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Ergonomics Aid Success

Posted: March 17, 2011, 1:50 p.m., EDT

Groomers report a trend toward ergonomic and feature-heavy tables and restraints.

By Sandy Robins

Current trends in essential pet grooming equipment focus significantly on the functionality and ergonomic design of equipment to ensure that groomers are comfortable in the workplace and thus able to do their job to the best of their ability. Retailers reported that a big step toward accommodating this trend involves keeping up with innovations in grooming tables and pet restraints.

“It’s all about pandering to the most important tool in any groom store--the groomer!” said Dale VanPamelen, co-owner with Naresh Jassani of the New York Dog Spa and Hotel, which has grooming salons in both its Manhattan locations. “It’s about ensuring that they are comfortable in their work environment and have the best equipment in order to do their job well.”

VanPamelen’s   West 35th street facility was recently in the spotlight when it was featured in an episode of Donald Trump’s reality show The Apprentice.

VanPamelen said he was happy to showcase the grooming area on the show because, “it’s important for our clients to know that their beloved pets are being given the best treatment in a state-of-the-art facility.

“People that send their pets to us to be groomed expect them to receive the same grooming and beauty treatments that they themselves experience in a human beauty salon,” he added. “For our stylists to do their job, it’s important to have state-of-the-art equipment, from cushioned mats to stand on to stainless steel grooming tables with lifts.”

Groomer Apparel

Manufacturers of groomer’s apparel are introducing fun prints and colors into their range of clothing as well as plastic aprons to allow staff to look fashionable and, where possible, also be color-coordinated with the interior décor of the salon.

“Our establishment colors are purple and gold and our groomers dress according,” said Darrell Bivens of The Pet Palace in Houston, TX.

Stylists at both Pussy and Pooch locations in California are allowed to wear whatever they like clothes-wise as long as it conforms to the color palette of the store, which is black, white, charcoal and green.

PetEdge Dealer Services regularly introduces new colors and prints to their range of traditionally styled smocks and pantsuits. According to Dominici pink, blue and black are current popular colors.

“Groomers who are stylishly dressed give a better impression and ultimately can charge more for the services,” said Chuck Palm.

Manufacturers are catching on to the trend for new table and restraint features, but are also moving to make their product lines more durable. Margaret DiRubba, divisional manager for Ascot Products based in Brewster, N.Y., said her company’s latest range of products focuses on stability and durability.

“Good grooming equipment is a financial investment,” she said. “Thus, groomers want to buy peace of mind, knowing that the equipment they are investing in is durable. Practical features such as chip-resistant surfaces and non-corrosive materials are essential. The latter is particularly important because not every grooming salon has a separate grooming area. Often the grooming table is close proximity to the bathing and blow dry areas.”

One of the company’s latest innovations is the LowBoy grooming table with an electric scissors lift. A special bellows cover made from a hardwearing vinyl covers and protects the table mechanism.

“Apart from adding to the table’s durability, covering the mechanism is also a safety factor,” DiRubba added.

The company is also focusing on adding to its range of electric tables.

“They are much easier on the groomer,” DiRubba said. “They save time and also the groomer doesn’t physically have to pump a hydraulic system.”

Other electric-lift items, such as bathtubs, are appearing in the market, as well, highlighting the trend toward ergonomic design. Shelly Liestman, owner of Scooby Doo’s Pet Grooming Salon in Elk River, Minn., said she has installed an electric lift operated bathtub in her salon to save wear and tear on her back.

 “It’s wonderful not having to lift larger dogs into the tub,” she said. “It’s made from fiberglass with a non-skid pad on the bottom, which allows the dogs to feel comfortable when being bathed.”

According to Chuck Simons, owner of The Groomer’s Helper, a manufacturing and distribution company headquartered in Margate City, N.J., while it’s important to cater to the groomer, it’s equally important to ensure the safety and comfort of the pet client.

Simons invented of The Groomers Helper, a system of grooming loops and table clamps that allow groomers to “cross tie” the pet’s head, he said. The system also incorporates a bar that goes beneath the pet’s stomach area, restricting movement on the table.

“A pet needs to be calm and comfortable on the table so that the stylist can do a good job,” Simons added. “This equipment fits on to any grooming table out there.”

Several groomers reported that if pets are comfortable, it helps the groomers stay comfortable themselves. But ergonomic tables and restraints aren’t the only items that help maximize groomer serenity. Apparel can be just as important to groomers.

PetEdge Dealer Services, headquartered in Beverly Mass., holds regular focus groups working with groomers from both large grooming chains and small independent stores in order to ascertain exactly what groomers want in terms of their equipment and apparel.

“We’ve learned that they don’t want drab colors and, further, they want to be able to color co-ordinate their equipment and apparel to get a stylish salon look,” said Phil Dominici, vice president of marketing strategy for the company.

In line with this color coordination trend, the company has introduced a range of tubs with entry doors and ramps in ivory, blue and pink.

“They have been available in Europe for some time,” he said. “Our graffiti-patterned apparel is also available in pink and blue to create a comprehensive look.”

The new tubs, called the Polypro Tub range, also have a grooming arm that holds three loops and a shampoo holder.

Another company that interacts with groomers on a regular basis is Shor-line based in Kansas City, Kan.

“We take groomers’ requests for products that address their safety, comfort and efficiency very seriously,” said Bethany Hoppenthaler, the company’s marketing and brand manager.

Shor-line’s new Versa shower uses its STAMP system that allows entry steps into the unit to collapse to form a ramp.

“The STAMP system conveniently folds away under the shower for storage while not in use without the groomer having to bend down and do it by hand.”

Chuck Palm, president of Midwest Grooming, a distribution company based in Lake Barrington Ill., said that grooming storeowners are paying more attention to providing their staff with ergonomically designed equipment than ever before.

“Investing in good state-of-the-art equipment is a way of actually extending the working life of the groomer,” he said. “Without equipment that ‘assists’ them with the job, they can develop serious health issues.”

Wendy Weinand, national grooming operations specialist for Petco Pet Services, headquartered in San Diego, Calif agreed.

“The life of a pet stylist can be very short without the proper equipment and tools,” she said. “We are always looking for ways and reaching out to our stylists to make sure that the equipment and tools we supply are working to their advantage. Fatigue-reducing mats are a grooming essential, as they alleviate stress on the lower back experienced by someone standing on their feet all day. We have a monthly meeting to go over industry standards and changes and are continually updating our equipment.”

The two Pussy and Pooch boutique locations, situated in Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., both have grooming facilities known as “bath houses,” said owners Janene Zakrajsek and her husband Rob Gaudio. Initially, they were self-service salons designed for the public to groom pets themselves.

“When we decided to employ in-house groomers, we brought in different equipment catering to the needs of full-time professionals,” Zakrajsek said.

“Somebody grooming all day has very different needs to the pet lover who comes in once a month. We bought the best that we could afford and now have tables with an electric lift for big dogs and one with an hydraulic lift for smaller pets in each location.”

All the new ideas and innovations in grooming equipment along with the idea of referring to groomers as “pet stylists” endorses the trend that the pet grooming experience mimics human beauty salons in both atmosphere and service.

“Caring pet parents expect this,” remarked Darrell Bivens, owner of the Pet Palace pet hotel and grooming salon in Houston. TX.  “Interaction between the pet parent and pet stylist is becoming the norm, that’s why it’s so important for them to dress professionally too.”

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