When pet owners get the urge to groom their pets themselves, they will need the right tools and perhaps some guidance to get started.
It does not matter whether a pet retailer sells aquatic livestock and supplies, dog food and supplements, or grooming tools and equipment, successful sales and high customer satisfaction are achieved by selling the most appropriate items for a customer’s needs. Selling a fish that requires a lot of knowledge and care to a novice, for example, is likely to result in unhappy customers, and most stores spend a lot of time educating staff on the features and benefits of the dog food brands and supplements so that they are equipped to help customers make purchasing decisions. It is no different with grooming supplies. Selling customers the tools they need and providing knowledge on their use will help pet owners reap the benefits of grooming at home, leading to satisfied customers and repeat business.
The first step is to find out what exactly a customer expects to be able to do with the clippers they wish to purchase and what breed of dog they plan to use it on. Make sure you know what a customer means when they say, “I want to groom my dog at home,” before you recommend a product. Some pet owners have their dog on a regular schedule for professional grooming and only want to be able to tidy faces, feet, sanitary areas and perhaps ears and tails in between appointments. Others want to do it all, clipping and scissoring their way to a finished product. Most want something in between, perhaps just to be able to extend the time between professional groomings to save a bit of money. Choosing the right clippers depends on both the breed and the task.
Helen Cox, marketing manager for Wahl Clipper Corporation’s North America professional animal division, points out that home grooming can be easy when pet owners have the right tools and supplies. “In the end, it’s not about just selling a clipper but selling the correct tool for their pet for complete customer satisfaction,” she says.
Since pet clippers are manufactured for a variety of usages, she adds, pet owners may need guidance when making buying decisions. “Each Wahl Pet Store Exclusive product package includes information that will help retailers and consumers with the right product purchase—from medium-duty clippers for occasional clipping for most coat types to professional products that are able to continuously clip all coat types including thick coats,” Cox says.
Working with manufacturers is key to gaining product knowledge, and Cox recommends relying on company websites and their experts. Not only does Wahl post on its website an amazing array of videos on grooming dogs, doing touchups, clipper and blade maintenance and more, most of the company’s consumer clipper kits include a free “How To” pet grooming video. The company also has a live customer service line to answer any questions that may come up.
Andis is another company working hard to simplify clipper sales at retail. A new rating system helps consumers easily determine what tools will work best for their pet, and updated packaging makes comparisons easier as well. Karen Formico, Andis’ vice president of marketing, says retailers should also take advantage of the opportunities in social media.
“In terms of retail, a big force in driving traffic to stores is social media,” she explains. “With platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, retailers are able to better engage with customers and convert one-on-one conversations into foot traffic in stores.”
Formico suggests that consumers are more likely to feel comfortable with their at-home grooming purchase if they have an idea of how to use the product, and “how-to” videos and tips online is a good way to accomplish that. Andis does a great job in offering video programs on its social channels that walk at-home groomers—as well as professionals—through the crucial steps of grooming. Educational material can frequently be found on its social channels as well.
According to Joey Villani—well-known grooming industry speaker, the former director of Nash Academy of Animal Arts in New Jersey, and spokesperson for Conair Pet—most pet owners are ill-informed on grooming their pets. Some breeds, in fact, can be particularly challenging. For example, he says, professionals understand that soft-coated Wheaten Terriers can be difficult to groom, and pet owners may find themselves in over their heads without appropriate tools for the job. “Without the right brush, comb, and clipper, it can even be dangerous,” he adds.
Villani suggests that retailers offer advice based on coat type, whether it is double, long and flowing, or short and flat. If you can advise the correct tools to use, customers will see results. Retailers should also keep in mind that clippers have a large range of prices, and although most don’t wish to purchase the higher end, if they have, for example, an Old English Sheepdog and buy an inexpensive clipper kit, they will have problems, as it won’t get through the coat. “Even with the correct clipper for the coat they must have some education to use it well,” Villani says. “At Nash Academy, a 900-hour course did not make a professional groomer; they had to go out and get experience and one session of grooming does not make an expert of a pet owner. But failing is part of the learning process.”
Conair Pet will soon be adding multiple videos to its website to help pet owners learn to groom or touchup their own pets, he adds.
The retail clipper line from Oster addresses all of the pet owner’s needs. Christina Pawlosky, national training manager for the pet division of Jarden Consumer Solutions (Oster), says that depending on the condition and coat type, the company offers a clipper for every situation. “The focus of our package is about a positive experience for the dog,” she adds.
Clippers range from light duty for tweaking around the eyes, paws and sanitary areas to heavy-duty clippers that will clip any coat. Pawlosky cautions that many pet owners don’t know how to care for their pet’s coat, which may lead to needing more powerful clippers if the coat is dirty, matted or tangled. She recommends that retailers stock at least one Oster Pro clipper solution—Oster A6, A5 or Powermax clipper options are available.
“Having a pro solution available, and pushing the end user to it, is good business,” she says “They come back happy because no matter what coat condition it will cut. All three also have a number of metal blades that allow them to cut through matted coat but leave more length. With the smaller retail clipper, you need to use a guide comb, which will snag in tangled, dirty coat.”
Admittedly, she adds, the higher-quality clipper is more of an investment, but considering that one professional grooming can start at $50, the cost of buying the clipper may be worth it to many DIY-inclined pet owners. “If you use it for a few grooms, it will have paid for itself,” Pawlosky says.
Consumers want that magic clipper that will automatically turn out a pet that looks ready to waltz into the ring at Westminster with little or no effort or skill on their part. While we can’t provide that, we can give them the means to do the best job possible, and that means providing the knowledge to do so.
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.