Selling Spa Products

The right selection of spa products can help customers keep their pets looking and feeling their best.


A little luxury never hurt anyone—pets included. Just as their owners might indulge in a day at the spa, pets can also enjoy specialty treatments to help them look and feel great. As the spa product category continues to grow, retailers can make sure their customers have no trouble pampering their pups with a high-quality selection of premium items.

Spa products stand apart from more everyday grooming products, with consumers looking for more than just another shampoo. Manufacturers of these specialty products aim to provide an above-average grooming experience and results for pets and pet parents alike.

“When we think of a spa, one thinks of detoxing, rejuvenating and quenching with a mixture of natural skin nourishing treatments,” says Jacqueline Hynes, president of Madra Mór, which makes a range of mud spa products for dogs. “The canine world is on the forefront of the spa category. We have made these wellness treatments available for our best friends.”

As in consumables categories in the pet industry, natural has become an important feature for spa-type grooming products to have. Consumers want to make sure that products they regularly apply to their pets’ skin and coat are safe, beneficial and pleasant to use.

“Consumers want products that are both natural and effective,” says Doug Gleason, president of TrueBlue Pet Products. TrueBlue offers a range of shampoos, conditioners and other wellness-focused pet care products. “In the past, there was often a tradeoff—the more-natural products didn’t always perform as well as traditional ones. As natural products have improved, consumers no longer expect that they should have to make a tradeoff.”

Gleason also noted that humanization of pets is a major factor in shaping the development and growth of the category as a whole, with customers looking for products that match the quality of what they use for themselves. “They look for products that are just as good as the ones they buy for the human members of the family,” he says. “But designed to meet the specific needs of pets.”

According to Bobbi Panter, owner and creator of Bobbi Panter Pet Products, a great, lasting fragrance is key for many consumers when selecting grooming products. Her Chicago, Ill.-based company produces specialty shampoos and conditioners formulated to leave dogs looking and smelling fresh.

“They want something they feel good about using on their beloved pet, something like what they would use on themselves,” Panter says. “They want natural, great ingredients and long-lasting fragrances.”

Despite their specialty nature and the higher cost that often accompanies that, spa products have proven themselves to be a growing category. In keeping with trends in food, treats and more, consumers have demonstrated that a bigger price tag isn’t always a deterrent to purchasing. Rather, like in segments such as raw diets, many pet owners are willing to spend a bit more on a product that is of higher quality and is better for their dog or cat.

“To some extent it’s the same trend that’s been affecting all the categories in the pet market,” says Gleason. “As people come to see their pets as members of the family, they increasingly want higher quality in everything they buy for their pets—from food and treats to grooming and body care.”

Panter has observed that pet food recalls have made owners much more conscious of the ingredients in all kinds of products they buy for their pets, increasing the appeal of natural, high-quality spa items. Also, as pets play a bigger role in family life, their appearance and cleanliness has become increasingly significant.

“I also think that people now travel with their pets more often, bring them to work and generally spend more one-on-one time with their pets, and grooming has become very important,” she says. “People want their pets to smell and feel great when they are snuggling them.”

However, spa products are about more than just looking and smelling good. In several ways, the category has become intertwined with pet health concerns, with manufacturers’ developing products that benefit both a pet’s appearance and its well-being. For example, TrueBlue’s product line includes ear wipes, which can be used to regularly and easily clean pets’ ears, helping to reduce the chance of pets developing ear infections.

“We believe one of the most important trends, which started in the human world, is wellness and preventative health maintenance,” Gleason says. “People are realizing that a little bit of preventative care can mean both a healthier, happier pet as well as fewer expensive visits to the vet. We are constantly talking to our vet advisors to better understand what the key pet health issues are and how we can help consumers address them.”

Dental care is another area that presents difficulties for many pet parents. Brushing often proves to be too cumbersome for many, leaving them in need of alternative means of keeping their pets’ teeth and gums healthy. TrueBlue’s vet advisors explain that friction is required to really remove plaque, leading the company to develop their dental wipes, which offer similar benefits to brushing through an easier method.

Naturally, spa products are also often targeted to address skin and coat issues. As Hynes notes, using high-quality grooming products allows consumers to get more out of bathing their pet.

“Think of it as ‘super-sizing’ their best friends grooming experience,” she says. “[Spa products] address their key concerns: shedding, irritation, itchiness, mobility, smells, or yeasty, sensitive, blemished, dry and flaky skin.”

As with any growing and trendy category, retailers need to be selective in stocking their store to avoid low-quality imitation products. Consumers who are investing in spa products for their pets are looking for noticeable performance, and will not settle for a mediocre result. With that in mind, retailers should look for manufacturers that will stand by their products and can fully explain their value.

“So many companies come out with trendy ‘spa’ products that are just cheap shampoo in fancy packaging,” Panter says. “Make sure, as a retailer, you are getting good quality products with support from the manufacturer to help you learn about the products and sell them.”

She also advises asking for a complete list of products’ ingredients and making sure the manufacturer can explain everything that is included and their functions. “Manufacturers should be able to give your employees training, samples and make you feel good about their products so that you can talk about the products with confidence to your customers.”

Although there is no one right way to merchandise spa products, retailers can approach it by arranging by manufacturer, or grouping by type of item. Spa products could also be highlighted within a larger grooming product section through special displays or signage.

In general, merchandising and selling spa products is best approached through firsthand experience with the products in the store, so store staff can personally describe the difference they make to customers. Retailers should try out samples on their own pets, which many manufacturers are happy to provide, to ensure that the products perform as advertised before carrying them in the store.

“The best way to sell my products is to know them and use them,” says Panter. “Then you will see exactly what sets them apart from all of the other shampoos on the market.  Firsthand knowledge of our products and their benefits is key to selling them.”


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