Arming the DIY Groomer
Retailers have much to gain from supplying customers with the tools and information they need to groom their pets at home.
As consumers continue to seek ways to cut costs, many pet owners are either grooming their animals at home or giving them touch-ups to extend the time between expensive trips to the groomer. Retailers should consider carrying tools to enable this trend, and chief among these tools is the clipper.
While price and profit are certainly central to deciding what to offer customers in the way of clippers, retailers should heavily weigh other factors, as well. Ease of use is probably the most important, followed by thorough, complete instructions on use. Safety and the availability of customer service, blades, parts and other accessories also come into play.
Retailers should put together a comprehensive assortment of at-home grooming supplies, including the at-home-versions of full-body clippers, touch-up trimmers for large dogs, and small touch-up trimmers for small dogs and small spaces like feet/pads, between toes, corners of eyes and inside ear leathers. Stores may also consider carrying a professional clipper for customers who seek it or who have large dogs with thick or double coats.
A good example of a popular home-version, full-body clipper for light coats or small dogs would be Andis’ EasyClip Clipper Trimmer combo, which includes two clippers packaged in a soft, zippered case. One clipper has a three-position adjustable blade that goes from a #30 length (short enough to do Poodle feet) to a #10 blade length (for faces and sanitary areas), plus six attachment combs (blade guides) that allow the hair to be left up to one inch long. The other clipper in the kit is a small cordless trimmer that is great for trimming around the eyes, nose and ears.
Oster’s Performance Clipper Kit is also aimed at home grooming and can handle heavier coats. Instead of a small trimmer, this kit includes a pair of scissors and a DVD with step-by-step instructions for the beginning home groomer.
ConairPRO offers a coordinated line of appliances and grooming accessories—including several clipper kits—in its ConairPRO Dog line. The company makes merchandising these items particular simple for retailers. The products, ranging from grooming tools and a hair dryer to clippers, can be displayed on handy spinner racks. ConairPRO’s innovations include a clipper that can be used corded or cordless, and a booster switch for getting through heavy spots in coats.
Wahl Clipper Corporation has a number of options for practical home grooming at a wide range of prices, including clippers intended for home use—from a rechargeable clipper using lithium ion technology for a 90-minute run time to a cord/cordless version. Most include DVDs. The Kennel Pro has been a top seller for many years, and it includes a DVD and a smaller touch-up trimmer.
In addition, many of Wahl’s professional-use trimmers adapt quite well for the home groomer, especially the adjustable 5-in-1blade rechargeable styles, such as the Arco SE, Bravura or Chromado—most available with charge-extending lithium ion technology.
Although Kim Laube concentrates on professional tools, the company does have a clipper line that should appeal to pet owners who do their own grooming. With the addition of a kit, the Laube iVACs can attach to almost any vacuum for instant dog hair cleanup. Clipping is smooth even for the inexperienced operator, since the suction pulls the hair right into the clipper blade.
Touch-ups and Specialty Trims
Touch-up trimmers for specialty trimming on ears, faces, feet, tummies or under tail areas can also be a handy tool for the home groomer. Andis representative Elizabeth Yong uses the Andis Trim ‘N Go on her dog’s pads. “Shelby is not a fan of the paw handling, but she does OK with the Trim ‘N Go, as it’s so small and quiet,” she says. “It’s great for travel, since it’s totally pocket sized and runs on one AA battery. It wouldn’t hurt to have it in a pet first-aid kit, either.”
Most of the major manufacturers have at least a few small trimmers that weigh only ounces and run quietly enough to be ideal for that kind of face/tummy/tail/foot work, in both corded and cordless versions, battery operated and rechargeable, in any size. Wahl’s Stylique has a narrow blade for the tiniest of places.
For pet owners with large dogs or dogs with heavy coats, professional clippers may be the best answer, as they are powerful enough to handle the toughest coat. Basic models with slower speeds are best, to prevent blades from getting hot too quickly. Oster’s single-speed A5 or the PowerMax, Andis’ AGC single speed or AG clippers will go through any thickness of coat, as will ConairPet’s DynaGroom, Laube’s iCLIP or Wahl’s KM2. These clippers provide add-on sales, as owners will seek the correct length blades for their breeds, or corresponding blade guides and a #30 blade.
Andis has another option for consumers wanting professional-caliber clippers—the inexpensive Versa clipper kit includes extra blades in the common #7F and #4F lengths, as well as a #10 blade and guides that will fit over it for clipping up to one inch long. (Blades are not compatible with professional clippers).
Given the many options available, customers may need some hand-holding when it comes to selecting the right grooming tools for what they want to accomplish, as well as some basic guidance to get them started. Retail staff should have at least a rudimentary knowledge of what each clipper can do and how consumers can educate themselves further.
Many manufacturers identify clippers of various types on the packaging, using terms such as “full-body clipping” or “touch-up trimming,” to make selection easy. For education on grooming, some clippers include a basic instructional DVD. All-breed grooming books are useful, but they are usually intended for someone who already knows how to use clippers and just needs a refresher on individual breeds. DVDs for individual breeds are probably best for home use, since even if they are intended for professional groomers, the consumer can observe how to hold the clippers and the dog for best results and safety.
The Internet has a great deal of information, but much of it is incorrect; unless they are personally familiar with a site or video, retailers should stick with recommending information from major manufacturers or distributors. Andis has channels on both YouTube and Vimeo, with tutorials on cat and dog grooming, or consumers can “Ask the Expert” through andis.com. Wahl has some excellent short videos aimed at pet owners both on YouTube and at wahlanimal.com under “Grooming Guides” tab. Oster provides videos useful for the professional, as well as the pet owner, on osterpro.com.
One important caution for retailers to pass on to consumers is that unless they purchase a professional clipper and plan on shaving the dog to a half-inch or less, clippers cannot go through matting. The blade guides included in some kits go over a blade and create a longer clipped length, but these guides are meant to be used only over clean, combed-through coat. Owners sometimes turn to the retailer for home-use products to avoid having their pet shaved by a professional stylist due to matting. Unfortunately, pet parents should understand that at a certain level of matting, the dog must be brushed out completely or the clippers must go under the mats—clippers do not cut through the middle of heavy matting.
The good news is that most budget-conscious pet owners who are tackling home grooming want to do what is best for their pets, and this can generate great sales opportunities for retailers. Let today’s economy do you a favor for a change, and stock all the right clippers that a pet parent might need to do the best job possible at home.
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.