Grooming is an art form. Ask any groomer, and they’ll tell you that grooming is so much more than just shampooing and clipping. It’s a skill that requires education on the latest tools and techniques. It’s a practice that is physically demanding and equally as rewarding.
Jill Pipino of ManeTame, a pet styling salon in Clifton Park, New York, considers the profession an art form. In fact, that’s why she stuck with the business in the first place.
“I like being able to be artistic, but I’m not artistic, so this is almost like a connect the dots because you learn where to put your lines and how to make them fit and then you follow it every day, so I can still look artistic even though I’m not,” she said. “And that is really the reason I love it—I’ve always wanted to be an artist, but I don’t have the ability on paper or sculpture, but I found a way to be able to do it with dogs.”
Pipino will be bringing her skills to Groom Expo, which takes place September 14-17 at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania. In addition to the trade show, the weekend is filled with educational seminars, grooming competitions and networking events. Pipino, who said she has never missed a Groom Expo, will be competing in the sporting and poodle categories of the grooming competition and will also be teaching a class on CPR and First Aid.
Groom Expo is organized each year by Barkleigh Productions, and according to Barkleigh CEO Gwen Shelly, there will be about 145 compa
nies there with an expected 5,000 attendees over the four days.
Shelly says that the goal of Groom Expo is to promote education for groomers and “to give them an opportunity to compete and show their skills” through the competitions.
With a store just minutes from the Hershey Lodge, Chris Marks, owner of Little Paws Dog Shop, might have the shortest travel distance of anybody to this year’s Groom Expo. Located in Palmyra, Pennsylvania, Little Paws Dog Shop is a full service dog shop, pet supply store, grooming salon and pet photography center.
To stay up-to-date on the grooming side of her business, Marks says she will be attending Groom Expo with the goal of finding different and new ways of cutting hair, especially by way of attending the educational seminars.
The Little Paws Dog Shop owner says she is also looking forward to seeing the new products that will be showcased at Groom Expo. As she does for the products she currently stocks, Marks will be looking for something that, simply, “is clean-smelling and does the job;” something that “will get the dog clean and shiny and
get a good haircut.”
What Groomers Use
Groomers and retailers who offer grooming supplies have many products from which to choose when deciding which to use or sell—after all, there will be more than 140 companies exhibiting at Groom Expo alone. To make their selection, each groomer/store has different criteria. For example, Pipino looks for products that will make the grooming experience nicer for the pet.
“I feel like this is already an odd and not natural procedure for them, and I want them to be as comfortable as possible,” Pipino said. “So anything that I can do that makes them feel more comfortable or takes less time—so they don’t have to be away from their family and house as long—anything like that, or that’s soothing, I like. I like [grooming] to be a treat for them, as it is for people.”
One product she uses to do this is PawMat. The non-toxic, easy-to-clean mat is soft, providing a cushion for the dogs.
“We’ve noticed such a big difference,” Pipino said. “When we first bought them we were like, ‘Eh, we’ll try it, but it probably won’t do anything different from a yoga mat.’ But it’s much thicker than a yoga mat, and the hair doesn’t stick to it, so it’s easier to clean and stays looking nice and presentable.”
Pipino also notes that the colorful mats provide vibrancy to ManeTame’s shop. The color is also beneficial to the groomer themselves.
“Especially if you’re doing a black dog or a dark dog, tabletops are usually black, so you can’t see the foot as well or see the underline when you’re looking from a distance, so having that nice pop of color on the table really helps, too,” she said.
“They have made combing just amazing,” she said. “They are my favorite little comb now, and I love them. I don’t work a day without my Utsumi combs anymore.”
Marks says she works with Groomer’s Choice and Bark to Basics to stock her store and grooming salon. One grooming product that Marks uses and singled out was Davis Degrease Shampoo. According to the Davis website, the shampoo works to “clean greasy ears, oily-coated breeds, extra dirty pets, coats stained with motor oil and grease and pets plagued with oily seborrhea and stud tail.” When cool, the shampoo is a soft paste, and when warm, the shampoo is a thick ivory liquid.
Firehouse Pet Shop in Wenatchee, Washington, has a basic pet supplies store on the first floor and a full-service grooming and self-wash spa in the basement. According to Jennifer Larsen, who co-owns the shop with her husband, Allen, their self-wash area has a 5-foot wide, 6-foot high hutch full of products that their self-wash customers can use. Some companies that Firehouse Pet Shop stocks include earthbath, Pet Head, Bio-Groom, Nudie Naturals and TropiClean. There are ear wipes, eye wipes, organic flea and tick products, after sprays and more, and owners can use as much as whatever they’d like, with no time limit.
Responding to Demand
Grooming product manufacturers listen to what groomers want. Bio-Groom started out in 1971 after it developed a gentle flea and tick shampoo. The company has grown to offer more than 70 grooming products, including those for dogs, cats, ferrets and horses. All the while, the company has made it a point to talk with their customers—and those who are not customers—about what Bio-Groom can do to better service the grooming industry, according to its president, Frank Pohl.
