Sales of pet grooming products like brushes, combs and conditioner have outpaced pre-pandemic rates by 27.4%, far ahead of the 3.2% growth of the total pet care category, according to market researcher Nielsen. The American Pet Products Association recently found that 11 million U.S. households have expanded their family by four paws since March, sparking sales across all pet product categories as families adjust to training, feeding, entertaining, and caring for their furry friends.
In-store pet grooming has also grown, with groom rooms at Pet Supplies Plus posting a 24% lift in transactions from 2019. The self-wash pet bathtubs at Wag’n Wash in Cherry Hill are as busy as they can be these days, at 50% capacity; and franchise inquiries for Dogtopia, a national pet daycare, boarding, and spa brand with a location in Union, have soared during the pandemic. The brand awarded 25 new licenses over the summer alone.
Sales of products for do-it-yourselfers haven’t so much risen as soared. Pet Supplies Plus Grooming Products Category Manager Anne Kline-LaRochelle told NJBIZ that grooming product sales peaked in April at 63% year over year, and that clipper kits and scissors were the 2020 MVP as sales of those items jumped 175% compared to last year.
Mary Phillips at Pets Pets Pets in Califon credits the uptick in business to many groomers being closed earlier in the pandemic.
“Even though the laws in New Jersey didn’t require it, it was easily misinterpreted. Many of the groomers I know shut down for six weeks, and after that many stayed shut because they were concerned with transmission. Without any recourse, pet owners had to resort to doing their own grooming,” Phillips said.
Many of her mobile groomer customers are back on the road, but she does see some continued increase in purchases of things like nail trimmers and shampoo compared to pre-pandemic. Her dog trainer customers also continue to record upticks in one-on-one training businesses as group classes, including the ones at Pets Pets Pets, remain on hold, and as dog parents are confronted more often with mischief as they work from home.
At-home pet care didn’t come without challenges, explained Michelle Wildman, director of differentiated services at Pet Supplies Plus, suggesting that sometimes, the job is better left to the professional.
“As pet owners across the nation took on the challenge to solely care for their pets at home, they found that basic pet-grooming tasks, such as trimming nails and keeping coats free of mats was very difficult. Most pet owners were concerned that they would injure their pets or jeopardize their comfort,” said Wildman. “We had many of our [customers] apologize for the way that their pets looked after they tried to use household scissors to trim their pets themselves while in state-mandated stay-at-home orders.
“Our pet parents were very vocal in that many wanted pet grooming to be considered essential, as they knew that their pet’s skin/coat and overall well-being is improved by regularly grooming. This is especially crucial for the pets that have severe skin issues and require a professional, medicated bath regularly in order to counteract discomfort and symptoms associated with such conditions,” Wildman said.
It’s also important for doodle types—labradoodles, goldendoodles, other poodle mixed-breeds—which according to Phillips tend to develop pin mats, tiny mats at the base of their hair that, if not addressed, cause severe discomfort and fungal infections.
“Those puppies need to start being groomed at one month old. I have some very good owners who have tried to groom their puppies and missed pin mats,” Phillips said.
Laura Leder at Wag’nWash noted that not only is grooming important for a dog’s health—the mats that Phillips mentioned, she said, can at times get so tight to the skin they cause hematomas—but professional groomers catch medical issues that do-it-yourself owners might not catch, just because they’re exposed to dogs all day and get to know their nooks and crannies.
“[Groomers] might find a bump you didn’t see, or catch a growth between the dog’s toes,” Leder said. “It’s crucial to let people know how important [grooming] is.”
The retail category still has much room for growth, Nielsen found, and easily room for both in-store and DIY pet care offerings. More than 106 million U.S. households own a cat or dog, according to APPA, and Nielsen Homescan data show that only 12.3 million households purchased pet grooming products in the year that ended Oct. 31, 2020.
“To drive increased adoption, brands need to educate consumers on the importance of personal pet care with comprehensive deliverables that inform shoppers on how to maintain their pet’s health,” Nielsen reported in a December article titled Shoppers Reprioritized Sense of Self Care Leads to a Rise in DIY Pet Grooming. “By offering pet-friendly products that make clear connections between consumers’ reprioritized sense of self-care and pet personal care, brands and retailers will be able to tap into the large segment of households that have yet to purchase within the pet grooming category.”
“We had many of our [customers] apologize for the way that their pets looked after they tried to use household scissors to trim their pets themselves while in statemandated stay-at-home orders.” – Michelle Wildman