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Professional Grooming Marketplace: Tools of the Trade

Posted: March 7, 2013, 2:45 p.m. EST


Groomers want reliability and efficiency when it comes to combs, clippers, trimmers and other tools.
By Keith Loria

Americans spent more than $3 billion on pet grooming and other services in 2011 and were expected to spend more than $4 billion in 2012, according to the American Pet Product Association’s 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey. Given those figures, it’s vital that a groomer has the right tools to ensure “man’s best friend” becomes the envy of his neighborhood.

When it comes to what tools are in their toolboxes, many groomers stick to what’s tried and true, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t on the lookout for improved tools to get the job done quicker and more effectively.

“Groomers always want lighter, faster, more dependable products or tools of the trade that make their jobs easier,” said Rich Stuart, national sales manager for the professional animal division of Wahl Clipper Corp. in Sterling, Ill. “There’s always room for improvement, whether it’s corded or cordless technology, or cooler running blades. Anything to make the groomer’s experience more hassle-free and make their job easier.”

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
When designing new products, Ruthi Ashley, owner of Ashley Craig Pet Products in Corona, Calif., said she considers how she can help groomers save time and make more money. To that end, Ashley Craig created a section of stones and tools that allows for even the novice groomer to strip dogs.

Grooming tools include shears, clippers and combs.
Whether shears, brushes or nail grinders, groomers are looking for tools that are lightweight and effective.
“Whilst hand stripping is what is expected, whether you are an old hand or new, the metal stones and tock stones we offer will enable you to strip a dog in about 30 minutes, so long gone are the days where you have to spend two-plus hours on a dog,” she said. “A 30-minute session—you would not be embarrassed to ask $50. But to ask $125 to $150? It’s not something people want to pay for on a regular basis. By now offering stripping, you can offer another service to your customers.”

For dogs that shed, Andis developed a deshedding tool designed to reduce hair and remove tangles to prevent matting.

“This tool also helps spread natural oils, resulting in a glossy, healthy-looking coat,” said Cheri Grabowski, marketing product manager for the Sturtevant, Wis.-based company.

Groomers can sell the tool, too, she said, thus giving them the opportunity to teach their customers how to properly de-shed between grooming visits.

Another de-shedding tool, the Furminator, is used at Best Friends Pet Care, a national chain of 41 pet care centers offering grooming services. Val Penstone, Best Friends’ national director of grooming, said the Furminator enabled the company to add a trademarked “Shedicure” offering, which was one of the most popular services with its customers in 2012.

The Furminator also is popular at New York Dog Spa and Hotel, said co-owner Naresh Jassani.

“It seems like there are a lot of gadgets out there for groomers, and each one has their own way of working,” he said. “The Furminator is a big thing for us, and their products seem to always be on trend.”

Recent Furminator tools include the stainless-steel, 5-inch Giant Dog Long Hair deShedding Tool, which is designed for coats longer than 2 inches, and its two-speed cordless grinder, which includes two replaceable grinding bands.

Combing Through Life’s Tangles
Karla Addington-Smith, owner of A Fortunate Dog Spa in Maineville, Ohio, said client requests don’t have much impact on the tools she uses, but rather more about the manner in which they are used.

“For instance, many new clients have had a bad experience at another salon, so they will say things like, ‘Please be careful because Gigi was nicked at the other groomer’s’ or ‘She was cut too short last time, so can you use scissors?’” she said. “Most pet parents do not have enough knowledge about grooming to ask for a specific tool or technique but more about the safe handling of all tools and products.”

One tool she can’t live without is the DoggyMan Slickers brush.

“The bristles are a more narrow wire than many other slickers on the market, and there are more bristles,” she said. “The backing is slightly padded so there is a little give. The effect is a gentle feel of the face of the brush, and you get a fluffier finish with less risk of skin irritation when used correctly.”

Another favorite is the Aaronco Honeycomb 809, a 7.5-inch combination comb she described as being “very lightweight with narrow, tapered tines that are riveted through the spine of the comb.”

“I use this comb on all small- to large-size coated dogs…the coarse spacing of narrow tapered tines allow for easy coat penetration and for finding matting and tangles, as well as for fluffing in preparation for scissoring,” Addington-Smith said.

The choice of comb for efficient grooming is overlooked and not appreciated, she noted.

“As an IJA judge, I see very talented groomers trying to get a nice finish on their dog with $500 shears and a big, fat-tined comb that pushes the coat rather than penetrates,” she said. “They look astonished when the judge pulls up all these uneven hairs, and many times it is not the scissoring ability but the choice of comb.”

Ashley Craig Pet Products is no stranger to combs. The company has been making its Greyhound Comb in England since 1920.