Pohl says that groomers and retailers need to separate themselves from the competition, and they can do this by providing quality service and products. Pohl wants Bio-Groom to be one of the quality products stores and salons offer and use.
“They’ve got their customers that they need to please. We want to give them tools in which to do that,” he said. “They can be really successful and not have any problems with customers saying, ‘Well, this shampoo irritated my dog’s skin or burnt the eyes.’ We don’t need that because that’s going to tear down a brand, a reputation. We’ve been in business since 1971 making our products the way we think we need to make them to satisfy customers.”
According to Pohl, Bio-Groom’s bestsellers are its Natural Oatmeal shampoo and its Super White shampoo. Bio-Groom will be exhibiting at this year’s Groom Expo and will be showcasing its newest product, Bio-Groom Facial Cleanser.
Conair Pet National Sales Manager John Vasone says that based off of what sells fastest at trade shows, it is clear that retailers and groomers are fans of the Slicker Brush. The Slicker brushes have a gel handle, making them comfortable for owners and groomers to use.
According to Vasone, Conair Pet is looking to expand its professional groomer’s category and so is working on a pro grooming line. It will include “heavy-duty, lightweight clippers, Slicker brushes, sheers and other grooming tools that respond to the needs of groomers and do it in a way that is also affordable,” he said.
Vasone said that because Conair Pet has “all the resources of a $3 billion company behind [it],” there are “hundreds of engineers” who are “always looking into new technologies,” and so those looking for grooming products should buy from Conair Pet because of the advancements in grooming it constantly tries to make. Right now, the engineers are working on the next generation of brushless motor clippers, according to Vasone.
TropiClean, one of the companies Firehouse Pet Shop carries, has been creating grooming products for more than 30 years and now has over 100 products across eight product lines including grooming, oral care, flea & tick solutions and medicated shampoos, that can be used on both cats and dogs, according to the company’s direct sales account manager, Eva Peters.
Many of TropiClean’s products are catered to groomers, Peters said. For example, the Spa line offers special packages and shampoo programs, such as the Scent of the Month, exclusively for grooming partners. Within that line, Peters said that the Spa by TropiClean Tear Stain Remover Facial Scrub is a bestseller among groomers.
“The product removes 80 percent of tear stains on the first use. It has a wonderful scent that both groomers and pets love,” Peters said. “We’ve received numerous reviews and comments on the calming effect our Spa Tear Stain Remover Facial Scrub has on their furry clients.”
Peters says that, over the years, TropiClean has established strong professional relationships with retailers and groomers—including those with mobile and brick and mortar shops. In that time, TropiClean has seen an increase in the number of grooming professionals who are purchasing more retail products alongside the professional sizes, and she suspects this has to do with what owners are requesting.
“Just like the pet industry, the grooming industry will continue to grow and cater towards pets and their people,” she said. “It’s fascinating to see an increase in mobile units as well as self-wash stations. The increase in self-washes and mobile units caters to pet parents’ preferences, as self-washes allow pet parents a hands-on opportunity while mobile units are convenient and fast.”
It is a common theme when talking with those in the grooming sphere that the industry has become more professional over the years. Considering the care that groomers put into their art, coupled with the busy lives owners lead today, it is no wonder why the grooming category is so successful.
“There’s still an element of do-it-yourself, but I think there’s a growing category of people who are affluent enough and whose lives are busy enough that it’s easier for them to pay for the service at a g rooming salon and have it professionally done,” Vasone said.
Pipino has not only seen an increase in the number of owners who bring their dog to get groomed, but also the frequency with which they do so. Years ago, Pipino said ManeTame had a promotion that would give a discount to people who went into the salon at least every eight weeks. But now, Pipino says that at least 80 percent of her clients go to the salon every four weeks or less.
“I think owners are much more accepting of the grooming process now, and I feel like they are more ready, willing and able to bring their pets in more often so that they grow to accept and like it more,” she said “And also, a lot of groomers are into continuing education now, and I feel that that makes it so much nicer for the pet.
“It makes it a lot more uniform,” Pipino continued. “A lot more groomers know ho w to do all the different clips for all the various breeds now, and they know the names of it. It’s just made it a lot easier because we’re on the same page now.”
And then there’s the big, bad “E” word—E-commerce, that is. Vasone brought that up, but he points out that while that is threatening the brick and mortar shops of just about every industry now, including the pet one, the grooming community is less affected, comparatively, because grooming is impossible to do over the internet.
Pohl says the industry has “come a long way” since he entered it in the early 70s and that it “is getting better all the time.” Of course, he says, there is always room for it to get better, and he thinks that push for advancement will come from there being “more of a drive of professional products, quality products in the future.”
Pohl also notes how this can affect pet retailers. According to Pohl, “many times, the groomers influence what is sold at the retail store,” so if professional groomers are seeking more quality products, pet stores will have to seek them, too.
And because groomers and retailers are getting more professional, wanting higher quality products and receiving more education, it is up to the grooming manufacturers to respond to that.
“The companies or the manufactures that are branding to them, they have to get more professional all the time because, if not, they will be one of the thousands of companies that are in the boneyard right now—they will not be around.”