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Professional Grooming Marketplace: The Importance of Finishing Touches

Posted: July 11, 2012, 4:00 p.m. EDT


Adding bows, ties and accessories after grooming has become a serious marketing consideration and necessity.
By Kathleen M. Mangan

The aesthetic finishing touches to dog grooming—hair bows, neck bows, bandanas and spray cologne—are important to customer satisfaction, repeat business, image, marketing, and more, according to veteran groomers and others in the industry.

“Clients expect perfume, bows and bandanas; groomers have no choice but to supply them,” said Shaffia Galis-Menendez, owner of Best of Breed Pet Grooming in Belleville, N.J. “They are like the final stamp showing that a dog has been professionally groomed.”
 

Groomed dog with bandana
Customers generally expect to see these flourishes and finishing touches, and seem to equate them with professionalism on the groomer’s part, industry participants reported. Though they may not comment on it when groomers include a bow or extra accent to the job, they tend to notice if such items are not included.

“A bandana equals a finished, groomed dog,” said B.C. Henschen, co-owner of Platinum Paws in Carmel, Ind. “Customers may not comment on it, but if you leave it off they will.”

To Bow or Not to Bow?
Meeting expectations is important in a competitive field such as pet grooming. Consistency is the key to a service business, said Karla Addington-Smith, owner of A Fortunate Dog Spa in Maineville, Ohio.

“When a customer has a good experience, they want it over and over,” she said. “If you change your offering, it plants a seed of doubt. I keep the finishing touches as part of my standard package because you never know what will disappoint a customer.”

However, it is for exactly this reason that Andrew Kim, co-owner of Healthy Spot with three salons in Southern California, does not incorporate finishing touches in the shops’ regular grooming package.

“If we started doing it for every dog, it would set an expectation, and we’d have to continue it,” he stated. “Instead, we do it as a surprise for new clients or those we haven’t seen in a while as a way of thanking them for patronizing our business.”

Finishing Benefits
There is a middle ground for those who don’t wish to always add flourishes, but who also don’t want to discontinue the practice entirely. Kim said sometimes his groomers surprise customers with a seasonal gift bow.

“It has a positive effect on customer retention and growth,” he added.

Groomers working for Kim incorporate add-ons into holiday spa packages, such as themed shampoo, conditioner, spritzer and green bows or bandanas on St. Patrick’s Day, for example.

“We use finishing touches as a marketing tool to generate repeat business,” he stated, adding that he has just opened a third salon in Marina del Rey.

Manufacturers frequently offer groomers incentives to use add-on products and, in some cases, they incorporate finishing touches as occasional marketing opportunities. Tropiclean offers a Scent of the Month Program, turning its diverse product offering into a marketing platform. Each month, enrolled salons get an automatic shipment of 2 gallons of scented shampoo at a discounted price, one free spritz, coordinating display signage for the salon and free shipping, according to the company.

The Tropiclean monthly specials are popular and add excitement to the groom shop’s offering, Best of Breed Pet Grooming’s Galis-Menendez noted. Scents are themed for the season, such as Pooch Paradise, a summer pineapple fragrance, and Teacher’s Pet, an apple scent for August.

A nice bow or neck tie not only enhances the look of the dog, but it has the added benefit of hiding any imperfections of the groom, said Edgar Correa, owner of International Pet Stop in North Miami, Fla.

“About 90 percent of people know what a pretty bow looks like, but only 10 percent know what a well-groomed dog looks like,” he said. “So a bow will enhance the groom for 90 percent of clients and the other 10 percent don’t need a bow to appreciate the job.”

Plus, dogs react positively when complimented, and that makes the customer happy, Correa added. So a nice bow on a dog often leads to bigger tips, he said.

Details Included
Most groomers who use finishing touches reported incorporating the expense into the price of the groom.

“Never charge extra; nickle-and-diming clients doesn’t make sense,” Platinum Paws’ Henschen said. “If you’re worried about the cost of a bandana, most likely you aren’t charging enough for your grooming.”

Groomers have to know their client base, as well, he said. Choosing the criteria by which certain dogs are given bows or bandanas varied by groom shop. At Platinum Paws, almost all dogs (but not puppies) get a bandana or bows, plus finishing cologne unless customers request otherwise, Henschen stated.

However, other shops add different touches. Addington-Smith, of A Fortunate Dog Spa, said almost all dogs at her shop get a bandana, while some get bows and a spritz of fragrance at the rump.

Many reported going on a client-by-client basis. Galis-Menendez said all dogs leaving her salon get perfume and 90 percent get a bow; male and shorthair dogs get their bow on their collar.

It’s a good idea to ask permission to add the finishing touches to meet customer preferences, Henschen said. His groomers ask new clients to fill out a form granting permission to apply pet cologne, a bandana or bow to their dog. It serves as a release of liability, and as a talking point for the groomer to discuss the specifics of the haircut and fragrance options, he said.

Scent Strategy
Salons have different approaches when it comes to scents. Platinum Paws has about 40 fragrances on offer from a variety of companies to keep the grooming experience fresh, while Healthy Spot focuses on one scent from Isle of Dog, its primary salon partner.

“Customers associate that smell with the dog spa,” Healthy Spot’s Kim said. “It’s like scent branding for your salon.”

For many salons, natural scents are becoming the preferred aromas of choice. They’re no longer a trend, but industry standard, reported Chris Guzman, co-owner of Aroma Paws, based in Tarzana, Calif.

“The essential oils smell natural instead of perfumy, and condition the coat to make it soft and huggable,” she said.

Guzman’s company launched five years ago with all-natural, human-grade shampoo, conditioners, sprays and other products incorporating essential oils to create eight fragrances that are also formulated to offer solutions. The lavender-chamomile is a calming, anti-itch formula, while honeysuckle-jasmine is for dry skin and dandruff, for example.

Bangor, Maine-based Mutt Nose Best, maker of a handcrafted, natural line of sprays, shampoos and conditioners under the same name, launched last fall with a similar philosophy. The line features eight scents made of essential oils that enhance skin and coat health, conditioning while deodorizing, said co-owner Jenny Dwyer. All products incorporate wild blueberry seed oil with antioxidants and fatty acids, she added.

Bows and Bandanas
Groomers can add a personal touch to their work with the variety of bows available. Fore example, International Pet Stop offers nearly 300 different hair bows, neck bows, neck ties, top knots with jewels, dimensional flowers and butterfly bows in a host of patterns and colors, according to the company. They’re handmade in Brazil as part of a cottage industry network.
 
When Shirley Berns couldn’t find cute accessories for her short-haired English bulldog, she started designing Gerber daisies, crystal roses, ribbon bursts and other decorations for the collar, easily attached with Velcro (patent pending). Her company, Texas-based Squishy Pet Products, launched in October and was quickly booking orders, she said. The company offers 62 varieties, all made in the U.S.; many are large size so they can be seen on long-coated and large dogs, she added.

For many groomers, stocking bandanas is as simple as buying fabric and cutting it to size with pinking shears. But the cost can still add up.

“I spend $150 to $200 a month on fabric,” A Fortunate Dog Spa’s Addington-Smith said.

This method isn’t universally used, and some owners go the other route, using custom or pre-manufactured bandanas. Henschen has his company’s bandanas custom-made with sewn edges for more longevity, he said, adding that he orders a variety of patterns in each size for every season to ensure dogs in multi-dog households don’t get the same design.
 
For most salons and mobile units, clients are regular, repeat customers, and become extended family, Galis-Menendez said.

“The little things really are special and important,” she added.

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