A Year in Review

As 2017 quickly comes to a close, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the highs and lows that we’ve experienced as individuals, business owners and collectively as an industry over the past 12 months.



Thinking back on 2017, the first thing that pops into my mind is the great performance of Groom Team USA, which won the gold at the World Team Grooming Championship Competition in October. The competition—which is held every two years—was hosted at Groomania in Belgium. This year, 20 countries competed across four different classes: hand stripping, spaniels and setters, poodles, and all other pure breeds scissoring. One team member from each country competes in each class, and the groomer with the highest combined score from the three judges wins the class. The team with the best combined score wins the title of world champion. For Groom Team USA, Lindsey Dicken competed with a Bichon Frise in scissoring, Victor Rosado groomed a Scottish Terrier in hand stripping, Mackensie Murphy styled a Cocker Spaniel in spaniels/setters, and Michelle Breen did up a Standard Poodle in the poodles class. Cat Opson was the alternate and Cheryl Purcell was the team coordinator, assisting the team in any way possible.


Congratulations to Groom Team USA for scoring 215 out of 300 points to take first place. Rounding out the top six placements were Italy, Russia, England, Belgium and France.


This year, Groom Team USA instituted a new point tabulation process in order to get the most qualified groomer in each of the four classes, as opposed to just selecting the best all-around groomers. Open point tabulation is now taken by the number of entries and class placements from the four sanctioned open classes—Sporting, Poodle, Hand Strip (wire coats) and Scissor (all other pure breeds). Groom Team USA determines the number of awarded points based on these submitted results. While the top 10 competitors are still announced each year, Groom Team USA requirements do not mandate that a Travel Team member be among the top 10 overall point holders.


The Groom Team USA World Travel Team is comprised of the top point holders in each of the four sanctioned classes. If the travel team is still undecided by the annual board of directors meeting, the board convenes for a final vote. The team’s alternate is selected by the board based on the individual’s ability to groom any of that year’s selected breeds, so individuals being considered must have pointed in at least three of the four sanctioned classes.


This was a momentous change for Groom Team USA. It will have a big impact on the overall focus of those competitive groomers who aspire to be on the travel team and will hopefully ensure that we continue to dominate the World Competition.


Losing a Legend

On a very sad note, we lost one of the great minds in our industry when Lawrence M. Kalstone passed away in October at the age of 90. Larry graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and served in the AAF Base Unit of the U.S. Army, earning an honorable discharge in 1946.


His wife of 55 years, Shirlee Kalstone, said that Larry was a true entrepreneur who developed many products for the pet care industry, including high-end pet grooming products under the Ring 5 brand and innovative solutions for allergy-suffering owners of dogs, cats and small animals under the Allerpet brand.


Larry was highly respected in the dog world as an authority on canine conformation and gait, writing about and presenting seminars to dog breed and kennel clubs around the world.  One of his illustrated articles, “Soundness in the Dog and How to Recognize It,” was a serious study of canine gait that won a Dog Writers Association of America special award.  He also hosted a TV show about dogs in the 1960s on WQED in Pittsburgh, which led to the production of a record called Training Your Dog in Record Time.


I had the privilege of spending time with both Larry and Shirlee over the years. They both have been such an influence on me and so many others. They opened my eyes to a deeper understanding of the pet and grooming industries inner workings. I believe much of my knowledge and involvement started with them. I know I speak for countless others when I say that we will miss Larry.



A Good Year for Groomers

To gauge the overall health of grooming businesses across the country, Grooming Business once again conducted its annual groomer survey, and the results were quite positive, to say the least. In fact, more than 50 percent of the groomers who participated in the survey reported that their businesses’ revenue increased five percent or more in 2017.  We have not done our final numbers for the year at my salon yet, but I think we should fall into this category as well—thanks, in part, to a recent price increase.  Of course, it is never easy to raise prices, but it is necessary.  After all, we need to keep up with inflation.



Clearly, others in our industry know what I mean, as the survey revealed that nearly 50 percent of groomers raised their prices this year. On the other hand, 50 percent of respondents had no price changes, and there were even some salons that lowered their prices in 2017.  That is unfortunate. As groomers, we tend to sell ourselves short. But if you want to stay in the industry, you need to update, repair, educate and live. Grooming pets is a profession and it is hard on your body, hard on your equipment and your facility.  Maintaining and adding products that make your job easier on your body and make you more productive is a necessity—and none of it comes free.



