Selling the Spa Experience
Taking the home-grooming experience beyond a simple clean cut, retailers have identified the demand for luxurious products to soothe and indulge pets.
As salon appointments for humans have grown to include experiences beyond basic services, so have grooming visits for pets. But while many pet parents who seek the ultimate indulgences for their animals frequent high-end grooming spas, many consumers wish to recreate these experiences at home, thus driving demand for spa-quality products in pet stores. In response, manufacturers are using premium ingredients to elevate standard products to a luxurious level that some human salons would envy.
A growing number of consumers are seeking to mirror their own experiences in the lives of their pets. When pet parents enjoy increased health, happiness and overall wellbeing, they seek products that will replicate these benefits for their animals.
“Dogs used to live outside and in the garage a few decades ago, but there has been a real change in the perception of dogs and the joy they bring into our lives,” says Eric Bittman, CEO and president of Warren London, a New City, N.Y.-based manufacturer of natural, luxury grooming products. “Now, dogs are considered to be a child…with that responsibility also came wanting to keep them clean, as well as looking and feeling great. We all want our dogs to have the best quality of life.”
The challenge for retailers is to capitalize on the experience that pet parents want to provide, rather than simply selling products. By working with manufacturers to learn about how products perform beyond removing dirt and buildup, retailers can help consumers outline a plan to create an at-home spa experience for pets. James Brandley, public relations specialist for Wentzville, Mo.-based TropiClean—another key vendor of spa-quality products—notes that retailers must be attuned to the relationships between pets, consumers and the experiential trend in spa grooming products.
“Pet parents look towards spa products for more aromatherapy, a day at the spa, rather than bath time, he says. “The shift allows companies to broaden their grooming lines…Pets are no longer seen as family pets but more so another family member. Retailers can utilize this trend by providing products that not only clean, but that create a luxurious clean, more of an experience.”
The Right Experience
Unlike food, medication or even standard grooming products that are simply used to maintain cleanliness, spa products for pets aren’t necessities for consumers. Instead, pet parents view their purchases of spa-grade goods as an indulgence—a way to pamper their four-legged loved ones. With that said, if a particular product isn’t delivering according to its message, consumers will quickly move on to an alternative that aligns more with their mission of providing the best experience for their pets.
“Consumers aren’t just looking for spa products that make Fluffy look and smell great,” explains Susan Gregory, owner and creator of Zen Dog Holistic Healing Formulas, a Salisbury, Mass.-based manufacturer of therapeutic shampoos and other products formulated to promote healthy skin, coat and ears. “They are looking for products that are formulated to help address specific skin, coat and ear problems. Retailers really need to do their homework when looking to invest in high-quality spa products. Knowing the quality and the sourcing of these ingredients is crucial in offering consumers products that truly deliver the benefits that they claim to offer.”
Simply reading product labels is no longer sufficient to meet the needs of pet parents who are able to spend money on luxurious grooming products. While proper grooming is a necessary component of overall pet health, spa products are an indulgence that only certain pet parents will explore, therefore retailers must be able to explain how spending extra money on these goods will enhance an animal’s life.
“Spa products are usually higher priced than regular products, so they should meet the standards of higher quality products,” says Peggy Smith, media manager for Bio-Groom, a Longview, Texas-based provider of a wide range of premium grooming products. “So, customers looking for bargains will not be drawn to spa products. However, the market has shown there are plenty of consumers willing and eager to pay a little more for spa products that deliver above-average satisfaction.”
For consumers who want to purchase spa grooming products, the income spent on these luxury goods is disposable. If these indulgent consumers aren’t satisfied with the selection of grooming products at a store, or feel a retailer isn’t informed regarding their own selection, they will choose a different seller who is able to help create a spa-like atmosphere in the home.
“The pet industry has proven to be recession proof, as pet parents will spend the extra money if a product, for example, is organic or natural and made in the USA,” Bittman explains. “Pet spa products are about taking it to another level when it comes to grooming or making their pet feel more comfortable.”
For their part, manufacturers are concerned with investing in ingredients that will deliver an authentic wellness experience for animals, as this trend continues to grow. As Gregory notes, pet parents expect these products to yield an experience that promotes overall animal health.
“The biggest trends that I have noticed regarding the explosion of spa type products is there are two types — false spa products with most of the emphasis placed on attractive packaging versus true, holistic, spa products made with integrity that deliver the medicinal benefits that they claim,” she says. “The biggest concerns of pet parents seeking to indulge their pet in these upscale products is more about the validity of the benefits they claim, more so than their cost.”
In the race to discover the next big pet-products trend, retailers shouldn’t speed through the process of learning about the different aspects of each spa line and the distinctive benefits that can satisfy the specific needs of their clientele. By slowing down and actively researching these indulgent products, retailers will increase customer loyalty by becoming a trusted resource for pet wellness. PB