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Professional Grooming Marketplace: Tidy Pet Grooming Shops Attract Business

Posted: Aug. 6, 2012, 6:00 p.m. EDT


Keeping a grooming operation clean is no small task, but it can both improve working conditions and build revenues.
By Eileen Moon

While the rewards are many, there’s no question that operating a grooming salon can be dirty work. It’s a challenge to maintain a clean and tidy environment while the fur flies, but it’s a critical part of growing a healthy business.

Presentation Matters
No matter how talented the stylist, if a grooming salon doesn’t look and smell clean, clients will take their pets elsewhere—and there’s a lot of business to lose or win, groomers reported.

Americans will spend $4.11 billion on pet services such as grooming and boarding this year, continuing a trend in pet spending that totaled $3.79 billion in sales during 2011, according to the 2011-2012 APPA National Pet Owners Survey.

If consumers are willing to spend more money on their pets, they are also more inclined to expect a level of service that reflects their investment.

“These are their kids,” said Zack Grey, owner of Moonshine Pet Grooming Salon and Urban Dog Playcare Center in Los Angeles.

Cleaning the groom shop
Cleaning on the go helps ensure a salon stays neat and presentable. Ethan Mizer/BowTie Inc. at Scrubby Puppy
For his clients, dropping the family dog off at a dirty grooming salon would be like “dropping your kid off at a dirty daycare center,” he said.

Many retailers reported having clients who will drive miles out of their way to take pets to a groomer they trust. And maintaining a spotless environment is critical to earning that trust.

“We clean every morning and every night,” noted Patrick Clancy, owner of Sparky’s Pet Grooming Salon in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, Calif.

Like many groomers, Clancy relies on a variety of products to keep his salons looking their best.

“We use Pledge, Pine-Sol, nothing that’s unique,” he said. “There’s no magic involved. Just hard work. We clean every morning and every night. We wipe down all the surfaces and mop the floors.”

Technical Options
Equipment can expedite the cleaning routine. Clancy installed air purification systems in his salons to control dog hair, pet dander, dust and other airborne allergens. He opted for Fresh by Eco Quest, noting that it kills airborne bacteria, keeps dogs from getting sick and keeps hair from sticking to the walls and ceiling and everyone because it ionizes everything.

“The hazards of poor air quality have come to light in the last few years,” said Robert Mayr, co-owner of Modern Alchemy Air Purifiers in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Modern Alchemy sells air purification systems to businesses and institutions throughout North America, and the pet care industry is an emerging part of its market, Mayr said. For the pet care market, he recommended the Austin Air Pet Machine and AllerAire 5000 Exced UV, which use HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters and activated carbon to clean the air. The AllerAire also features ultraviolet light to control airborne pathogens, he reported.

However, the high tech investment may not be for everyone. Proper salon ventilation and vigorous attention to detail can eliminate any problems that arise from pet smells and flying fur.

“A salon won’t smell if it is kept clean,” said Julie Pilas, owner of Elephant Nose Pet Center in Morristown, N.J.

Pilas said she starts each day by cleaning the sidewalks outside of her salon so that clients aren’t tracking in dirt and leaves.

“I actually keep a leaf blower in the front of the store,” she said, noting it’s part of a routine that continues virtually around the clock.

“It’s always time to clean in a pet store,” Pilas added.

Accidents Happen
To handle the inevitable accidents that occur when pets are involved, Pilas relies on Nature’s Miracle and Oxipower Stain and Odor Remover to sanitize surfaces and eliminate odors. Also, the floors are thoroughly cleaned with a bleach solution every night, she added.

“Clients expect a salon to be clean and tidy,” said Tracy Spoke, owner of Green Dog Grooming in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, adding that she tries to avoid using heavy industrial cleaners.

“I use vinegar to wash cages and surfaces and Bio Spectra Attitude, a plant-based disinfectant, when animals have an accident or there is a chance that a dog is ill,” she added.

To clean scissors, combs and other grooming tools, Spoke uses tea tree oil. Even though the products she uses are mild and non-toxic, they work well in her salon.

Sanitation Needs
As important as it is to keep floors, grooming tubs, cages, tables and all other surfaces sanitary and free of clutter, grooming tools need special attention, too.

“The big thing is clipper cleaning,” said Chris Pawlosky, national training manager for the pet division of Oster Professional Products Company, McMinnville, Tenn.

Dogs can spend a lot of time in contact with clippers and combs, and it’s important to sanitize equipment to prevent not only healthy dogs from acquiring an infection, but also older dogs or those with compromised immune systems, she said.

After disinfection, clippers need to lay out for ten minutes before used on another dog, Pawlosky added. She uses Barbicide to sterilize hemostats and relies on Oster Spray Disinfectant to clean her clippers.

“I just tilt the clipper at an angle and flush them out,” she said, and noted that while it may be difficult to repeat that procedure after every grooming session, “You’ve got to really develop a habit.”

Chopping Through the Hair
One issue all grooming salons face daily is how to handle the avalanche of pet hair that comes with the territory. Many retailers swore by the humble Shop-Vac, saying that its capacity and dependability are hard to beat.

Grey of Moonshine Pet Grooming purchased his Shop-Vacs from a local Home Depot and with a total investment of about $300, he ran hose lines from the vacuums in his washing machine area overhead to his grooming tables so that groomers could vacuum without leaving their stations.

“You’ve got to make it very user-friendly,” he said. “That was one of my favorite additions to the salon.”

Grey also has a formal checklist of opening and closing procedures that employees must follow, which includes cleaning their stations, washing, drying and folding towels, and other routine chores. Like Grey, successful grooming salon owners know that hard work is the only true guarantee of a clean salon.

Lenore Tirgrath, owner of Lenore’s K9 Clippery in Belleville, N.J., begins and ends her day with a thorough scrubdown of floors and surfaces. She uses bleach in her front room but relies on Top Performance 256, a disinfectant made for grooming shops, to clean the floors and cages in the grooming area.

“The work of keeping up a grooming shop is probably more than the grooming itself,” Tirgrath said.

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