The economic climate has meant tough trading times for businesses across Europe and beyond. Owner of Canine Comforts training school and grooming parlour, Gill East, looks at how the recession has affected the grooming industry…

As I have been training and trading for more than 30 years, I have coped with three recessions, but this one has proved the longest and the worst. Whereas other recessions have been brief and not too dramatic, this one is causing more concern, especially as we head into winter. Apart from broken appointments, which would not normally have happened, more customers are moving booked appointments back to eight to 12 week intervals, stating that the appointment is not needed yet, as the dog has not grown – a miracle! – or that he is not well. Needless to say, as a result of less-frequent appointments, canine clients are arriving at grooming salons knotted solid, with fleas and other skin and ear conditions, due to the length of time that their groomer has been restricted from seeing them or addressing these problems. Then there are the requests of “Can you cut him shorter?” If we go any shorter we will be on the bone.  You may find that you are not losing clients, but not seeing them as regularly. To cope with the gaps and keep you financially stable, you need a bigger client base. We have noticed as you all must have, how the public have suddenly adopted a more-demanding attitude, being harder to please, and less likely to say “thank you”. This is not to say trims are inferior or less than top quality, but shows that people are nervous and not as comfortable.

So what do we do?

It is a good idea to always make a further appointment when the animal is collected.  By giving this to the owner it is a way in which, if you have a no show, you can confidently telephone to remind them and reappoint. It is not like having to cold-call, as the client is embarrassed for forgetting and is more likely to book another appointment. Another offer we have given is to book three future appointments on a card. Each time the client returns, the card is stamped. When all three bookings have been completed you can offer the third at a reduced price. The benefit of this is that you will see the dog more often, their coats will be in reasonable condition and the trim will be faster to complete. Think like the big supermarkets – they certainly know how to get the money in.

 A few good things

A positive to come out of the recession for well-established parlours that are paying high rents, wages, national insurance, tax and generally trading legally is that a lot of technically-impaired groomers have stopped trading. I love that statement, meaning groomers that have no technical skills, no training and a bad reputation have given up. Established parlours with skills are usually able to adapt and survive. Many of you that know me, will be aware of the years of work trying to get groomers recognised and enthusiastic about continuing to add qualifications and achievements. My advice now is no different – keep advertising your qualifications, tell your owners how long you have studied to achieve this professional status and remember you are not just a groomer, but a health-care expert. Who notices any skin problems that need attention, unexpected lumps and bumps or unusual behaviour or movement for prompt referral to a veterinarian?