“Many companies have tried to copy it with fakes from Asia, but once you get a real English-made Greyhound comb in your hand, you will never go back,” said owner Ashley. “We always are adding to the selection.”

For 2013, the company introduced three models: a 10-inch extra-long tine of 1.75 inches, a 7-inch all coarse model and a 6-inch mini beauty comb for medium coarse and fine coats.

Brushing out pet after pet can take its toll on a groomer’s hands and wrists. Luckily, companies such as Chris Christensen Systems of Fairfield, Texas, design tools with ergonomics in mind.

“Customers are asking for ease,” said Coreen Bebawer, vice president of sales. “They are brushing these dogs and it’s kind of like working on a computer screen. We have to make it easier on the eyes and the tools need to be less stressful on the body.”

Chris Christensen is focusing more on its grooming line and just released a state-of-the-art slicker brush, Bebawer said. The CB Slicker has a black grip over a wooden handle that is contoured to help with carpel-tunnel and make it easier to go in and get that coat, she added.

“We use an ergonomical handle, which will cause less pressure,” Bebawer said. “These groomers are scissoring or brushing eight to nine hours a day, so as fresh as your limbs and arms can be, the more work you can get out of them in the long run.”

Cheers to Shears
The shear represents another staple in the groomer’s toolbox. The workhorse of Addington-Smith’s shear collection is the 8.5-inch Geib Gator.

“It’s very affordable, lightweight, and has small finger holes that fit my hand perfectly,” she said. “The slight serrated edge gives maximum cutting efficiency, as the shear will grasp and hold the coat for more efficient grooming and a smooth finish with less effort.”

Mitch Horowitz, owner of Fur Balls Pet Grooming in Bayville, N.J., said he couldn’t do his job without the Les Poochs brushes and Gator scissors.

New on the scene for 2013 is the Zorro Shear by Chris Christensen Systems. The Zorro Shear is a black titanium shear hybrid of a convex drive with a beveled edge.

Power Tools
In addition to its new deshedding tool, Andis recently introduced the Pro Clip UltraEdge two-speed clipper in purple and pink.

Horowitz said he has been very pleased with the new Andis Excell clippers.

“We switched over to them in the last year because of the speed,” he said. “There is a significant amount of time saved with dogs being groomed, as it can take about half the time using these.”

Andis also developed a new line of steel attachment combs, which come in eight sizes.

“The new steel attachment combs have the flexibility to work with Andis’ 10 and 30 blades and easily attach with a magnet,” Grabowski said.

Late in 2012, Wahl launched a two-speed clipper, ProFicient, designed to offer fast clipping speeds and a lightweight, ergonomic design along with the ability to change out the lid cover to give it a personal touch, similar to the cell phone cases.

“We hope the results of groomers’ work are better and making better use of their time,” Stuart said. “This is what groomers are asking for and we always are mindful of what can help.”

Customers are searching for cordless products with a longer running capacity and with the ability to quickly switch out the battery, Grabowski said.

Andis’ newest product in this segment is the Pro Clip Pulse Ion clipper, launched in mid-2012, which uses a lithium ion battery, allowing the clipper to run for two hours and charge within one hour, making it idea for light to medium body grooming. By including a second lithium battery, Andis doubled the run life of the clipper without increasing the price, Grabowski added.

Wahl also has ventured into cordless products powered by lithium ion batteries.

“Early on in 2012, we launched our latest lithium ion battery powered, cordless clipper, Li+Pro. Lithium ion technology has been around and used in other cordless applications and now has made its way into grooming,” Stuart said. “Lithium ion provides longer run times and shorter charge times.”

Additionally, the company launched a 5 N 1 blade that goes with its Arco, Bravura and Li+ Pro cordless clippers.

Wish List
Despite the many tools already in their toolboxes, groomers say there is room for more. Penstone of Best Friends Pet Care said a more reliable, low-torque, lightweight grinder would be welcome.

“Smoothing trimmed nails with electric nail grinders has been embraced by a high percentage of customers,” she said. “Unfortunately, lightweight grinders seem to fail quickly, while heavy-duty grinding machines can be risky—trapping and pulling hair or abrading pads.”

Although Addington-Smith joked that she would love a magic wand that undoes months of grooming neglect, she hopes manufacturers continue to offer products that save time and offer better efficiency. At the top of her wish list is a small adjustable trimmer without issues.

“Every single adjustable trimmer we have used has problems with the blades,” she said. “It is not that the blades dull quickly, but that the blade tension is skewed very easily. I think it is an inherent problem with the concept. These little trimmers are a tool that I have a love-hate feeling about—I love them when they work, and I want to throw them through the window when after three weeks of replacing the blade it starts dragging and pulling on a setting.” 

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