Customers come into a store on a regular basis to buy food for their small animals because it’s a necessity. They also come in to buy treats and toys because those are fun ways to bond with their animals. After all, the main reason people have pets is for fun and companionship.
So what about grooming products?
While they may seem to get lost in the shuffle, as a relatively small category for species that aren’t really known for taking baths and getting primped up, they are in fact the best of both worlds, a necessity and a bonding tool.
By rethinking how a retailer looks at the grooming category, they might just improve sales of these products while building a relationship with their small-pet consumers all at the same time.
Grooming tools are a must for small-pet owners who want to keep their animals in top shape. For animals such as rabbits and ferrets, being kept in captivity keeps their nails from being ground down naturally, so nail trimmers are an important element of good hygiene.
Brushing and bathing are also good practices to complement the animals’ own natural grooming habits. The practices help keep animals clean if they happen to come in contact with feces or leftover food in their cage. And while brushing is a hygienic practice, it is also a great way to bond with an animal.
From all-natural products to colorful new packaging, there is plenty of variety out there to energize a store’s small animal grooming section.
The Convenience Factor
Let’s face it, even though bathing provides great bonding time, few pet owners rank it high on their list of priorities. And for small animals, traditional baths with a soak in a tub are not only not necessary, the submersion can be harmful to the pets. With that in mind, manufacturers have introduced a number of waterless shampoos, giving small-pet owners the ability to clean their animals on a regular basis without the fuss and worry of a bath.
“What people really like about the waterless bath product is that it’s easy,” Jae Davis, customer service supervisor, Natural Chemistry, said. “You just spray and you’re done; you don’t even have to comb it through.”
Natural Chemistry introduced its waterless shampoo for rabbits, ferrets and other small animals in 2012 after seeing the popularity of its dog and cat formula. In addition to being convenient to use, the product is also all natural, which is something more consumers are looking for when shopping for their pets. It works by using enzymes to break down the odor-causing organisms within a pet’s hair.
Marshall Pet Products is launching a new Foaming Waterless Shampoo for ferrets and other small animals to bring added convenience to consumers as well.
“This product is great for pets that are hard to bathe or just need a quick cleanup,” Linda Cope, global marketing manager, Marshall Pet Products, said.
It joins Super Pet’s Quick and Clean instant shampoo. Both products are just sprayed on and brushed through for a convenient bath that won’t irritate or dry out the small pet’s sensitive skin.
In addition to spray-on shampoos, there are also dry bath formulas with a dust-like consistency, specially formulated for chinchillas and gerbils. In the wild, these animals roll around in a pumice-filled dust to clean the oils and dirt out of their fur. They can’t bathe in water because their fur is so thick that it prevents air drying and can lead to fungus growth.
Products such as Oxbow Animal Health’s Poof! Blue Cloud Chinchilla Dust and Super Pet’s Chinchilla Bath Sand provide a safe way for chinchillas to clean their fur.
Treats and More
Bathing products aren’t the only way to keep small animals smelling sweet. Super Pet offers a Smellin’ Good fragrance spray that is a great way to freshen up a pet’s odor between baths.
For ferrets, Marshall Pet Products has its unique GoodBye Odor products, which are an ingestible product that controls odor from the inside out. Made up of antioxidants that neutralize odor from feces, urine and body odors, it is great for ferrets, but works on any small animal to control bodily odors.
Traditionally available in a liquid that can be added to the ferret’s water, the company recently introduced GoodBye Odor Treats as a way to add a little more interaction to the owner/pet bond.
Grab Them From the Get-Go
Brushes and nail trimmers are another important facet to small animal grooming, but unlike shampoos and treats that are consumed and bought again, pet owners usually make these purchases very few times during the life of their pet.
According to the latest survey from the American Pet Products Association, nearly 50 percent of small-pet owners have brushes or grooming tools, but only 15 percent report making that purchase within the past 12 months.
One way to draw attention to products and increase sales is through the use of color. Ware Manufacturing recently redesigned the packaging of its Grooming Kit, which includes a soft-bristle brush, a pin brush, nail clippers and a chew treat.
“We find customers are responding to brightly colored items more lately in the small animal section, so we updated to current color trends so our grooming kit would make a better impact in the store aisle,” Heather Cappel, creative coordinator, Ware Manufacturing, said.
Jason Casto, director of Kaytee Hard Goods, Pets International, recommends selling grooming products as part of a new-animal startup kit, with a cage, a bag of food and a toy.
“Educating consumers on the importance of grooming products at the beginning of the pet ownership process will enhance the customer’s relationship with their pet,” Casto said. “Playing with a rabbit only to end up with a lap full of hair, or handling a smelly guinea pig will turn off the pet owner. Putting our soft-bristle brush with a startup kit gives retailers a chance to talk to pet owners on the importance of brushing and other hygiene practices specific to small animals.”
Casto also recommends highlighting grooming items as part of a product-of-the-month promotion within the small animal section.
“People tend to come into the store on a regular basis to purchase food, and retailers can take advantage of that traffic to highlight other categories that might not be top of mind,” Castro said.