It can be hard to know where to start when it comes to setting up a pricing strategy for your business but Lesley Garratt of the Canine Design Academy of Grooming is urging groomers to charge their worth…

Okay, so you have just completed your expensive grooming course and you are ready to be nervously unleashed into a whole new world of unsuspecting dogs and dog owners! How do you decide how to set your pricing structure? You have just finished your training and don’t feel you should be charging the same as a well-established, experienced groomer. What do you do? Offer your services free of charge so you can ‘practise’ on people’s dogs? Do you massively undercut the local groomer who has been there for years in order to gain new customers and maybe some of their business? What sort of image do you want to portray – cheap and cheerful, Mr or Mrs Average, or a cut above the rest?

Firstly, do not offer free or reduced price grooming when you first start – this gives the impression that you are unprofessional, lacking confidence in your skills and probably not very good at what you do. Do not try to undercut the competition – this will result in a price war, which will not do any of you any favours (or gain you any respect) and will just start the rocky road of groomers undervaluing their skills. This is an age-old problem for the profession. We spend a lot of money on our training and continued professional development and should be valued for our professionalism and skills.

Income and expenditure

When you first start you will probably be slow but will hopefully be grooming to a good standard. You need to accept, therefore, that your hourly rate will be fairly low to start with until you can build up your speed. It is not feasible for a new groomer to work on an hourly rate. If, for example, you decide to charge £32 for a West Highland white – when you have just finished your training it may take you up to around three hours to groom the dog, meaning that your gross hourly rate is £10.66 per hour, but once you have built up your speed you may be able to groom this dog in one to one-and-a-half hours, increasing your gross hourly rate to between £21 and £32 per hour. If you expect to earn this from the outset, you would have to charge your customers between £63 and £96 per dog!

However, you must remember that by no means is the price of the groom all profit!  There are many costs related to running a business which must be taken into account including your rent or mortgage, rates, utilities bills, wages and more – see the list on the right for a fuller list of things to consider. Obviously, your costs will vary depending on where you decide to set up business – if you work from home, your outgoings will obviously be a lot lower than if you work from a shop premises or decide to go mobile, but there are hidden costs that you must take into account. Do not make the mistake of working for next to nothing, burning yourself out and being the next casualty to close down their business before it has started.

Planning is key

You need to be realistic and plan well before you start your business. Do not try to run before you can walk – it is rarely a good idea for a new groomer to take over an existing business which is being run by an experienced groomer. If you do, you may struggle to keep up with the amount of dogs that need to be groomed each day. Consequently the quality of your work will be lowered. The ideal situation for a newly-qualified groomer is to start out with as few overheads as possible. Possibly start out continuing with your existing job and grooming in your spare time. The ideal situation to be in is to be able to reduce hours in your day job as you get busier with your grooming.

You should work out all your expenses in order to decide how much money you need to earn each day. For example, if it costs you £1,500-£2,000 per month to run your business (a realistic figure for a small to average-sized salon running from shop premises) and you are open 20 days per month, you will need to earn £75-£100 per day, just to cover your expenses. Say you are charging on average £30 per dog, you will need to groom between 2.5 and 3.33 dogs per day before you begin to make any profit. It is easy to get carried away with the glamour of owning your own business and wanting a swish grooming salon of your own in a high street situation, but you must be realistic with your dreams and be sensible with the planning of your business.  You need to keep a very tight rein on your expenses and carefully monitor your income against your expenditure. I do not know exact statistics, but I know that there are sadly a lot of casualties along the way of people who have opened dog grooming salons, spending huge amounts of money on creating their dream business, only to fall by the wayside as they didn’t do their planning thoroughly enough.

Quality worth paying for

First and foremost, you need to make a living – you probably won’t make a lot of money in your first year (or may even make a loss as many new businesses do). Set aside enough money to tide you over whilst the business is building. Do some market research as to how much your competitors are charging, but only use this as a bench mark. Don’t be afraid to be one of the most expensive groomers in your area as long as you produce high-quality work, keep your premises clean and attractive and are kind and compassionate to the dogs. This will attract the right type of customer – people who care about their dogs and don’t mind paying a little more for the best service. The type of customer who is only interested in getting the cheapest groom for their dog is unlikely to be loyal.

Just because we groomers generally love the work that we do doesn’t mean that it is ‘just a hobby’ and that we should be undervalued.  We possess a valuable skill, in which we have invested a lot of time, money and effort and we should be rewarded accordingly.