Grow Your Pet Grooming Business by Embracing These 5 TrendsMore consumers are paying for these services. Could they boost your bottom line?
Americans are spending more on their pets with every year, whether it’s on food, clothing, veterinary care or grooming.
The non-profit trade group American Pet Products Association estimates that people will spend a total of $62.75 billion on their pets in 2016, up from $60.28 billion in 2015 and $58.04 billion in 2014. According to market research firm Technavio, which tracks pet spending, the global pet grooming market will experience a compound annual growth rate of 4 percent through 2020.
For small business pet groomers, Americans’ increased pet spending means more opportunity to cash in on trends, boost revenue and bring in new customers.
One of the best known grooming trends right now thanks to viral articles on the topic is in the art of “creative grooming” — industry speak for the growing field of specialty trims, hair dyeing and accessorizing.
Danielle Ford, owner of Pampered Pup Luxury Pet Resort in Millville, New Jersey, said “Asian styling” in particular is on the rise. “The style focuses on maximizing cuteness with bows, braids and quirky cuts that veer from the typical breed haircut,” she said. “We have even have ventured into ‘square faces’ as well.” Ford said she has also seen feather extensions and accessories such as bow ties and neck ties growing in popularity with customers.
Then there are the more controversial services, such as hair coloring, which lasts from six weeks to three months using pet-approved products, and color and glitter stencils, which last a few days. Other pet owners opt for shaves in different shapes — such as a dino-cat — for holidays and for fun.
The industry been seeing a steady a rise in mobile pet grooming companies that cater to people short on time by going to the customer for at-home or in-truck grooming.
For business owners who already have a storefront and want to cater to a wider clientele, another trending offering is self-service washing. It allows DIYers and those with shy and anxious animals to clean their pets themselves. Ford began offering self-service stations at her business to make better use of the salon space in off-hours when groomers weren’t using it. She charges $15 for most dogs and cats and $18 for very large or hairy dogs.
“We’ve found that the self serve wash works well for dogs that just need a quick bath to wash off the mud,” Ford said. “And it exposes clients to how much goes into a bath, so often clients decide they would rather pay a groomer next time.”
Self-service washes may not be as profitable when operated as standalone businesses. Ethel Taylor, owner of Doggie Washerette, in Washington, D.C. started a self-service wash business five years ago and has since been out-priced by an Unleashed by Petco on her street. PetSmart has also piloted a new PetSmart Pet Spa self-wash concept.
Taylor went to a grooming school and now offers full-service options (no more self-washes).
“Many new apartments are so pet-friendly that they have dog clubs in their basements. So I have had to create a new niche for myself.” That niche? Pet esthetician.
Pet esthetician services
As a certified pet esthetician, Taylor focuses on improving and caring for animals’ skin as well as their hair and fur. (These services are most common for dogs).
“It’s difficult to groom a dog with bad hair and skin,” Taylor said. “This is caring for them at another level.”
Pet estheticians learn techniques for treating alopecia, improving hair growth and addressing needs related to different types of dog coats (short, medium and long), depending on the training program. For this premium service, certified pet estheticians can charge higher prices than other groomers.
Daycare and boarding
Boarding and grooming, especially for dogs, often go hand-in-hand, with small businesses expanding into both services when they have the space. One area that is rapidly expanding now is daycare, which provides in-store sitting and walking.
Ford said she has been offering boarding for six years and is at full occupancy during peak seasons (especially summer) and holidays. The daycare part of her business is less than a year old, but she anticipates that it will triple over the next year.
Though there is a lot to gain from boarding and daycare (Ford charges $27 to $42 a night for boarding and $27 a day for daycare), she warns that it is a significant commitment that might not be right for every small business groomer. “Instead, they might first try mobile grooming, pick-up and drop-off services and in-home pet sitting, which have less significant capital expenses.”
Along the lines of creative cuts and other grooming offerings, some small businesses are venturing into spa territory. Ford’s business offers blueberry facials to exfoliate skin and milk baths to moisturize, in addition to the usual add-ons like nail filing and teeth cleaning.
Other groomers have experimented with “pawdicures,” which usually include nail filing, hair clipping and sometimes nail painting. Still others are offering pet massages and reiki (energy healing) — for which they charge a premium, of course.
“People have gravitated toward the services that mimic those offered to people to ensure that their pet is being treated like a member of the family,” said Ford. “People have shifted from being pet owners to pet parents.”
How much Fido and especially, Fluffy, appreciate their efforts is another story.