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Salon Equipment Gets Groomed

When it comes to choosing cases, arms and tables, units designed to save time while keeping groomers and their clients safe edge ahead in popularity.


As the pet grooming profession grows in status and esteem in the eyes of the pet-owning public, product manufacturers are offering better and more sophisticated tools of the trade, grooming professionals report.

“Grooming equipment is becoming more sophisticated and task specific all the time, and part of this is due to our culture’s shifting attitude toward the profession,” said Carol Visser, a certified master groomer and pet dog trainer, and product expert at PetEdge, based in Beverly, Mass. “As the profession gains respect, the more specialized the tools become.”

One product area that has been getting considerable attention from professional groomers and manufacturers across the nation is grooming arms.

“Many groomers were experiencing problems, such as bent grooming arms caused by struggling with larger breeds,” said Tate Nettestad, marketing coordinator at Groomer’s Best Inc., based in Brandon, S.D. “The trend we are seeing now is the need for arms that support dogs of all sizes, whether this [means] having multiple locking locations on the arm or simply the strength needed to support larger breeds.”

A lot of groomers use a two-arm system with an overhead arm that comes down on either side of the table, said Julie Rust, a National Dog Groomers Association of America national certified master groomer and owner of The Fluffy Ruff Dog Spa in Bainbridge Island, Wash.

“It’s good for dogs that are super wiggly, and you can turn the dog around instead of walking around the table,” she said.

Connie Bailey, owner of The Pet Spa in Phoenix, added that longer grooming arms enable professionals to switch from small to large dogs quickly.

Electric and hydraulic tables are increasingly popular for groomers, as they allow professionals to groom at a comfortable height and reduce potential injuries from lifting wiggling animals up and down.

“Tables that go very low are best for big dogs so you don’t have to pick dogs up; they can step or jump on if it goes low enough,” Bailey said, adding that tables need to be easy to clean and have a slip-resistant top.

Equipment that operates smoothly and quietly also makes for a calmer environment and more relaxed pets, industry insiders added.

Groomers who make house calls or travel extensively for shows and other work said they need portable cases on wheels that are large enough to store and organize all their grooming tools.

“Something else we’re seeing among traveling groomers is a trend toward travel collections that allow groomers to pack their tools in separate ‘packing cubes,’ so that a collection of miscellaneous items is arranged by an organizational system that works,” Visser said. “Keeping valuable tools protected when grooming on the road or at shows is important to groomers, too.”

Another significant trend seen in professional grooming products is the addition of color, cute sayings and pictures. Groomers can choose from colored arms, tables with fun, practical toppers and decorated cases.

Overall, Visser said, “most groomers are looking for the best tools, tools with exceptional value, that meet their budget.”

Easy Does It

Kansas City, Kan.-based Shor-Line introduced its Big Top Grooming Table last year. It offers almost 6 inches of extra length to make large dogs more comfortable and reduce the risk of dogs slipping. The electric lift operates on either side of the unit and lifts up to 200 pounds from 20 inches to 41 inches, the manufacturer stated.

“We developed the Big Top Grooming Table in response to groomers who told us they were seeing more large animals,” said Holly Gibson, manager of marketing and innovation. “Safety is important to Shor-Line, so it is the only CSA/UL-listed grooming table. This means the unit needed to be verified to meet stringent standards for manufacturing this unit.”

The table comes in several bright colors—plum perfect, screamin’ green, burnt orange, electric pink, silver vein and Shor-Line blue—and features a long-lasting, powder-coated finish designed to stand up to cleaners.

ComfortGroom, based in Baldwin Park, Calif., recently launched the Rotating Z lift table, which rotates a full 360 degrees and locks in at eight different places. The tabletop features thick, waterproof high-density board with a nonskid, easy-to-clean textured pebble surface, rounded corners for safety and a hammer paint finish, the company stated.

Addressing the fact that so much of today’s business is handled through mobile devices, Phoenix-based Ryan’s Pet Supplies is developing a Paw Brothers Professional electric grooming table that will have a built-in USB port to charge phones and personal devices, an under-table shelf to set a phone and personal items, and under-table hooks for hanging clippers and nail grinders.

“Groomers want the convenience of having it nearby, charged and ready,” said Michelle Austin, director of marketing/purchasing for Ryan’s Pet Supplies. “Having a place to hang equipment will help prevent items from being knocked on the floor and broken. The table will also feature a handheld control that can be used from any place around the table, as opposed to a pedal system, which requires the groomer to walk around the table to where the pedal is.”

Also recognizing groomers’ desire for fun colors in their workspace, Ryan’s will introduce colored grooming arms.

