What do retail customers look for in a brush and comb? Miracles, that’s what they want.
Few pet owners realize exactly how much work maintaining their animal’s coat is going to be. In the golden glow of new pet ownership, especially, everything looks easy. Being told, “he will need to be brushed daily” simply conjures up idyllic images of sitting on the couch with an Old English Sheepdog, having a cuddle fest that includes a few strokes over the top of the coat with a pinbrush. Once that first flush of excitement is over, however, pet owners may be ready to listen to advice on grooming and the tools required, and pet specialty retailers and groomers are in the perfect position to do that.
Generally, customers looking for brushes and combs are new dog owners or owners who have suddenly realized that their one- to two-year-old dog’s coat is a mess and needs to be groomed. And often, these pet owners are looking for that miracle tool that will do the work for them.
While retailers and groomers cannot provide brushes and combs that work magic, they can recommend the best one for the job. For puppy owners, retailers will want to recommend the right equipment to care for soft, delicate puppy coat now, as well as tools for when the dog is older. Owners of older dogs—both new pet parents and those who may have let the coat go unattended—may need more help. Aside from recommending a professional grooming if needed, retailers may want to point these shoppers in the direction of some good dematting tools or perhaps a clipper if the best solution is to clip the coat short and start brushing again as the coat grows in. And it always makes sense to suggest buying the right brush and comb to handle the coat in future.
There are many helpful tools on the market today. Wahl’s attention-getting, brightly colored orange and white line of home pet grooming tools is a good example. In addition to slickers, pin brushes, combs and dematting tools, Wahl has a handy 2-in-1 Rake/Blade equipped with a rake for detangling on one side and a deshedding tool for removing dead undercoat on the other. The company’s website lists which product is intended for which coat type to make selection easier for consumers. The website also has a function that not only searches for tools by breed, but can search by coat type and length for mixed-breed dog owners, making it easy to help consumers select the right tools for the job.
Retailers that are able to match pet owners up with the most appropriate grooming tools and then explain how best to use them will gain a loyal customer base. Retailers also have to have a broad enough selection for their customers’ various needs. “As a retailer, you really see owners of all types of breeds walk through the door,” says Bob Erler, national sales manager of Andis’ Animal Division. “This means that your product mix should be able to work on everything from single coats to curly, double-coated breeds and everything in between.”
Andis offers a wide range of easy-to-use tools in two different lines, including a self-cleaning slicker brush and a two-sided pin/bristle brush that really appeal to consumers.
Meanwhile, combs are an often-underutilized tool. Pet owners should select tooth length and spacing based on the length and density of the pet’s coat, as trying to force a closely spaced comb through a thick Husky coat, for example, will be ineffective. Pet parents can also use combs to check if the coat has been sufficiently brushed, as they will quickly snag on tangles or areas still packed with undercoat. “On most breeds, you can use a slicker brush, but on every breed, you should always follow up with a comb to rid the coat of any loose hair,” Erler adds. That’s in addition to using a good deshedding tool for Golden and Labrador Retriever-type coats.
Aside from finding the right tools and understanding how to use them, quality is important to purchasers, as well, and that’s something that Bass Brushes, a well-known name in the beauty industry since 1979, understands well. Most of the company’s products have handles made of hand-finished bamboo—a sustainable wood for those interested in the green aspect of products. Real boar bristles in many brushes distribute the natural oils in the coat to increase shine. Bass Brush believes that customers are looking for better-quality products and are willing to pay for one that works, looks good and will last for 10 years.
Groomers Helper, the exclusive North American distributor for Activet brushes, is also prioritizing quality. Activet is the original and first flexible brush, designed not only to be easier on the groomer’s hand and arm, but gentler on the dogs and their coats as well. “Our brushes are called ‘miracle brushes,’ as they get the job done in half the time,” says Chuck Simons, owner of Groomers Helper.
Many professional groomers agree with the claim. Color-coded brushes for specific purposes usually come in a single-head size for smaller dogs and a dual-head for larger ones. However, since dogs may require different types of pins at various times of the year, Activet has come up with a true miracle brush—a double-sided brush in which the sides perform different functions.
“[For instance,] the Duo Double Mat Zapper/Firm Finish brush is the ‘ultimate’ [for most] Poodles/Doodles, Goldens, Newfies, German Shepherds or any large long-haired pet,” Simons says. “We have Doodle organizations with over 78,000 members who purchase this brush for their Doodles.”
Pet+me, a line of two-sided flexible silicone brushes by Groomy USA, is a recent entry to the pet grooming market. Invented in Switzerland but made in the USA of 100-percent medical-grade silicon, the line includes four two-sided brushes designed to meet the needs of any fur length on dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets or hamsters. The brushes are color coded to indicate what coat type they suit—from a long-haired Persian cat to a short-haired Greyhound.
The brush is firm but flexible on one side, and using gentle pressure loosens excess hardened sebum found in dogs’ coats. The brush’s other side serves to remove it, along with dead hair. The brush can also be used to remove pet hair from furniture and clothing.
One great selling point of this new product is that it is gentle on pets. Marlies Barton, vice president of Groomy USA, says, “I am passionate about this brush because I know each one I sell has a happy animal on the other end.”
Although it does not demat, Barton claims that once mats are removed, brushing twice a week will help prevent future tangling.
While none of these grooming tools are actually the miracle workers that pet owners sometimes look for, they do work wonders if used regularly and correctly. And retailers that can provide the right tools along with some guidance on how to get the best results will gain customers who will return for advice—and products—again and again.
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.