Creating a Spa Atmosphere

A salon that incorporates spa elements into its business is likely to increase its profits and raise its status in the community.


Although not a perfect option for every salon, the spa concept is a good one for many to consider. Since most pet owners consider their animals to be members of the family, it is easy for groomers to appeal to customer perceptions of value and exclusivity. A trip to a human spa is thought to be a special pampering experience, and while a haircut at a barber may be perfectly flattering, a spa can charge five times as much for a similar trim. So why not take advantage of the concept in a pet styling salon? It has the potential to raise the public perception of the salon to “elite” and increase the salon’s bottom line.

What turns a grooming shop or styling salon into a “spa” in customers’ minds? It’s all about setting the mood. And how does one create a specific mood? Well, it’s all in the details. If you see a big tent top, hear calliope music, and smell fried dough and animals, you expect a circus. What says elegant spa? Identify what creates an exclusive, stylish, high-end mood and use it. There are a lot of different approaches that work.

The Five Senses
When creating a spa atmosphere, use all five senses. Sight is probably strongest for most people. Look through an Architectural Digest or any home and garden-type magazine. Do Aubusson carpets and heavy antique mahogany furniture scream spa? Or perhaps an ultra modern, uncluttered scientific look with lots of chrome and black and white tiles? Flowers, especially large arrangements, speak to most people’s perception of elegant living, no matter what theme has been selected.

What will a customer hear when they enter the reception area? Classical music, modern instrumentals and light jazz all work. Make sure that the music isn’t too loud; it’s background music used simply to set a mood. And who knows, maybe it’ll relax the dogs as well. A small indoor fountain on the counter can also improve the ambiance, and the sound of flowing water seems to have a calming effect.

Scent is an area to use caution in. Although a salon needs to appeal to humans and create the right mood, it’s also important not to overwhelm the dogs’ sensitive noses. Use moderation in the scent department, keeping the four-legged clients’ needs in mind. Many herbal scents seem to be calming to dogs as well as people, so perhaps stay in that area rather than heavily floral. Incense burners, plug-ins and simply dropping essential oils on small pieces of cloth around the salon will all work well.

Ever been to a spa and found tiny elegant wrapped chocolates in the waiting or relaxation area? Try having a dish of Andes mints on the counter, next to a glass jar of faux frosted cookies for the dogs. You may have to label the dish “human treats” to get the idea across. Sometimes, it’s a small touch that makes a big impression on people.

Sweet Dreams
A spa atmosphere often makes one think of calming sleep. Creating the illusion of a bedroom area increases this atmosphere. Try dimming the lights slightly in the intake section. Fabrics like silk or satin can also contribute to this atmosphere since they imply luxury and relaxation. These fabrics can be in the form of curtains or door and wall hangings, or they can be included in a retail display. Also consider having bolster beds in all the crates.

Instead of posting prices, create a three-fold brochure, complete with a spa menu that shows all of the salon’s prices in a tasteful manner–like an a la carte selection. Describe the services appropriately for a spa environment (a “deluxe pedicure” might mean dremeling or filing nails smooth and polish on request). Deshedding, hot oil treatments, blueberry facials, mud treatments and massage should also be described here, including the benefits to the animal.

Be creative and have fun creating a salon experience. The Elegant Paw in Peabody Mass. did, and the results are a booming business. The salon is located in a strip mall that is also home to a florist. Every few days, the florist brings over a beautiful new flower arrangement, heavily discounted, in return for leaving several cards next to it. Both businesses benefit from the arrangement. There’s also a chalkboard in a lovely antique frame that’s message changes daily. “Good Morning! We are glad you are here,” “Get all the joy out of today that you can,” and dozens of other thoughts are written there. Customers say they look forward to seeing the message of the day, and it makes them feel special.

Carol Visser is a Nationally Certified Master Groomer and Certified Pet Dog Trainer. Formerly a pet product expert for PetEdge, she and her husband Glenn now own Two Canines Pet Services in Montville, Maine, which provides grooming, boarding, training and day care services to Waldo County.

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