop Styptic Powder. These products can be merchandized side-by-side to be sold as a pair.
However, some customers will never feel comfortable cutting their dog’s nails.
“For those uncomfortable with the prospect of actually cutting the nail, Andis offers the EasyClip nail grinder,” Erler said. “This two-speed tool is the easy and stress-free way to give pets a perfect pedicure. The nail grinder is also great for smoothing out rough nail edges after clipping to avoid any scratching on the skin if your pet does jump on someone. Smoothing nails after clipping also prevents scratching and pulling of furniture fabric.”
Grinders span a range of prices. At the higher end, with a retail price of around $40, the Conair Pro Dog Professional Nail Grinder is designed specifically for safely grinding pet nails for dogs of any size. It’s quiet, lightweight and powerful, and includes interchangeable stone/sander attachments.
In the mid-range is FURminator’s Nail Grinder For Dogs and Cats. According to the brand, they provide unique, proprietary nail care solutions that are completely safe and easy to use, thus eliminating the discomfort from the process for both pets and owners. The grinder has two speeds and operates on four AA batteries instead of a cord. It includes an automatic LED light and is made from an anti-microbial plastic that helps minimize germs and bacteria.
On the low end is JW Pet’s Palm Nail Grinder for Dogs, which retails for under $10. The ergonomic grinder is small enough to fit in the palm of the DIY groomer’s hand. It has variable speed controls, LED lights for visibility and guard holes to prevent accidental hair winding. It traps nail filings for quick clean up.
At-home groomers will also find that a nail file comes in handy.
“One of my personal favorite items in our nail care line (and our top nail product seller in volume) is the Dog Fashion Spa Glass nail file,” said Chuck Simons, founder of Groomers Helper, distributors of Dog Fashion Spa. “This two-sided glass file–medium on one side, coarse on the other–does not wear down with use at all and can be popped right in the dishwasher if you want to give it a cleanup. For a quick touch up, a full PAW-dicure or for dogs that just plain freak out when you turn on the Dremel, this is the answer.”
Many dogs struggle to get up on hard surfaces. Some dog owners strive to protect their wood floors or upholstery. Nail caps solve both of those problems. Soft Claws Nail Caps are vinyl caps applied with a pet-safe glue and can last up to three months. Likewise, one of the most popular options is Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips. ToeGrips are designed to provide traction for dogs who struggle to get up on slick floors, like hardwood and linoleum. However, they must be sized appropriately, so be prepared to guide customers to the right size for their dog.
One thing groomers want to avoid is being bitten by a dog that is less than happy about nail trimming. A restraint system like Groomers Helper will do the trick.
“Of course the most important thing you have to think of when you are doing nails is safety–both the dog’s and your own!” Simons said. “There is no better friend when it is time to do nails than your Groomers Helper. It really is the only way to do nails by yourself.”
Have a Little Fun
On the fun end of at-home nail care are cosmetic items like nail polish. Pet-safe options are readily available and are popular impulse purchases. Brands like Pet Head offer non-toxic polish. Their popular Mommy & Me line is designed to let fashion-friendly dog owners match their pets. With a 10-second drying time, the risk of dogs licking it off is eliminated. And, the made-in-the-USA products are free from typical nail polish toxins like toluene and formaldehyde.
Dog Fashion Spa offers pet-safe nail polish as well as nail polish remover. According to Simons, items in the line are free of acetone and other harsh chemicals, instead relying on natural oils and pigments.
Warren London offers their patented Pawdicure Polish Pen, a water-based, odorless, non-toxic polish that dries in less than 40 seconds. Because of its ease-of-use, it is recommended for nail art, one of the biggest trends in human manicures that is trickling into the pet sphere. The Nail Polish Pens apply a quick drying, non-toxic coat of polish that is easy to remove.
Consider displaying the fun and functional nail care items together to spark creative inspiration among your DIY groomers.