Given the reported revenue increases, it’s no surprise that almost everyone was either very positive or guardedly optimistic in their outlook for 2018. If your outlook isn’t as bright, whether it’s because your salon’s performance is flat or even experiencing a decrease in income, consider a few things. When was the last time you increased your prices?  When was your last website update?  Are you marketing on social media?  What new service have you offered to your clients lately? Have you done an update on the equipment in your salon to increase productivity? Have you done an update on the décor of your salon to make it more inviting? Have you been to a seminar to up the quality of your services?


Keeping thing fresh can help you reach your goals. I am of the belief you make a lot of your own luck and, as mentioned above, there are so many things you can do to guarantee a positive outcome. So, implement something new to build your business and don’t forget to update as well. Don’t hope for the best; make it happen. Money is being spent in our industry. Work on getting the customers in the door and give them a reason to stay.



Overcoming Challenges

We all face challenges in our business, including managing employees, scheduling clients, keeping up with accounting, obtaining new clients and consistently delivering high-quality customer service. Luckily, there are resources like computer software that can help in most of these areas. These programs track employee productivity. They help you book and rebook appointments and keep better client records. They also help figure out employee pay and taxes. They can even send text or email reminders, which is a fantastic way to minimize cancellations.


As for building your clientele, my suggestion would be to try a referral program. Reward current clients for their referrals by offering a percentage off or a dollar amount for each new customer they send your way.



Your ability to build your client base will also depend on how well you market your business to prospective customers. Do you utilize resources like social media, traditional advertising or customer loyalty programs to spread the word about your services? The results of the Grooming Business survey can serve as a useful guide for what strategies are working for others in the industry.  Facebook was the most popular vehicle for marketing grooming businesses last year, followed by websites, customer loyalty programs and print advertising, respectively. The numbers dropped significantly when it came to those who market their businesses through online advertising, direct mail and Twitter.



Of course, yours isn’t the only grooming business vying for customers. In fact, the industry has gotten a lot more competitive over the years. With this in mind, the Grooming Business survey asked groomers who they saw as their primary source of competition in the marketplace. Not surprisingly, more than 50 percent of respondents pointed to other independent grooming salons, with big-box stores coming in a distant second, followed by mobile groomers. The competitiveness of the grooming business today makes it all the more important that we always bring our A game. To this end, be sure to keep an open mind and continue to grow as a person. Continue to grow your knowledge of our industry. If that knowledge takes you to a niche part of our market, so be it. Maybe you specialize in specific breeds, trims or services. Whatever it is, make it your own.



That brings us to a subject that is very near and dear to my heart—continuing education. When asked how they obtain continuing education for themselves and their staff, well over 50 percent of the groomers surveyed said they attend industry trade shows. I think this is a good sign for our industry, as trade shows are a great place to continue your education. These shows usually hire the top winning, most productive groomers for speakers/educators, and we can all learn a lot from their successes.


Education also plays a role in another area that the survey delved into—staffing. When asked if their business has increased or decreased its staff during the past 12 months, more than 60 percent of the salons surveyed said they had either increased staff or staffing hours. While this is a decidedly positive reflection of continued growth and a wonderful future for our industry, it does present unique challenges. Based on conversations with Gregg Docktor, the owner of the Merryfield School of Pet Grooming, I know that there simply are not enough qualified groomers to go around. As a result, he has a waiting list of businesses looking for his students.


The last question that groomers were asked in the survey has my good friend Missi Salzberg’s name all over it: Does your salon include a retail component?  Missi would have a cow hearing that 50 percent of you said you do not carry any retail at all. She would tell you to at least carry a handful of products that you can get behind.


Every product sold is less grooming you need to do. Find a brand of dog food that is different and addresses the needs of your clients, or carry a specialty brand of shampoo that you feel would really help your customers.  Even selling professional-quality tools to your clients with a little education can be priceless. And, of course, don’t forget the toys, collars, leads and treats. Missi would tell you this is a no brainer, and she should know; after taking over her parents’ grooming business several years ago, she has turned it into a successful retail destination that now out-sells her very large grooming salon.  


Surveys like the one conducted by Grooming Business offer fantastic perspective on the industry around you. Use the information to grow your business next year and beyond!  gb


Christina Pawlosky is a Certified Master Groomer, professional handler, breeder, grooming show judge and successful pet store and grooming shop owner (The Pet Connection) since 1985. For 20 years, she served as national training manager for Oster Professional Products, where she developed new initiative educational material to educate at schools and conventions all over the world. Pawlosky is currently working with Judy Hudson to produce the Grooming Professors (groomingprofessors.com)—a service through which the two industry veterans share their many years of grooming, competing, dog show conditioning and handling with groomers across the country via Facebook and through an interactive website where visitors can access webcasts and videos about everything grooming-related.


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