Groomer to Groomer

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Looking Ahead
Grooming Trends in 2013

By Teri DiMarino


I have recently upgraded my crystal ball and am now running the new 2013.1 software. I have good feelings about this version, and I think it’s going to be better than other versions I’ve had over the past few years. But I’m not sure how compatible it is going to be with some of my older hardware. It’s definitely going to take some getting used to, but I am willing to switch gears mentally and attempt to adapt.

Many of us have already “adapted” to the most recent trends, and there is no denying that things have changed in the pet grooming industry over the past several years. We optimistically entered the 21st century with equity in our homes, money in our pockets, and smiles on our faces. Our businesses were no longer grooming “shops” but “salons” that offered “spa” services. “Dog grooming shop” sounded too much like a low-cost service provider, so we became a “pet styling salon,” making it easier to justify a price raise. Kennels offered “lodging” and “suites,” and the word “daycare” entered many of our vocabularies. Business was good.

Our industry was feeling pretty invincible. Then things began crashing down around us. Unemployment figures went up as our gross income went down. Customers who would cringe if Fluffy went beyond four weeks for her bath had to stretch out their appointments to every five or six weeks.

But the cream has risen to the top. Many poor quality salons closed, and while the good salons may have lost some appointments, they did not lose customers. People continued to take care of their pets as best as they could. From what I am seeing in my crystal ball, business appears to be picking up, even though the country is still in the midst of a recession. People are starting to spend again.

Booting up my newly installed “CB 2013.1,” and without sounding like Miss Cleo or the Long Island Medium, I think I can see a few trends in our industry coming through the fog for the upcoming year. Many salons will still successfully offer spa treatments and specialty packages. While these spa services are a wonderful addition to the salon’s bottom line, I believe we will be seeing an increase in other add-on services coupled with an increase in retail. Breath freshening procedures and other at-home retail products that the customer can use daily offer immediate results that can easily be demonstrated in the salon. These products are proving very beneficial to the pets and the salon’s profit line, as well.

I have always touted retail as the “silent partner” for a salon. Resale items like the aforementioned breath freshening product are easy to market, because the customer sees instant results. Here is one rule of retail in our business: use what you sell and sell what you use. It’s easy to sell something that you believe in and have a passion for. That belief makes retail easy.

I see salons going “retro” with their customer service. We are, after all, a service industry. Big box stores threatened many a small business with their “bigger is better” and “discount” philosophy back in the ‘90s, leaving many Mom & Pop businesses feeling inadequate and non-competitive. But as my Australian industry friend, Les Speerin, put it, “If you just want to fill your belly, you go to McDonald’s. If you want a great meal, you go to a great restaurant.” I can’t think of a better analogy! While there is certainly a place in the world for McDonald’s (they have definitely proved that), people get tired of eating there. Smart salon owners are going that extra mile to make customers feel appreciated.

While some stylists constantly complain about badly behaved pets or owners (you know who you are), others are thankful that they have a job to go to and customers to work with. While it’s okay to vent about the occasional ill-tempered dog or client, some groomers allow themselves to be consumed by this poor attitude, and it can drag an entire salon down. We should all feel fortunate to have jobs! We do not have to go home with these people or their pets, so get in there, get the job done safely and efficiently, and send them home happy and satisfied. We all need to give our clients the best work we possibly can. The client has the choice of going to any salon they choose, so don’t give them a reason to choose a different salon. That’s money out of your pocket.

One way Crystal Ball 2013.1 sees pet stylists stepping up their game is in the realm of continued education. While there are still many groomers out there who honestly believe that they know it all and a seminar couldn’t possibly teach them anything new, most good groomers and salon owners are keenly aware that in order for them to keep their edge in the business, they must keep abreast of styles, techniques, products, and business tactics. There are trade shows and educational events around the country, and while one may not be in your backyard, these events are well worth attending. Groomer to Groomer magazine publishes a calendar of events, and anybody who navigates any of the social media sites knows that there are tons of smaller seminars or webinars scheduled all over the country. Even if a stylist is well versed in a particular area, attending an industry event is a wonderful shot of adrenalin.

