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1:01 AM   April 21, 2015
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Taking the Show on the Road

By Wendy Bedwell-Wilson

The demand for mobile grooming services has surged over the past several years, and it shows no sign of slowing. Busy pet owners prefer the convenience and personal service offered by these grooming shops on wheels.

Self-Serve Steady, Too

The self-serve pet washes continue to show steady business, too, said Susie Atherton, owner of Canine Creek Pet Wash and Boutique and founder of industry organization Pet Industry Retailers in Tehachapi, Calif. Pet owners are waiting longer between baths, she said, but revenue in her shop is up over last year.

“Our overall store sales are up 15 percent year-to-date over 2008,” she said. “Bathing revenues are down slightly during this period, but retail continues to grow at an excellent pace. We’ve found that customers are waiting longer between baths, but won’t give up on the high-quality food and treats they want to feed their fur children.”

The 2009-2010 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey reports that 3 percent of dog owners use a self-service center, compared to 40 percent who use a full-service salon and 68 percent who groom their pets at home.

Atherton said her new customers tend to be pet owners looking for less-expensive alternatives to full-service grooming in the slow economy.

“However, some self-serve bathers are now opting for at-home bathing to save money,” she said. “So, we’re picking up new customers, but also losing some at the same time, resulting in a flat or slight decrease in bathing.”  —WBW

“Mobiles are just going to grow and grow,” said Pam Lauritzen, certified master groomer, and founder and president of the International Society of Canine Cosmetologists in Dallas. “People like personalized service. In order for people to survive in the kind of economy we have today, everybody is working. And the busier they are, the more they need services that come to them. And I think mobile will continue to expand beyond anybody’s belief.”

And pet owners are willing to pay for it. According to the 2009-2010 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey, respondents in 2008 paid an average of $220 per year on mobile grooming services, an increase of $117 over the 2006 survey.

Matt Harwood, owner of The Dogfather Mobile Grooming in North Haven, Conn., said he can charge an extra $20 to $30 per dog by going to them.

“If a dog owner goes to a grooming shop, they get $40 for a Maltese, and I get anywhere from $60 to $70 for the same dog because I go to them,” he said. “A lot of my clients aren’t even home. They leave the check on the table and the doors open.”

Why do pet owners prefer it? According to a 2008 survey of mobile groomer business owners, 52 percent of respondents said their clients preferred mobile groomers because it’s easier on the pet, and 22 percent said they prefer the convenience of being able to stay at home.

“A lot of people do mobile grooming because it saves time,” said Marquel Johnson, manager of Flying Fur Grooming and Daycare, which has two locations in Massachusetts. “They don’t want to leave their dogs somewhere all day. And a lot of people do it for an elderly dog or a very anxious dog.”

Though they’re a booming and lucrative segment of the business, mobile groomers represent a miniscule percentage of grooming methods used, according to the APPA survey, weighing in at just 1 percent. There’s a lot of potential for growth, said Judy Breton, sales manager for Tomlyn Products in Fort Worth, Texas; her family has owned and operated a grooming business for years, but the mobile groomers target a market different from the brick-and-mortar facilities.

“It’s not affecting the people who were going to a groomer in the first place,” she said. “We have three mobiles who opened in our area, and I don’t think they really affected us. It’s a different clientele.”

Old Technique Finds New Demand

Hand-stripping (the process of pulling the dead hair out of the coat of a non-shedding dog, either by using a stripping knife or fingers) is nothing new, but it’s an old grooming technique that’s come back in style, said Debbie Slocum (CMG), certified master groomer, former retailer and owner of Slocum Ridge Pet Camp in Glencoe, Ala.

“Pet groomers are becoming more and more educated in hand stripping and learning to do hand stripping,” she said. “So a lot more of our pet dogs are getting back their original coat, getting back the texture and the color and the beauty that the dog is supposed to have. That’s a big trend now.”

According to a 2008 survey of grooming-business owners, only 4 percent of groomers offer the hand-stripping service. But grooming schools, like the Rochester Institute of Dog Grooming in New York, are teaching it again, said Carolyn Miller, CMG, school president and owner of The Groomer’s Outlet in New York.

“We are teaching hand-stripping here, and I see a lot of groomers do some hand stripping and offer it,” she said. “Not for show quality, but to keep the coat wiry so the dogs look like they’re supposed to.” —WBW

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