Awash in Sales

Shampoos and conditioners are a key moneymaker for pet specialty stores that understand what customers want and are tuned into the latest offerings on the market.


Pet specialty retailers do not have to hold a business degree in marketing to be able to successfully sell pet bathing products. They only have to look at their own buying habits or walk through the aisles of a retail area with a comprehensive human shampoo display. Selling depends on knowing what purchasers will buy and why.

What makes consumers buy a particular product? Among the most significant factors is a product’s immediate appeal. Although a great deal of buying in this category is driven by need or to solve a problem, the product must still have what realtors refer to as “curb appeal.” No matter how lovely or efficient a home is on the inside, if it does not have that instant visual appeal as one drives up, it is less likely to sell. This concept harkens back to the old saying, “you only get one chance to make a good first impression.” If a product is eye-catching or attractive in some way, it is more likely to sell. Bright, colorful labels with names that describe what the product will do are easy sellers, and neat displays with information that is clear and easily absorbed are equally helpful. 

Another key factor in consumers’ decision-making to keep in mind is that shoppers want the experience to be easy. No one these days has a lot of time available to do product research, and even when they do, there is so much information readily available, much of it conflicting, that it becomes frustrating for customers. So retailers should make their choices easier by selling the familiar, selling by solution and selling to customers’ impulses.

It continues to be a concern for brick-and-mortar sellers that people would come into the store to see and check out items and then go home and order them online, netting the business nothing but lost time. However, it is just as common for people to go on to research a product and then go to the local pet store and purchase it. One pet industry expert suggests that a lot of pet owners use the reviews on Amazon to help them decide what products to buy, no matter where they intended to purchase. Retailers can leverage this trend by taking note of products with high-volume, positive reviews online. Or they can print and post a few reviews from their own customers near each brand.

Retailers that also offer grooming services might put rotating specials near the grooming area featuring products used in the salon—customers are often open to buying these groomer-approved products. Signs calling out features and benefits of shampoo are often obtainable from the manufacturer. Contact the manufacturer of each shampoo carried in the store and ask what they have available—or write your own. Showing customers the solutions to their problems (fleas, itching, dry skin) makes it easier for them to find what they are seeking.

Following human beauty trends is another helpful strategy when selecting shampoos to stock. Many pets are considered part of the family, and owners want the best for them. Whatever is current in human haircare will be attractive to customers shopping for their pets, and if the benefits are already familiar to the consumer, then half the retailer’s work is already done. For instance, herbal shampoos or those with natural ingredients or essential oils are selling well right now. If it sounds beneficial—and familiar—it will resonate with customers for their pets, too. For example, argan oil is currently a popular ingredient in human grooming products that is likely to resonate with pet owners who see it on a pet product’s ingredient list. A trip to the local human beauty store will also reveal what scents are currently selling, and one or more of the pet shampoo suppliers is sure to be providing the same scents. 

Bio-Groom is one company that has always promoted its natural, safe approach to product formulation in its marketing, long before it was a trend to do so. For over 40 years, Bio-Groom has attracted consumers and professionals alike with its portfolio of safe and gentle products that are nonetheless very effective. Offerings include Herbal Groom, a tear-free conditioning shampoo that features botanical extracts including aloe, chamomile, rosemary, lemongrass, hops, yarrow and more. Another shampoo catering to current consumer concerns is Indulge, marketed as a sulfate-free argan oil shampoo that contains no artificial thickeners. 

“We leave out fillers, gums, and thickeners for good reasons,” says Peggy Smith, marketing and media expert for BioGroom. “Thickeners can cause a sticky after feel on the coat. They can cause a slight slimy feel to the shampoo and slow down the shampooing process.” 
Bio-Groom’s tried and true Protein Lanolin shampoo is another good offering—an ultra-rich all-purpose shampoo that is tearless and sulfate free, with a naturally thin fluidity and rich lather.

Savvy retailers often strive to know what customers want. Are the store’s customers eco-conscious? Are they driven by price? Quality? Ingredients? Natural ingredients? Perhaps they are solely solution driven and looking for a shampoo that will stop itching, get rid of fleas, or make a pet’s coat shine. Whatever it is, make sure you know what your customers want and have it on your shelves.

Cardinal Pet Care, manufacturer of several popular pet shampoo lines, strives to meet pet owners’ needs, all while keeping the job of the retailer firmly in mind. 

“The strong interest in natural ingredients is driving sales of our Furrever Devoted brand shampoos, which is one of Cardinal’s top-selling brands today,” says Barbara Denzer, the company’s vice president of marketing. “Our pets are our Furrever Friends, our BFFs, and we provide them with a Furrever Home. We do our best to live up to our motto: Devoted to Pets, People & the Planet. Our sulfate-free Furrever Devoted 16 oz. shampoos have a new bottle that takes ¾ inches less width on the shelf than our original one. When all four varieties are displayed together, it saves almost three inches of shelf space for a retailer. As always, our products are biodegradable, and packaging is recyclable anywhere on the planet. We’ve been around Furrever too, since 1948.”

Offering clients multiple products within a brand can help cement brand loyalty, which can lead to increased sales. Selling what’s familiar makes for an easier sale. “If consumers come to know and trust a particular brand of shampoo and a new need arises, they’ll look within that brand to fill it,” according to Denzer. “For example, if they’ve been using Furrever Devoted Puppy Shampoo/Conditioner, when their puppy gets older they’re likely to switch to Furrever Devoted Purely Clean Shampoo & Conditioner. Or if their dog starts having dry skin issues, and they see Furrever Devoted Oatmeal Shampoo/Conditioner on the shelf, they’re likely to try a bottle, since they already know the brand.” 

Following human trends led Dog Fashion Spa shampoos to use packaging inspired by beauty salon bottles, which are filled with all-natural, herbal-based, sulfate-free formulas that are made in the USA. According to Chuck Simons, founder and owner of Groomers Helper—the exclusive distributor of Dog Fashion Spa in the U.S.—these are all qualities that pet owners are looking for. One item that is very familiar to people is soap in a bar form. Dog Fashion Spa offers bar soaps encased in a bath sponge for ease of use. 

“Dog parents love the convenience of holding the dog with one hand and using the bar of soap inside the sponge to wash the dog,” says Simons. 

They are also handy for spot cleaning. The lavender and sweet orange essential oils used in Dog Fashion Spa sponges benefit dog’s skin and coat and also act as natural bug repellents. The jojoba and fennel sponge moisturizes the skin and adds deep shine. Coat fresheners with scents matching the wash sponges are available for use between baths, catering to customers who prefer to shop within brand.

Whatever a retailer chooses to stock, these products should be attractively packaged, safe, effective and easy to use, as this mainstay category will continue to be a moneymaker.

Carol Visser is a Nationally Certified Master Groomer and Certified Pet Dog Trainer. Formerly a pet product expert for PetEdge, she and her husband Glenn now own Two Canines Pet Services in Montville, Maine, which provides grooming, boarding, training and day care services to Waldo County.


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