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Hello from across the pond!

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  • Hello from across the pond!

    Hi - my name is Laura and I'm a long time lurker on this forum but realised I should probably join and start posting

    I've been grooming for 11 years and am home based in London, UK, I specialise in smaller breed dogs from cocker size down. I've really enjoyed this forum for recommendations on equipment and general tips and tricks. Right now I'm going through a bit of a sea change, grooming has been one of my offerings - I also offered training, daycare and boarding, but due to Covid and a couple of other events grooming is now my only source of income. This being the case I'm looking to build up my client base - with the added challenges of it being an economic downturn and a new luxury grooming parlour, cafe, and dog friendly bar opening just round the corner from me!

    I really enjoy grooming but over the years have encountered a lot of frustrating issues, the main one I guess is that there are now tonnes of grooming parlours in my neighbourhood. When I started I was the only groomer and had a very full schedule, now there are about 15 at a variety of price points and I get far fewer clients and have gradually reduced my prices. I can't compete with the luxury pet spa/store experience, but also don't want to price myself at the rock bottom pet store level there is available as I wouldn't be able to exist on it (this is about £25 for a full groom). So I'm trying to branch out and think of new things I can do to attract new, and loyal clients.

    That would be my second main challenge - I've found there's not much customer loyalty now there are so many options, people seem to shop around a lot, especially if they can't get an appointment same day or next day and there are plenty who just want the cheapest option. I've recently started an online booking system so that clients can find the next slot that works best for them and that seems to be quite popular.

    I would also love to do more 'styling', for whatever reason in my area most people come in every 3-6 months for shavedowns. I see an endless stream of matted poodle mixes and despite much education and encouragement these dogs stay that way. (I've tried reminders and encouragement to book on a schedule but with no takeup) I would love to be able to grow more regulars who pre book and come every 4-6 weeks. For me this is very rare, very very few of my clients book more than a week ahead, and I can count on one hand the clients that come every 4-6 weeks and keep their pups in a style.

    Because of this I've been learning as much as I can about Asian Fusion styling as I'm thinking of maybe trying to become a 'go to' person for this - at the moment the issue is finding clients who want that look, most want super short and practical. Though I do wonder if that kind of client is more drawn by a fancy dog spa 🤔

    Most of my clients are word of mouth, though I do get enquiries from google etc. I don't do much marketing - for one particular reason, being home based and working in a pretty upmarket area I try and keep things low key as I'm aware there are plenty of people who aren't that keen on home based businesses like mine in the area, unfortunately if they start to complain I would be shut down, so I've always tried to fly under the radar as it were. Not necessarily conducive to growing my client base!

    My clientele is probably 30% nice, regular clients with relatively well mannered dogs who keep them in good condition, and 70% badly behaved Tasmanian Devils who get shaved down 😂 which I would like to move away from!

    Being a US based forum I find it interesting that people seem much more willing to have regular grooms and maintain styles in the US. I have had several dogs from the states and they are always much better behaved than the wild things I see from the UK. It is rare for me to have a dog with good table manners that will hold still, most are whirling, snapping dervishes with owners who refuse to understand that this impacts on their eventual look.

    Any and all advice and thoughts on anything I post is always welcome. Now that I've given a little of my background (which I know is pretty unusual) I'm going to be thinking on some of the daily grooming challenges I have so I can ask for advice and recommendations.

    Lovely to meet you all!

  • #2
    Hello, I just came around this. Welcome.

    Very interesting that you say the states dogs are probably more behaved. Actually that is true of nearly all my clients. When I get a new customer that is of course when I may see a dog that has been refused elsewhere and now trying me. Sometimes that works out, fingers crossed.

    Sounds like almost all grooming in UK is local shops and some but rarely mobile. Sometimes the LUXURY experience is not always luxury looking spa. It is the one on one, even if you groom in the home of the owner. There is a story here about some that get big bucks, BIG bucks for the priority of grooming pets in the homes of owners. Does that happen there? If you could tap into a few of those they might even book you out more frequently. Very exclusive experience in their home, maybe word would get around.

    Grooming in the pet owner home you would risk your home business.

    I think during Covid things will be weird anyway, up and down.

    Let's see what happens.


    • #3
      Hi Whitedog - thanks for your thoughts! I’m keeping my mind open about the next year or so. In London where I’m based mobile grooming doesn’t really exist because of our parking and traffic restrictions - there is very little parking (rare to have any houses with spaces) and it is metered at about £5 per hour usually with a 1.5 max stay, we also have additional daily charges of £15 to drive in the central area, and restrictions on vehicle types - so it isn’t really done. This is also why at home services are tricky as there’s nowhere to park easily!

      Over the years I’ve looked at premises but the cost is exorbitant - leases are 3 years and about £100k per year plus local administration charges of about 20%. For teeny tiny spaces! This is why so many new places are running the cafes/bars/retail alongside as I think that brings in a lot of income.

      There have been quite a few big pet store companies much like you have that now offer in store grooming, and there is a trend among very wealthy (and lucky) people to open pet spas which feature free WiFi, dog cafes etc. I know that some people will prefer that they can have lunch while their dog gets groomed and also work on their laptop. Plus there is a big turnover as lots of people move around a lot in the city. I’ve had a few dogs move this year - two back to the states!

