With luxury items like a $610 Moncler puffer or $205 Ralph Lauren cashmere sweater available for dogs, it was only a matter of time before beauty brands joined in on the booming pet market.
On Tuesday, luxury hair-care brand Ouai launched its $32 Fur Bébé pet shampoo to coincide with National Puppy Day. The brand originally debuted a limited-edition run of the product in 2018, but now the shampoo for dogs and cats is part of the brand’s permanent collection. It will be sold on Sephora’s and Ulta’s websites, on Ouai.com, and through other retail partners including Nordstrom, Amazon and Urban Outfitters. According to Ouai executives, the timing is right as more millennials are becoming doting pet parents with pandemic adoptions skyrocketing.
“Especially in the last year, so many people have adopted or gotten pets. A lot of people are working from home,” said Hannah Beals, vp of brand marketing at Ouai. “When it comes to people’s pets, they really are like members of the family and people do splurge.”
The new product boasts properties that are beneficial to fur or skin health, such as aloe vera, rambutan seed extract and hydrolyzed vegetable protein. It also features the same scent as Ouai’s regular hair products.
According to Mintel, revenue for pet-care products and services in 2020 was over $100 billion. A survey by TD Ameritrade found that 50% of millennials have considered adopting a pet since the start of the pandemic.
“We have seen more people interested in adoption,” said Los Angeles pet shelter Wags and Walks founder Lesley Brog, who noted that “there is definitely an increased interest in people wanting a companion” during the pandemic. Ouai founder Jen Atkin adopted her dogs Chewy and Roo from Wags and Walks, and is promoting the product on her social channels with them after they posed for a photo shoot for the product along with other Ouai employees’ pets.
Animal pics are a tried-and-true path to high social media engagement, and are Ouai’s “best performing content,” said Beals. That “played a part in the decision making to do a pet SKU,” she said. To promote the shampoo, the brand is sending out packages to the pets of influencers such as beauty influencer Lynn-Kate’s cat Rockefeller. It is also gifting prominent petfluencers such as Bear (@goodboybear), a medium English cream goldendoodle with 113,000 followers on Instagram, and Taco (@adventures.of.taco), a maltipoo with 42,000 followers.
Ouai is encouraging shoppers to pamper not just purebreds, but also adopted pets. It is making a donation to Wags and Walks for the launch, and promoting pets available for adoption on its Instagram. For the 2018 launch, it donated 15% of proceeds to Lisa Vanderpump’s dog rescue organization.
The shampoo for “fur babies” is hitting Sephora before any products for human babies, which may reflect the life priorities of the affluent millennials that shop there. Data from 2016 found that three-fourths of Americans in their 30s have dogs and 51% have cats. The U.S. birthrate, meanwhile, has been declining.
“Now, it just kind of feels like your pet goes with you everywhere, like a real-life baby would,” said Beals.
With expendable income to spend on pets rather than children, millennials have been driving growth for premium dog products. DTC dog fashion and pet lifestyle brand Maxbone, which is teaming up with Ouai for the launch with a special-edition dog toy, saw 300% year-over-year sales growth and 8,000 new customers in 2020. Its top customer spent over $9,000. Other premium beauty brands and retailers have embraced pet care, as well. Department stores such as Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus already stock premium pet shampoo by Kiehl’s and Aesop.
Mintel data from 2018 found that two out of five millennials would spend as much on presents for pets as they would for friends, and one-third of them wanted to buy matching outfits for them and their pet.
Ouai’s 2018 pet shampoo was sold exclusively on its site. It “sold out pretty instantly,” said Beals. “We’ve wanted to bring this back ever since we had it the first time. Ever since, people have never stopped asking for it.”