Clean and Shiny

Retailers can turn a profit on shampoos and conditioners by working with trusted manufacturers to stock a range of solution-oriented products.




Shampoos and conditioners are an indispensable category for just about any retailer in the pet industry. But with such a wide variety of products on the market, retailers need to figure out what’s in demand to build a comprehensive, but not overwhelming, selection for their customers. When choosing shampoos and conditioners, consumers are looking for several key features to solve specific problems and want reassurance that the products will be safe as well as effective. 

Susan Kemp is the assistant manager at Worldly Pets in Marblehead, Mass., a coastal town where “nearly every dog is a beach dog,” she says. One of the top requests they get is for something to alleviate dry, itchy skin. Oatmeal-based shampoos are a tried and true remedy, and Worldly Pets carries both Earthbath’s and Top Performance’s oatmeal shampoos, both of which they have found to be effective. Another frequent customer request is for something gentle, mild or natural. “Customers may ask for something with no sulfates, parabens, phthalates, etc. They may ask for soap-free,” says Kemp. “Shampoos that look and smell botanical or herbal do well, too.”

Bio-Groom has been a proponent of gentle, natural ingredients since before natural became a buzzword in the industry. Products in the company’s new Natural Scents line include cold-pressed baobab tree protein, which was selected because its properties include anti-inflammatories, emollients and continuing hydration, making it ideal for dry or itchy skin of all kinds. 

“We’ve combined the renowned therapeutic properties of baobab with our powerful yet gentle natural cleansing formula in four exhilarating scents: Pink Jasmine, Tuscan Olive, Lemongrass and Verbena, and Desert Agave Blossom,” says Peggy Smith, marketing and media expert for Bio-Groom. 

Natural Scents are available in 14- and 3.75-ounce sizes, as well as in a counter display of the shampoo and matching colognes.

John Paul Pet also uses many botanical ingredients in its Beneficial Botanicals and Tearless Shampoo lines, including aloe, chamomile, sweet almond oil and lavender oil, to keep skin and coat moisturized. The company has also redesigned its bottles this year to draw consumers’ attention to the botanical icons on the packaging. “John Paul Pet products have been formulated to help the biggest problem pet owners face, which is dry, itchy skin,” says Gina Dial, John Paul Pet’s vice president of sales and marketing. “Our products are pH balanced for pets, so they are milder and leave more oils on the skin, reducing the risk of itching and flaking.” 

Dry, itchy skin solutions and gentle products that are easy on the skin and safer for the eyes are frequent requests by customers at Loyal Biscuit, a four-store business in Maine. Heidi Neal, co-owner, stocks shampoos from Mutt Nose Best, Earthbath, Natural Chemistry Flea & Tick and Zymox Enzymatic to meet her customers’ needs. “We look for natural ingredients, gentle scents that won’t overpower the dog, yet still please the owner,” she says. “I am a huge fan of locally made, and Mutt Nose Best is a Maine product.” 

Another company responding to consumers’ desire to embrace more natural products is Lucy Pet Products. Its six shampoo formulas come in pump bottles made of recyclable metal, are made with natural ingredients, and have no parabens, sulfates or phosphates. Companion leave-in conditioning sprays are also available. 

Some customers want a shampoo that leaves a pleasant scent, but others ask for products that have no scent. Lara Latshaw, owner of Gordon’s Grooming and Retail in Plymouth, Ind., carries only one line, from Earthbath, which provides both scented and unscented options. She has found that sticking to one product line in this category makes things simpler for her and for her clients. “An excess of choice can be confusing, and limiting to fewer choices, but quality ones, is better for my customers,” says Latshaw. 

Because scents are a very personal preference, Four Paws offers several unique scents in their Magic Coat line, as well as a hypoallergenic, fragrance-free shampoo and companion unscented Wet Wipes. The company’s new Natural Shampoo line also has no fragrances, as well as being sulfate, paraben and soap free without artificial colors, sodium lauryl sulfate, DEAs, MEAs or TEAs.

Customers are looking for a range of solutions and features in this category, but not every retailer has the space to offer every shampoo that a customer might want. And since people don’t usually bathe their dogs every day, it isn’t necessarily a fast moving category. Dave Campanella, sales and marketing director for Best Shot Products International, suggests looking at what manufacturers’ top sellers are. 

“Something mild and soothing, often oatmeal, will always sell,” he says. “And puppy shampoo—there are lots of new puppies all the time.” Campanella says one new trend he is seeing in shampoo is hybrids—products that tackle multiple problems, like static plus odor, or soothing and mild. Reducing the number of facings while still solving all your customers’ most common problems can increase the value of this category, especially for smaller retailers. Instead of carrying a shampoo for de-skunking and one for general odor control, carry something that tackles both. You can consolidate and appeal to more customers with fewer products.  

Campanella also recommends stocking newer items with colorful and vibrant packaging to increase the appeal of this section, such as Best Shot’s Scentament Spa with aloe and botanicals, or their One Shot line. “People humanize their pets and want to buy products they can relate to,” says Campanella. For that reason, spa-style products will always have appeal.

Ursula Callahan, product manager for Four Paws, also believes pet parents want to give their pets the same kind of treatments they can receive. “We’ve been seeing human market trends spilling into the pet market for a while now, especially the safe, gentle, all-natural options,” she says. Four Paws’ Magic Coat line includes a Hypo-Allergenic Liquid Shampoo with Oatmeal and a companion conditioner, but also offers an alternative for irritated, dry itchy skin with its Magic Coat Medicated Shampoo with coal tar and aloe vera. 

While soothing and moisturizing options for dry skin are in high demand, retailers need to be aware of the wide range of needs consumers might have in finding the right shampoo and conditioner for their pet and stock appropriate options. Espree seeks to offer solutions with its shampoos, with products to conquer tough odors, to impede fungal and bacterial growth, to aid in controlling itching and products designed for different coat types, as well as hypo-allergenic products. The company also gives consumers and pet stylists many choices besides oatmeal to use on dry itchy skin, such as its Coconut Oil & Silk Shampoo and Spray combination. Espree’s entire philosophy is built around the concept of natural, wholesome pet care, according to Shannon Moore, NCMG, director of grooming and education for Espree. 

“Pet owners and their beloved four-legged friends are all different and require different products to meet their needs,” Moore says. “Espree has always been a solution-oriented line of products.”  

It’s clear that manufacturers of shampoo and conditioner are aware of, and responsive to, pet owners’ needs. Many of them have counter displays, shelf talkers or other material that will help retailers provide solutions to common problems. Working together with a trusted company to stock and promote a comprehensive selection of shampoos and conditioners can lead to good profits from this category.

Carol Visser has been involved in the pet industry since 1982 in various capacities, including grooming in and owning a busy suburban shop, working as a product expert for PetEdge, teaching seminars and training dogs. She certified as a Master Groomer with NDGAA in 1990 and as a Certified Pet Dog Trainer in 2007, and she continues to enjoy learning about dogs and grooming at her small salon in rural Maine.


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