      I know I provide great quality and care, I have a background in behaviourism and see one dog at a time, use high quality quality, natural and organic products and really go the extra mile for the dog and it’s owner. But the competition is pretty stiff on price and extras!

      I have considered leaving the city and going to a more rural location and going mobile, but there’s the obvious start up costs, plus of course building a customer base all over again - I do have at least some customers now! Plus in rural areas the prices people pay are super low.

      If I won the lottery I’d open up a fancy pet cafe and spa in a heartbeat but until then I’ll just keep trying to figure out alternatives 😊


      • #4
        Hello 4TinyPaws!
        It sounds like you have several problems in your area. Lots of other groomers, lots of dog owners who aren’t concerned about keeping Baby clean and fresh, clients who are less than loyal, and an unwillingness to commit to a grooming schedule. That’s a lot to contend with in addition to keeping quiet about your business for fear of neighbors having you shut down.
        Your idea of becoming a niche groomer might be a good one. Even with clean bodies and legs, some may be willing to allow you to keep more facial hair to create those adorable Doll-like looks. Or maybe not.
        There are posts here somewhere about taking surveys of clients, former clients, once-in-a-while clients that help you to better understand why they stay, why they go, why they don’t rebook, what you can do better. It’s just a fact finding mission to help you to better understand what you can do to earn and retain the type of clients that you want.


        • #5
          Welcome Laura! Distinguishing yourself in some way from the other shops seems like a good idea. Whitedog had a good thought. I am home-based also...I have been weeding out the bad behavior dogs and slowly but surely replacing with more well behaved ones. I don't have the heart anymore to wrestle bad ones all day long. Most of mine are shave downs also becaue people don't want to do anything at home. I think you have a typical clientle...ha ha....welcome to the pack!


          • #6
            Thanks guys for your thoughts! After so many years and while still wanting to grow my client base I am now selective in who I take. I really don’t want to deal with horrible owners or dogs any more. Most of the time I can tell in my gut from enquiries which way they will go!

            I shall check out the resources you mentioned - I’m keen to encourage my ‘good’ clients for more referrals as I find this brings a better outcome than usual advertising - I think because the owners are often like minded.

            Hopefully my post didn’t seem too negative! 😳 Yes I have a lot of specific challenges and the COVID situation has made everyone’s life trickier but I am looking forward to seeing what can be done and thinking creatively 😊


            • #7
              very interesting. Never met a groomer yet from out of US


              • #8
                Hi 4tiny paws and welcome, I'm a groomer based in Bolton in the uk! (see moochi, you know me )

                I have had similar issues with prices until I realised : my overheads are different to what Sally's down the road is. I can not charge the same as Sally because I need to make more money to cover my bills. You need to work smarter not harder and by adjusting your pricing means it'll automatically weed out bad clients who only want cheap. Figure out your average monthly out goings Inc wages. Divide that by how many days you work in the full month and. That will give you what you need to make per day to break even and cover bills.

                Most of those groomers who are waaaayy under charging will soon close because they are breaking their backs for next to nothing. In the last year I've seen 10 new groomers open up and 8 have closed.

                ​​I am in a relatively cheap (certainly cheap compared to London) area and I can still get £35 for a shihtzu, £40 for a cocker or a poodle Cross and people do pay it. Thanks to this forum, I no longer apologise for my pricing nor do I explain or try and over explain or justify my costs. for any one who does push I simply say I have my over heads and wages to pay. They cannot argue with that.

                I don't market really, just post my cute grooms on my face book page and I get a lot of word of mouth recommendations.I also post pictures of cute grooms I want to try and ask would any one be willing to let me try it out. Feel free to read through my post history.

                When you say you would be shut down if people complained because your a home based salon can you elaborate? Does it mean that you don't have permission from the council to run it from home? If not you really need to get that sorted. A groomer near me was closed down and was give 30 days to find a new place to work from because of 1 comaint from an unhappy neighbour.

                I have set myself apart from other local groomers by doing more cute fluffy styles and by offering to do them and really listening to my clients by going In depth about what they want and need from a groom, like when they say short but not too short I use a dark blue attachment comb so it's a bit fuzzy but still short and manageable.

                Again a warm welcome and I hope to see you around here more often!


                • #9
                  Happy to be your first Moochie! I have a strong US connection as lived there til 10 in Abq, NM, and have family in California, Texas, Colorado and Florida 😊🇺🇸🇬🇧


                  • #10
                    I hope you prevail and find your solutions. Everywhere you go it seems too many obstacles to people trying to run small businesses but big business gets their way,


                    • #11


                      • #12
                        Sorry for the slow reply - have had a sick dog so been off the forum for a bit! Marshmellow - totally agree with your points. I think I’m just overly cautious about rubbing neighbours up the wrong way.
                        I have been increasing my prices but I think had a wobble with this new place opening nearby - I know that my pricing weeds people out and I just have to remind myself that people who don’t want to pay my very reasonable rates aren’t the right fit!


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by 4TinyPaws View Post
                          I have been increasing my prices but I think had a wobble with this new place opening nearby - I know that my pricing weeds people out and I just have to remind myself that people who don’t want to pay my very reasonable rates aren’t the right fit!
                          First, I hope your dog is doing better!

                          Second, it is a very fine line to make sure you are earning enough to cover your out goings with out under charging and working yourself to the point that all you do is work but at the same time not over charging. You will get there.