Unless a pet specialty retailer also offers grooming services, it is not always easy to make dirty pets pay. But it can be done. Selling products that keep animals cleaner and sweeter smelling between trips to the salon is a good way to add a few more dollars to the coffers.
As pets continue to be an important part of many American families, pet owners are hoping to keep their animals as hygienic and nicely scented as possible, and pet store owners can help.
Pet owners may not know all of the benefits of using products such as wipes, rinse-less shampoos, and sprays and conditioners, so make sure your staff can enlighten them. Train employees to ask questions and listen as actively as possible when customers are talking. Questions about how often to groom or bathe pets should open up a dialogue that may end with multiple sales of between bath products. Discussions of smelly pets—or the mention of how wonderful they smell just after grooming—should generate sales of between-bath sprays and wipes. Customer comments on tear stains or complaints of matter accrued in eye corners should inspire trips to the aisle where eye wipes are displayed. Ear wipes and dental wipes are easy sells, too. Sales staff should seize opportunities by helping customers select the right products to solve their problems.
Wipes and rinse-less shampoos work in the same way that baby wipes or any disposable moist towelettes do—by carrying dirt away and leaving a pleasant scent. Many people keep them in the car for potty accidents, mud, skunk sprays or other unexpected incidents away from home. While at home, they are invaluable for wiping muddy paws or cleaning off road salt. Owners of geriatric dogs with leaky bladders or of a female dog in heat will testify to the worth of these products.
Owners that bathe their pets at home in summer may need alternatives during colder months, and an all-over spray and wipe once a week may just fit the bill. If anyone in the house has allergies to the pet, weekly wipes or the use of a rinse-less shampoo will help reduce allergens tremendously. If it’s the dog that suffers from contact allergies, these products can alleviate those, as well, by removing dust, dander, pollen and saliva from the coat.
Most of these products work much like regular shampoo, in which surface acting agents, or surfactants, lift dirt that is carried away by soapsuds. Wipes and between-bath sprays contain lighter surfactants that remove dirt but leave little or no residue and a light fragrance. The wiping action during use of either wipes or the sprays removes the dirt.
According to Michelle Austin, director of marketing/purchasing for Ryan’s Pet Supplies, many sprays are dual or multiple purpose. Fresh and Clean’s popular scent now comes in a cologne/finishing spray formula, which also contains protein and lanolin to make it easier to brush the coat between baths. Tropiclean’s SPA colognes have ingredients to soothe or hydrate skin, as well as a UV protector. Sprays also often contain essential oils to both deodorize and condition coats.
“Pet grooming tends to follow trends in the human beauty industry,” says Austin. “In the past, scents like Giorgio and Polo sold well, but today’s trends are towards vanilla, citrus, cinnamon, lemon verbena, ginger and apple—fruity and spicy ranges of scents.”
Austin suggests that retailers ensure that consumers understand that keeping a pet clean can be a multi-step process, utilizing different between-bath products at different times as well as taking the pet to a professional groomer.
The Natural Choice
Many manufacturers are also offering green or all-natural options in this category. For many consumers, this is a tremendous plus. According to Diane True, manager at Worldly Pets, in Marblehead, Mass., her clients simply don’t like chemicals. Her customers often ask about the ingredients in the products they buy and tend to prefer the greener options. Worldly Pets offers Earthbath’s all-natural wipes and Natural Chemistry’s Waterless bath for both cats and dogs, which is a hypoallergenic cleaner that uses an effective enzyme-based solution that has no harsh detergents.
Still, as good as the products are, True says that, retailers will sell more if they engage customers about the value and benefits of the products they are selling. “Our customers like to buy as many all-natural products as possible; they are better for the environment and better for pets,” she says. “But organic or not, you can’t just point to the product—you have to talk to people about them. Point out that the dog is going to lick his feet, and if you don’t want chemicals on them from road salt, you certainly don’t want chemicals in the wipes you are using to remove the road salt.”
Worldly Pets sells a lot of between-bath products to cat owners in particular, she adds. “People don’t believe cats like water, so they are looking for these products,” says True.
So stock your shelves with wipes, sprays and rinse-less shampoos, and educate your staff on their many benefits. Then watch the dirty-dog dollars roll in, even if you don’t have a salon as part of your operation.
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.