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The Booming Grooming Industry

Posted: Sept. 7, 2007

By Janet Randall

The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association predicts that American pet owners will spend almost $2.9 billion this year on pet-related services, including grooming. Although the grooming industry is thriving, it is also facing some big challenges.
We’ve asked four groomers from different areas of the country to comment on issues related to their businesses.

Are there different challenges you face related to the popularity of designer dogs in the United States?

Georgia Shupe, owner of Plain and Fancy Grooming in Plumbsteadville, Pa., who has been grooming for more than 30 years: “Designer dogs are popular because people have been lead to believe they don’t shed. That’s not always true, and people wind up with high-maintenance dogs instead.”
Kathleen Kazura, owner of Pretty Paws Grooming Salon in Pittsfield, Mass.: “Since designer dogs are a mixed breed, there are no breed standards. As a result there is no standard way to groom puggles, snoodles or Yorkiepoos. I choose a style based on the dog’s coat type and bone structure. You can disguise a lot of bad attributes with a good haircut.”

dog grooming
Julie Riley-Glenn, owner of Shear Pawfection in Des Moines, Iowa: “I don’t like the term ‘designer dogs.’ Let’s call them what they are, mixed breeds. I see it all the time. Breeders mislead their customers by telling them their dogs don’t need to be groomed. People who have paid a lot of money for those dogs aren’t happy when they come into my shop and are given the choice of either spending a lot more money to demat or having a complete shave-down on their dog.

Jessica Cave of Pet Village Grooming in Garden Grove, Calif.: “We not only see a lot of mixed breed dogs in our shop, but we have also seen an increased number of cats. We shave an average of 15 to 20 cats a month and groom another 30 to 40 monthly.”

Starbuck’s turned a common cup of coffee into a luxury; grooming services have been so transformed. Pet owners have higher expectations now, and as a result grooming shops are much cleaner and have more ambiance. How has this change to a more spa-like atmosphere affected your shop?
Shupe: “We burn aroma candles and have full-view mirrors behind every grooming station. And I am constantly cleaning to enhance the feeling of pampering and luxury.”

Riley-Glenn: “I am an absolute fanatic about cleaning my shop. I wouldn’t expect to walk into my spa and find hair on the floor or detect an unpleasant odor. My customers shouldn’t expect that either. I have a beautiful fountain in my shop where dogs can drink water. I schedule appointments for my services, too, just like a salon. I also offer massages and facials. I buy only top-of-the-line equipment and exclusively use all-natural products. And dogs receive an organic cookie when they leave.”

Cave: “We moved to a new facility and wanted some place that had tile floors instead of carpet so it would be easier to maintain. The floors and all the equipment are thoroughly cleaned once a week.”

Kazura: “I don’t call my place of business a grooming shop.  It’s a salon. And I am a stylist, not a groomer. I carry spa products and sometimes book appointments as much as a year in advance. I would like to add services such as massages and aqua therapy in the future.”

According to the Better Business Bureau, complaints against groomers have jumped more than 50 percent in the last five years. Spawned by an increase in dog deaths, which have gained national media attention, many states are under pressure to establish regulation for the grooming industry. 
Many in the industry are in favor of licensing because they want to establish and maintain high standards for the profession. The fear for groomers is that bureaucrats who don’t know the industry will make decisions that adversely affect their businesses.
How do you feel about licensing?

Cave: “I’m not against licensing. I have reservations about how the laws will be written. For example, one bill proposed in California would require groomers to have water available to dogs at all times even when they are on the grooming tables being cut. Meeting that requirement would slow me down considerably and ultimately force me to increase my prices.”

Shupe: “The increased demand for grooming services may have attracted inexperienced people, people who have neither attended a certified grooming school nor served as an apprentice under a reputable groomer. I am very much in favor of certification if it is administered by the industry. I oppose it if groomers will be required to go before a board consisting of veterinarians or politicians.”

Shupe also believes standardized testing should be a key component of the certification process, as should requirements for continuing education with classes and seminars.

Riley-Glenn: “Continuing education is so important to me that I attend a minimum of three grooming shows per year and require all my employees to attend as well. The cost is substantial, considering that I have to close the shop in addition to paying all the expenses for the show and travel. But if we can learn things that make our jobs easier and make us better groomers, it’s totally worth it.”
Kazura: “I believe licensing would impart more respect for the grooming profession. But it should be done by accredited hands-on schools. To learn the profession you must actually work on dogs. Mail-order and online grooming schools are not adequate. It seems obvious that you can’t learn how to groom by reading a book, but these schools are popping up everywhere. Another requirement for licensing should be CPR and basic first-aid.”

Kazura also believes that there should be a renewal process with the licensing that includes an equipment inspection. She hasn’t used drying caves with heat for the last eight years.
“The benefit is twofold,” she said. “The updated drying equipment not only provides a safer environment for the dog but also cuts my overhead by reducing the cost of electricity.”

Is there a shortage of qualified groomers?

Kazura: “I’ve seen an increase in the number of applicants for grooming jobs over the last few years. They want to try grooming because they love animals, but they don’t realize how strenuous the work is and they don’t realize the training that’s required to do the job well. I will only apprentice with serious people, people with a certain demeanor around dogs and who exhibit and inquisitiveness along with interest and excitement for grooming.”

Riley-Glenn: “I won’t even interview someone for a grooming position until they sit in my shop and observe for a day. Too many people want to start grooming just because they love pets, and they have no idea what is involved.”
Cave: “The grooming industry has always been understaffed. I believe the number of working groomers would be cut by as much as 20 percent if licensing bills are passed.“
Shupe: “I think a lot of people are going into grooming now because they see it as an easy way to make money. They don’t last long.”


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