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Professional Grooming Marketplace: Changing Conditions Drive Equipment Decisions

Posted: Jan. 24, 2012, 6:30 p.m. EST


Keeping up with the latest in crates and flooring often takes a back seat to designing the proper layout from the start.
By Sandy Robins

The pet grooming industry is beginning to mimic human-lifestyle trends in terms of hardware design, as manufacturers of grooming salon equipment set out to make their products more stylish and colorful, as well as functional. This includes everything from changes to holding areas and flooring options, to general aesthetic options for grooming equipment, as grooming comes out of the back room into customers’ full view.

Out in the Open
“The days of taking a pet to the back of the shop to be groomed, where they can’t be seen by the public, is definitely becoming a thing of the past,” said John Walcjuk, vice president of sales and marketing for Shor-Line products in Kansas City, Kan.

Pet grooming tables
Grooming equipment is increasingly taking on the apperance and personality of the shop in which it is being used. Photo courtesy of Shor-Line.

“More and more, grooming salons are now opting to make their work stations visible to the public so that pet parents can see the grooming process for themselves,” he added. “This trend has made it more important for the grooming area to look both functional and stylish. People expect this type of stylish co-ordination when they walk into a hair salon and they are beginning to expect it for their pets, too.”

To meet the needs of this growing trend, Shor-Line products has introduced a range of hardware that includes tables, grooming arms and tubs in five colors that include bright blue, green and orange.

“We’ve added the color to the base of the products, leaving the stainless-steel work tops the same as before,” Walcjuk said. “It allows groomers to further color-coordinate everything in their salon from their grooming tools to their outfits and aprons, ultimately achieving a trendy, stylish feel.”

“Grooming hardware, whether it’s tables or tubs and everything in between, isn’t something that groomers purchase every day,” he continued. “Often, they look for basic equipment when starting up, and depending on how successful they are, then look to adding additional units or upgrading completely.”

Holding Off on Hardware
There’s no question that, generally, current economic conditions have shown their teeth and are biting down hard on many pet grooming salons, so that instead of trading up, many have in fact been forced to scale down.

It’s for this very reason that Shor-Line has introduced certain incentive packages to prospective customers via their website in order to try and attract new business, according to Walcjuk.

“There’s no question that the grooming industry is taking a knock right now,” said Jean Blanchard, founder of Jean’s Grooming and Pet Supplies in Gainesville, Fla.

While Blanchard sold her business to Lisa Holtzendorf in 2006, she still works there as a groomer.

“Many grooming stores such as ours would like to consider new equipment, but it’s simply not a proposition right now,” she said.

Other groom shop owners also reported following another trend of thought: If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

However, despite the downturn in the economy, PetEdge Dealer Services, headquartered in Beverly, Mass., reported positive interest and sales of its new Master Equipment PolyPro Grooming Tubs.

“They are seamless and constructed from a sturdy, high-density polyethylene that is both rust and tarnish resistant, and yet just as durable as stainless steel tubs,” said Lori Haraske, director of the hardlines department for the company.

The tub has a pop-up pawprint design on the front and on the floor area of the tub to prevent slippage, and has a removable door that lift upwards for easy entry and exit, the company reported.

“It comes with shampoo bottle holders, an overhead grooming arm, two grooming loops, a tub rack and plumbing pipes,” Haraske added. “It’s available in blue, pink, or ivory to match stylish salon interiors.”
 
While a variety of grooming storeowners continue to pay more attention to providing their staff with ergonomically designed equipment, many are looking to purchase new dryers, clippers and scissors instead of replacing hardware, and are keeping up the latest tools available instead, reported Chuck Palm, president of Midwest Grooming Supplies and Service, a distribution company based in Lake Barrington, Ill.

“Generally speaking, I think the market relating to grooming hardware has reached a bit of a plateau,” Palm said. “It’s not a sector of the market that lends itself to constant re-invention, unlike other sectors such as grooming tools.”

Flooring for Function
The one shop consideration that hasn’t been subjected to compromise is flooring, whether ergonomic mats for workstations or practical flooring for the salon work area as a whole.

Useful options exist that allow groomers to increase comfort and, hopefully, productivity. Dandy Product Inc in Goshen, Ohio, has been making special rubber flooring for grooming areas for more than two years.

Pet grooming salon floor
Flooring options can add both function and aesthetic appeal to groom shops. Photo courtesy of Bubbles and Ecouture.

“We sell it in sheets or as interlocking tiles,” said Colleen Reed, vice president of the company. “It’s made from recycled tires, which means the material has lots of shock absorption and grip even when it’s wet.”

Although the stock color is black, Reed said that in line with the trend to add stylish interior design to the overall look of a salon, colors are available if the customer is prepared to place a sizeable order.

Holding crates is another equipment need many groomers are looking to update. So it comes as no surprise that new crates are appearing on the market or are crossing over from other sectors.

What started out primarily as a crate designed by Zinger Winger of Milton, Ontario, Canada, to accommodate hunting dogs, has found a niche market in the grooming industry, too.

“Our crate is polycoated with lightweight aluminum and designed to contain even the more artful escape artist,” said Andrew Lewkowicz, operation manager of the company. “The design has a table top-styled surface that initially appealed to breeders and can be further customized with a grooming arm. Consequently interest has spread into the grooming world too. Currently they are available in four sizes.”

Finding the Right Equipment
Dale VanPamelen who with co-owner Naresh Jassani owns the New York Dog Spa and Hotel, which has grooming salons in both its Manhattan locations, said when it comes to both tools and equipment, his salons are very brand loyal.

“If we are shopping for something new, it tends to be within the product ranges that we already know and love,” VanPamelen said. “And we always try something out before we buy it.”

Testing before buying allows groomers to find the products that are right for them, said B.C. Henschen, co-owner of Platinum Paws in Carmel, Ind., who stressed that the needs of the groomers in her salon are of utmost importance.

“Our grooming talent is very specific about the equipment they like to use,” Henschen said. “Consequently, we don’t buy without first doing a lot of research.

“As the buyer and person responsible for the equipment and facilities, if I see something new I will talk with the company about the product and make sure I understand it completely and that is meets my needs,” he continued. “Then, I will put it into service with one of the groomers who is open to trying new things. Some talent is not open to anything new. If the trial goes well, then we will place the item in service and start a log with any problems or complaints.
 
Need for Change
“It is my thought that if you set up the shop properly from the beginning with quality dependable equipment and material, you will not have to change very much,” Henschen stated. “Maintenance is always required, but again, good-quality equipment can be maintained and kept in-service for years and years.”

Tailoring shops from the start can help reduce the need to update later. Peter and Valeria Atkinson, owners of the Briarcliff Pet Resort in Menifee, Calif., are former professional dog handlers. When it came to designing the grooming area for their facility, they customized the entire area, even building in their own tubs to fit their own specified functional needs.

“At this stage, we are more interested in keeping our actual grooming equipment such as shears and scissors up to date,” Peter said. “This is key to doing a really good job and ultimately gaining customer approval.”

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