Letting Their Hair—and Fur—Down
Conair, long a household name in human grooming products, has been gaining momentum in the pet products business.
Some companies get into the pet products business because they buy an established brand. Conair got into the pet business because an acquisition did not happen.
In 2002, the consumer products giant Conair was examining the possibility of acquiring a competitor. The Stamford, Conn.-based leader in personal care, grooming, health and beauty, kitchen and other products did not acquire the company but became interested in the pet industry.
“During the review process, we determined that their pet business was actually larger than their beauty and barber business,” says John Vasone, national sales manager. “As a result, we were convinced to get into the pet business.”
By the second half of 2004, Conair had launched a half dozen products for professional groomers. In 2005, they launched even more. Sales grew, but more opportunities to expand into retail began to present themselves.
Conair, of course, is a household name. It started in 1959 as a small hair appliance and hair care company. Today, the company owns several well-known brands such as BaBylissPro salon appliances, Cuisinart kitchenware, Scunci hair accessories, Waring Commercial food service appliances, Rusk hair products, Satin Smooth skincare and Argan Color hair products. Seven in 10 households in the U.S. have a Conair product in the home. The company sells more than 100 million hairbrushes and accessories each year.
The company decided to tap into the strength of its branding and its loyal customer base as it expanded into pet specialty.
“Conair is well known for our quality, technology and innovation in our tools,” Vasone says. “In fact, our typical personal care consumer is the same woman who buys pet products.”
That consumer, the primary pet shopper, is a woman 25 to 55 years old. According to Vasone, 75 percent of all pet consumers are women and it is the same female consumer who is also buying personal beauty products and kitchen products. “So there is a strong connection,” he says. “If you like your Conair hair brush, you’ll love your ConairPRO pet grooming tool. And it is that connection that helps to build our brand in pet.”
The company did indeed build the brand and expanded distribution into the pet specialty and food/drug/mass businesses. “The pet specialty and mass markets have been instrumental to our growth,” Vasone says. “At retail, the Conair brand is well known to consumers and that has helped us secure incremental distribution.”
Vasone notes that pet has many distribution channels and that ConairPRO Pet has developed a channel strategy with different product assortments and different trade dress for each major channel. In pet specialty, the brand is available in neighborhood pet stores, regional chains and big box retailers.
“Pet specialty is an important and viable part of our strategy,” he says. The mass channel is also gaining momentum. “Supermarkets used to have a limited pet area and now it is from the front to the back of the store. Many mass market stores are expanding their pet sections as well, as pet ownership continues to grow.”
Today ConairPRO Pet has more than 100 SKUs. The products range from the Conair Yellow Dog Pet Dryer, which looks similar to the iconic Conair hair dryer and uses ambient temperature to dry the dog’s fur, not heat. It’s also quiet, so as not to stress the pup. The company also offers a selection of combs, brushes and clippers.
Conair’s current product focus is on tools that help with shedding. “The research we’ve done has found that shedding is the number one concern of pet owners, even more than stain and odor and more than flea and tick,” Vasone says. “Animals shed, and the fur gets on your couch, your floor and your bed.”
The company is promoting deshedding products like Shed-It and the Pet-It Deshedder. “There are two kinds of people in the world, people who have the DIY mentality and say, ‘I can do it as well at home,’ and the people who have busy lifestyles and elect to pay a professional groomer for their services,” Vasone says. “You have to accommodate both markets.”
For deshedding, Conair recommends the Shed-It line of interchangeable grooming system tools. There is also the Pet-It Deshedder, available in two-inch and three-inch models to accommodate all breeds. It fits comfortably in the palm of one’s hand. The product reduces shedding by up to 90 percent and is designed to make the process as easy as petting the dog.
“We feel grooming is an essential part of owning a pet,” Vasone says. “Brushing is a great way to bond with your pet, whether a dog or cat.” The Pet-It Deshedder is sold in pet specialty stores. Conair also offers home grooming clipper kits that Vasone says are best in class.
For groomers, in addition to grooming and deshedding tools, there are innovative, lightweight, brushless motor clippers that are growing in popularity in the groomer community. According to Vasone, Conair is in the midst of revamping the professional line, including a planned 2018 launch of the next-generation clipper.
The company is currently working to build a network of grooming ambassadors and social media influencers to educate and promote the upcoming line of new professional products. The grooming ambassadors are professional groomers who appear in YouTube videos and on other media to talk about how to brush the dog’s fur, what tools to use based on coat and breed, how to work around delicate areas such as the ears and the theme of bonding with the pet through grooming.
ConairPRO Pet is also working to boost its digital media presence. The company has a Facebook page that it tries to keep fresh and updated and is working to get more content on its website. “It’s all about content,” Vasone says. “Everyone now researches everything online, so our goal is making more content available to consumers so they can make a better choice.”
The relationships with retailers are also key. Retailers can count on Conair’s quality and trusted brand recognition, Vasone says. “Our marketing team, field sales managers and our manufacturer’s representatives are available to help in planogramming and promoting our pet specialty line through distribution.”
The future looks bright, as pet ownership will continue to grow. According to Pet Population and Ownership Trends in the U.S., a report by market research firm Packaged Facts, between 2006 and 2016 the number of households with pets grew at a greater rate than the total number of households in the U.S. The firm noted four reasons why the growth will likely continue: an increase in the number of households with more than one pet, aging baby boomers getting pets, an increasing number of Hispanics and multicultural households getting pets, and Millennials seeing having a pet as “a good way to get ready to have a family,” according to the report.
Vasone says demand for services and grooming tools will increase. “We think that ecommerce will continue to grow in share and that grooming services will also see a higher demand due to busy lifestyles. Conair intends to keep pace in all categories of trade and to continue to grow with innovative products and attention to our customers.” PB