A hot, new trending area in our industry is online study. While anybody with a clipper and scissor can make a YouTube video, many of these are not geared toward the accomplished professional. It is easy for a salon to have an in-house library consisting of printed matter and professional videos of techniques, breed profiles, and styles. Advanced technique DVD videos have been popularized by Jodi Murphy with her “Instructional Series” as well as Sue Zecco and Jay Scruggs’ “Super Styling Sessions” videos. Videos can be viewed at leisure to improve one’s styling or to maintain consistency in the salon.

A relatively new, very convenient video series is Learn2GroomDogs.com. The brainchild of Melissa Verplank (Notes From the Grooming Table author), Learn2GroomDogs.com is a subscription-based instructional video log geared toward the professional. Select payment plans allow unlimited access to a continually updated online streaming video library, offering breed styles, techniques, and other valuable information demonstrated by top stylists in our industry. All of these continued educational tools do nothing but give our salons consistency while giving us a leg up on the competition.

Another huge information source is the groomer message boards. Barkleigh’s message board, PetGroomer.com, and GroomersNetwork.com are just a few of the sites offering informational message boards and blogs. These are an insomniac’s dream, as you can focus in on specific topics, ask questions, get answers, and just interact with others within our industry.

Speaking of computers, the crystal ball is seeing huge trends in social media and its place in our salons. Once just flipped off as something we do in our spare time, social media sites are fast becoming an effective means of communication with our current and potential customers. Facebook and Twitter, the two most popular social networks, allow you to put your best foot forward, reaching out to your clients with information about you and your salon. Words like “friending,” “sharing,” and “liking” are quickly finding their way into our cyber vocabulary. But be very careful what you post. A good rule to follow is “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Another helpful tool in keeping in touch with customers is texting. Sometimes a “call and reconfirm” just won’t do. Texting may actually be the best way to reach that client to remind them of their upcoming appointment.

The Internet has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, making the Yellow Pages a relic of the past. Slick websites give customers nearly all the information they may need about you, your salon, and the services you provide. Virtual tours of your business allow people to peek into the inner workings of a well orchestrated salon. You can post your location, services offered, policies, and biographies of your staff. I do not recommend posting prices, as there are too many variables in this area. While there are ways for people to book their appointments online, we still want the customer to pick up the phone and talk to us. Remember: when you answer the phone, SMILE. The person on the other end of the line can “see” it.

One Internet area that is relatively unknown to many groomers are the customer review sites like Yelp.com or Angie’s List. These are sites where consumers can find businesses, restaurants, or pretty much anything else and read and leave reviews. Be careful, as sometimes a disgruntled customer may leave a negative review. Some of these sites allow the business owner to respond to a review, but be careful how you word that response. You are under the proverbial microscope when you reply. These are like big, cyber word-of-mouth sites.

Our computers have integrated themselves into our lives and businesses. Consider investing in a good computer software program to help keep your files and conduct your business. The most difficult part of assimilating your salon into the cyber age is tossing away the appointment book. Naturally there is the initial separation anxiety, but you get over it very quickly, especially when you learn of some of the slick features of computerized files. One of my favorites is when a program integrates caller ID with your client base. On the second ring of the phone, the calling customer is displayed on your computer monitor, giving you a “heads up” as to who is on the phone. Many programs feature help in payroll and integration of income into bookkeeping software such as Quick Books.

One corner of my “see all ball” is looking a bit ominous. It appears in the area of legislation, something that became very familiar with the last software upgrade, Crystal Ball 2012.7. I see a lot of work to be done by pet stylists in an effort to self-police our industry and keep it out of the hands of people who do not know our industry like we do. Well intended legislation written by the wrong people will be toxic if professionals do not step up to the plate and stop it or at least rewrite it into something workable for the pets, their owners, and the professionals alike. One thing I can predict is that these endeavors will not be successful unless everybody participates. Stylists with their heads in the sand will be left by the wayside, complaining all the way. This is where we will all need to load the upcoming software upgrades: Continued Education 2013.2 and Industry Involvement 2013.4.

While Crystal Ball 2013.1 appears to be looking at an educational and cyber year, there are things that this 2013.1 cannot possibly replace: the kiss from a wet-nosed, four-legged friend; puppy breath; and having the friendly old dog come in for one more visit. Things like that make me glad I’m a pet groomer. (Oops… I mean stylist!)