A Perfect Match

To succeed in the brushes and combs category, retailers must ensure all their customers go home with just the right tool to suit their needs.




How can retailers increase profit from the brushes and combs category? As with all sales and service, making sure the customer is happy is key. With combs and brushes, that means making sure they have the correct tool for their needs and that they know how to use it properly.


Armed with the right knowledge, customers will go home to find that retailers’ recommendations, tailored just for them, are spot-on. The pet owner that picks up a rubber brush because it seems gentle and tries to use it on their Bichon Frise will not be happy with their purchase, and on some level that dissatisfaction will get transferred to the retail store they bought the brush from. Make sure your customer goes home to exclaim how well the product you suggested works for their pet.


Industry experts agree that educating customers is vital to good sales and satisfied clients. Chuck Simons, industry innovator and sole distributor of ActiVet brushes in North America, suggests that retailers as well as professional groomers give brushing and combing lessons to pet owners on how to maintain their pet’s coat in between professional groomings. Hands-on demonstrations work best for showing the unique attributes and performance of particular brushes, such as ActiVet’s double-sided design.


“The design of the brush and the flexible head makes it easier to use; the brush does the work, not the groomer’s shoulders and arms,” says Simons. “This brush takes less time to brush out coats and mats, so there is less stress on both the dog and the owner.”


ActiVet offers brushes to suit any coat type. In particular, the Duo Purple/Red TuffZapper Coater is one of their best sellers and is especially well-suited to Doodles, as well as coarse-coated dogs with medium to long fur, such as Newfoundlands, Golden Retrievers or German Shepherds. Groomers Helper can help retailers select the right brushes for their clientele and discuss pricing.


Joel Weinstein, vice president of Bass Brushes, agrees that demonstration is key, even pointing out that the company’s brushes can be demonstrated on human hair. Given the popularity of double-sided pin/bristle brushes, meant to detangle and comb with the pin side and polish with the bristles, Bass decided to improve on the idea and developed its patented Fusion line with pins and bristles on the same side. The pins detangle and the natural boar bristles remove smaller hairs and dander from the coat, aiding any allergy sufferers in the home as well as distributing the sebaceous oils to provide natural shine to the animal’s coat. The Fusion series has a countertop display available, which is another way to increase sales, and the brush is suitable for most coats with the exception of very short ones.


The single most important thing to help improve profits from brushes and combs is to “demo, demo, demo,” says  Eddy Cathaud, CEO of Swees America. “Demonstrating how grooming products work and displaying samples that shoppers can get their hands on are important to closing more sales. This merchandising technique works especially well with higher ticket items like deshedding tools.”


Cathaud advises retailers to ask their distributors for product samples to use in demonstrations, or to place near self-serve dog-washing stations and in the grooming product display area.


Swees America offers products designed to meet at-home groomers’ wish for safer, gentler tools for combing, brushing and deshedding. The Eazee deshedding tool has smooth rounded teeth so there’s no risk of accidental scratching, and it’s designed not to pull live hair. The Click and Brush handle system allows several different grooming tools to be used, including the recently added Duo Bristle Brush PRO Medium, the Dust & Flea Comb and the Comb PRO31 Short/Long.


Education is the most important factor in ensuring customers find the product they need, says Eric Pelland, general manager at Resco Pet Products. He says having attentive, informed employees and helpful information to guide consumers through their purchase will help retailers shine in this category. Pelland also recommends stocking higher quality, higher revenue products.


“You’re making more dollars per sale and you’re establishing a trustworthy relationship,” he says. “If the one comb they buy from you exceeds their expectations, then they’re sure to bring you future sales in that category.”


Resco products, made in America, fit the bill. Their best-selling product is their PF0080 Ergonomic Comb with tine spacing and a unique handle that helps prevent wrist fatigue.


Simons also encourages retailers to opt for high-end options in the brushes and combs categories, such as the ActiVet line.


“Carry top of the line all the way,” he says. “This is a brush for high end retailers.”


Marcy Ream, director of marketing for Coastal Products, believes consumers need to be well-informed while making their product decisions, and retailers should offer a good selection of tools to accommodate the needs of various breeds and coat types.


“A grooming tool chart placed within the set can help a consumer choose the right product for their pet,” she says. “The items in the set should be merchandised with purpose. Keep them neatly organized by animal type, then further separate by coat or tool type for shopping ease.”


Many customers who come in looking for a grooming tool are aiming to keep their pet’s coat looking good and minimize shedding issues, but odds are they won’t know what type of brush or comb is best, says John Vasone, marketing manager for ConairPRO Pet. Retailers need to be proactive in guiding them to the right tool.


“The more knowledgeable a consumer is, the better choice they will make” says Vasone. “Trained associates and signage indicating what is the best tool for use on coat types and results will help sell more grooming tools.”


Conair’s best sellers include all sizes of slicker brushes with varying pin stiffness for removing mats and loose fur/undercoat, and rakes, which are popular for grooming thick, double-coated breeds like German Shepherds, Akitas and Chow-Chows.


Taking the time to set up videos, shelf talkers, demonstrations and displays can, according to all the experts, increase sales and profits in this already worthwhile category. Ask manufacturers of each line of grooming tools you carry what is available to help sell their products; they’ll be happy to help. PB


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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