“They don’t make the job any easier, but groomers are creative and color is fun,” Austin said.

Groomers can also expect new releases from Groomers Helper, based in Margate City, N.J. President Chuck Simons said that in response to requests for a way to use Groomers Helper in the bath, the company is developing a system that will retrofit existing tubs and will come standard in the company’s new tubs.

Investigate Before Purchasing

When it comes to purchasing equipment for mobile and storefront grooming businesses, industry insiders agreed that education is imperative.

“Groomers need to do their due diligence when it comes to purchasing a grooming table,” said Chuck Simons, president of Groomers Helper, based in Margate City, N.J. “If they purchase the wrong one, they will pay for it every day.”

Carol Visser, a certified master groomer and pet dog trainer, and product expert at PetEdge, based in Beverly, Mass., agreed, adding that consumer education allows groomers to make informed buying decisions to get the right tools or equipment to meet their needs. For example, mobile groomers must consider how a purchase will fit their limited space, she said.

Grooming tables represent a significant investment, so Michelle Austin, director of marketing/purchasing at Ryan’s Pet Supplies, based in Phoenix, emphasized how important it is that groomers understand what they are getting for the money.

“It’s important to understand the warranty, if replacement parts are available and the durability,” she said. “If you work with a lot of big dogs, you need to make sure to select a table that is rated for higher weights and is stable going up and down with significant weight.

 “Mobile groomers have limited space to work in, and electricity can be a challenge,” she added. “It is important for them to have a clear understanding of their units’ capacity and space before selecting equipment.”

Key methods of groomer education include trade magazines, manufacturer literature and websites, social media and shows.

Vanessa Bland, head groomer, co-owner and manager of Healthi Paws in Valparaiso, Ind., said groomers there read grooming magazines, service magazines online, and attend shows and conventions to educate themselves.

At The Pet Spa in Phoenix, owner Connie Bailey also uses shows and company literature to stay educated.

“There are many grooming shows all over the country, which are great venues to discuss tools, tables, tricks of the trade, etc.,” she said. “Many groomers do not attend and need another outlet such as bloggers, grooming sites, newsletters and grooming catalogs.”

Julie Rust, a National Dog Groomers Association of America national certified master groomer and owner of The Fluffy Ruff Dog Spa in Bainbridge Island, Wash., pointed to several Facebook groups that she frequents for groomer education and equipment recommendations.

“People are always asking about solving problems on these sites, and when looking at ordering a major purchase like a hydraulic table, I’ll ask about people’s preferences,” she said.

Ergonomic Necessities

Professional grooming is a physically demanding career, and an individual’s equipment choices can make or break their business—and their back. The industry has taken notice, and innovative ergonomic solutions keep groomers healthier for the long haul.

“In my early years of grooming, there were not any electric tables that I was aware of—only hydraulic,” said Connie Bailey, owner of The Pet Spa in Phoenix. “Thanks to groomers’ understanding what they need to save their backs and time—and time is money—industry manufacturers came up with the electric tables. [And] they continue to improve with input from groomers.”

Holly Gibson, manager of marketing and innovation at Shor-Line in Kansas City, Kan., reported that more people want grooming services, which is great for groomers, but cautioned that larger volumes also demand more work.

“Professional groomers combine both superior artistry and technical grooming skill to help dogs keep their coats not only good looking, but also healthy,” she said. “It takes a physical toll on groomers’ hands, wrists, back, shoulders and elbows. When the table takes on some of the burden, then the groomer can be the artist and pamper the pet.”

Hydraulic and electric lift tables are designed to quietly raise pets to comfortable heights for groomers to work, and grooming arms enable professionals to choose the best position for each client, she added.

“An electric table is now the standard, which is a big asset in preventing work injuries,” said Michelle Austin, director of marketing/purchasing at Ryan’s Pet Supplies, based in Phoenix. “Grooming is physically demanding, and any time a piece of equipment can increase work safety or reduce repetitive movement, that is a plus.”

Other advances have included tables with wheels and casters to enable easy movement around the grooming salon, as well as products that lower enough for large dogs to step on and off instead of needing to be lifted.

“The science of ergonomics provides information to help both professionals and casual enthusiasts brush and groom dogs efficiently to help minimize the physical stress on the groomer,” Gibson said. “By training yourself to lift, bend and change grooming positions in certain ways, you can help protect your body. Just minimizing torso twisting with good positioning can protect your back.”

She added that even the little things such as rounded edges and easy-grip surfaces on tables make grooming easier for the professional and more enjoyable for pets.

“Square tables get the job done, but groomers kept telling us they would be bruised at the end of long days,” she said. “The rounded corners are more forgiving.”

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