Posted: June 28, 2012, 7:15 p.m. EDT
Go Spa for Profits
Traditional groom shops increasingly add extra services to improve business and build revenues.
By Cecily Koplin
In the growing pet grooming market, traditional shops may find that they must change the way in which they do business.
Not long ago, all a groomer needed was a basic tub, table, some grooming tools and a bottle of dish soap. Today, pet owners are more aware and no longer just drop their pets off at volume grooming shops. They would rather pay a little extra to ensure their pet is pampered with quality services and products. Gladys Tay, co-owner of Bubbles & Ecouture in West St. Paul, Minn., said her salon added four different spa services to enhance business.
What can groomers do to compete in today’s market? They can begin by analyzing what spa services and products may work for their specific areas by surveying their client base. A groomer would not add a hydro pool or an expensive water treadmill to a 1,000-square-foot shop in a small town, but could add massage, spa treatments and specialty shampoos.
Adding Spa Products
Including spa products and services can be as simple as introducing treatments such as a facial scrub. The biggest add-on spa service is the facial.
Updating equipment and adding spa-related services can revitalize profits and help shop owners reinvent their businesses.
“Because eye tearing is such a common issue with dogs, owners are always on a lookout to help the dogs prevent the browning around the eyes, which is why Purifying Anti Staining Facial Scrub is always in demand,” Tay said.
Facial scrubs are available through many different manufacturers. When massaged in properly, the dogs experience a nice aromatherapy treatment. Also, the scrub brightens fur and leaves a fresh face for owners. Many grooming salons and spas have added this service as a regular part of every groom. For customers it adds value, and for the salon owner it can validate a needed pricing increase.
“We helped the Pet Spa Movement evolve by creating the first dog and cat facial product: South Bark’s Blueberry facial,” said Katy Perry, assistant manager of operations and merchandising at South Bark Dog Wash in San Diego.
It is possible to add too much, however. While customers love to have a broad spectrum of new products and services to choose from, sometimes shops learn that sometimes offering too many items confuses the customer.
“The Pet Spa business has grown tremendously, opening up a wide selection of products to consumers,” Perry said. “We find it best to keep things simple.”
Demand has to come into the picture when deciding what to offer, as well.
“Natural nail polish hasn’t really been a hit,” Tay said. “I guess it is because we have more long hair dogs compare to short hair dogs, and if their hair is covering their nails, there really isn’t a reason for owners, in this economy, to spend the extra dollar on nail polish service when they can’t see their dog’s pretty nails.”
Planning and Resources
No matter how small a groom shop is, owners can easily convert their business into a spa environment with a modest investment. Groomers can start by doing an evaluation of what they already have, then step back to look at the shop from the customer’s perspective. From street side to reception, they should pay close attention to sight, sound and, most important, smell.
The conversion of a groom shop to spa is a process that will take careful planning. Shop owners need to be creative, resourceful, organized, and above all do their research. The process should include starting a binder with a calendar to compile all of the relevant data into sections, such as services, products, equipment, shop remodeling, employee training, and policies and procedures. Reading trade magazines for the up-to-date product information and introductions is another a good idea. There are also great surveys available for pet groomers on pricing by breed, service and region.
Attending grooming trade shows to observe the new equipment, tools and products is also recommended. Buying at a trade show is a great idea, but groomers should check reviews of all major items as well as research the company for its after-sale service.
Timing for Success
As an existing business, a shop will not be able to close down for an extended period of time. This should not be a problem with proper scheduling, and shop owners can perform many improvements over time. Analyzing the appointment history will provide plan structure (for example, adding major improvements after holidays). Groomers can schedule tasks, such as painting, for an off day, or a few days in a row on a slow week.
It’s important for owners to get a handle on shop odors. The best way to do so is by introducing aromatherapy. Groomers will need to begin with a fresh shop sans any pet or harsh cleaning product odors. Keeping a supply of cleaning products for pet accidents in the reception area is also recommended.
The entire salon should appear unblemished with a clean floor and corners. Walls should have a color instead of being stark white. Grooming a white dog next to a white wall is maddening and makes groomers go “snow blind.” A fresh coat of a pleasant paint shade will transform any shop. Lighting should not only brighten the shop, but also help groomers to see the definition in the coat they are working on.
In some small shops, the sound of loud dryers is a problem. The addition of a heavy screen will not only muffle the sound, but also help with room division.
Massage is a great add-on. Reiki and T-touch are among some of the popular massage types. Groomers can invest in canine massage tapes or hire a certified trainer to instruct your staff. Before I opened my salon, I had a T-touch instructor work with my entire staff, as well as a Pet CPR trainer.
When thinking about advertising the new massage services, groomers must be aware of their state’s laws concerning pet massage. Many states allow pet massage, but must not use the term “massage therapy” or refer to giving treatment.
To help validate the salon staff’s capabilities, the reception area should proudly display the employees’ certifications, awards, as well as participation certificates.
Replace Old Equipment
The evaluation of a shop will give owners the best sense of which items to replace first. The purchase of cage banks, tubs and tables will be the biggest ticket items. Electric tables are expensive, but groomers may find some gently used ones on the Internet. Hydraulic tables should have a pin to keep them in place to avoid slowly sinking dogs.
Investing in locking casters for all of the tables in the shop allow groomers to easily move the tables for cleaning and raise large dogs to walk in and out of a tub.
The investment in a stainless-steel tub is definitely worthwhile. If an owner ever plans to relocate, the tub can move, whereas, an added or upgraded built-in tub is permanent. If a shop plans to add a bathing system, it should never replace the one-on-one with the dog.
With change brings the opportunity for a name modification. Adding “Salon & Spa” to the end of the existing name—or changing to a completely different one—provides the opportunity to advertise a grand opening.
It will be important to train the staff on the new services, treatments and company procedures before a grand opening. The shop owner and staff should have the routine down to a science using existing customers before a name change or reimagining is complete.
Cecily Koplin joined Animal Behavior College in 2009 to assist in the development of its Grooming Program. She owned of A Dog’s Life Grooming Salon & Spa, where she created and specialized in Gentle Touch Grooming techniques, and is a published writer, a script doctor, and was in the computer industry.
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