Dog Grooming Tips and Tricks

How grooming salons set the price of their services could ultimately be the difference between success and failure.




The right approach to pricing is something that many grooming businesses struggle with, and for good reason. Pricing services is harder than pricing products. With products, you simply decide on a percentage mark-up based on what you paid at wholesale. Of course, you also have to keep in mind the square footage or shelf-space a product is taking up and turnover. It’s like every product needs to pay rent for its shelf-space. What do you need to charge for the product to cover its rent? In addition, sometimes manufacturers will dictate pricing or the marketplace may have influence.


Pricing services may seem just as simple, if you use the basic science of pricing and stick to it. First, determine the cost of providing your service using cost and operating expenses, and then add in your desired profit. Easy, right?


The cost of providing a service is based on several factors, including all the purchases you make for shampoos, ear products, nail products, sprays, towels, dryers, bathing systems, cleaning products and other supplies like scissor, clippers and blades. You also have to figure in labor costs, whether they’re paid salary, hourly or in commission. Then you have your overhead, which include everything from rent, taxes and insurance to utilities, property maintenance and repairs.


To figure out your cost per groom, take the number of grooms that your staff can produce daily and multiply that by the number of days in the month the salon is open. Then divide that number into the monthly cost of running your business. You now have your average cost per groom.


When calculating your costs, however, don’t just depend on last year’s numbers; stay current and even think ahead. For example, if you have a price increase on shampoos or a tax increase, or if you plan to increase wages, you need to recalculate a fair profit margin.


When all is said and done, you want a clear profit of at least 10 percent and as high as 50 percent. Many service businesses have around an 18 percent profit after all costs are deducted. Once you figure out this margin and add it to your costs, you have a solid formula for pricing your services.


With that said, it definitely does not hurt to know what your competitors are charging within a 30-mile radius. This information could come from competitor websites or a phone call. I am not saying charge the same, just stay informed. I want to have fair pricing, but I do not focus too much on competitors’ pricing. I find that a customer you win on price alone is probably not going to be a loyal customer; no matter how good the service they receive from your business is, if another groomer offers a lower price, they will be gone. Your goal is to create a long-term relationship.


Of course, if you are a new salon, you might want to offer an introductory discount to get people in the door. However, make sure customers know that you discounted their first visit and that it is a one-time thing. If they perceive your service as outstanding, moving to a regular pricing level will not be an issue.


Looking Beyond the Basics

While the above calculations are vital to developing the right pricing strategy, there is also a lot subjectivity that goes into what clients will be willing to pay for your services. With this in mind, I focus my energy on providing competitive services that speak for themselves, as well as a great customer experience.


Experience and training are also very important factors when setting prices. There are some salons that have tiered pricing based on the groomers education and certification levels. Some even give a little additional recognition for top winning grooming competitors.


I personally charge higher prices for specialty grooms. I do most of the hand scissoring, hand strips and breed profile work, services that have an added charge associated with them. My groomer can work toward reaching the same level of expertise, which will come with higher pay.


Pricing Presentation

There are a few different ways grooming businesses can break out their pricing. For example, you charge an hourly rate for your services. What makes this way of charging efficient also makes it hard for customers to understand, because the rates can vary.


This pricing strategy will also require you to calculate a bit differently. You will need to take the same costs and divide them by the number of dogs you can groom in the month, but you will also have to decide if the per dog rate is equal to an hour of work. Some dogs might take slightly less than an hour, while others may be much longer. So, the owner of a dog that takes three hours to groom should be charged three times more than the hourly average.


The upside to this pricing technique is that each dog is fairly priced based on the amount of work that goes into its groom. The downside is groomers that are more efficient end up getting punished because they groom more dogs in less time.


I personally base my pricing by dog based on the weight of the dog, jumping in price every 20 lbs. (in retrospect, I wish I would have done it for every 10 lbs.). I have a full groom charge, which covers everything needed for a regular grooming, including the bath, ears, nails, glands, blow-dry and desired trim, along with 15 mins. of brushing and 15 mins. of scissoring. Anything more than that comes with an extra charge.


Bath dogs are charged by coat length. I break it down by 1 in. and under, 1 to 2 in., and more than 2 in. This includes bath, nails, ears, blow dry, 15 mins. of brushing and very little trimming.


Sticking to a flat fee with add-ons makes pricing simple. Customers appreciate a fixed rate, or at least consistency, and the ability to clearly understand why they are being charged a particular price. Charging a flat rate, however, comes with risks. If a dog takes longer than expected to complete, you may risk losing money on the client. To avoid this, you need to thoroughly evaluate each dog and explain possible extra charges and why. The customer has to understand a quoted price is where we start and will try hard to stay, but they need to agree to pay additional fees if the groom requires overtime because of mats, specialty services and things like that.


Stay Current

Monitoring and changing your prices in a service business is a must. You need to understand the profitability of your salon every month. By the middle of every month, you ought to have your financial statements from the previous month.


In addition to understanding your overall profitability, you need to understand the profitability of every service you offer. For example, let’s say you charge $5 extra to grind a dog’s toenails on top of the nail trim, which is $10. If the grinding takes the same amount of time as the trimming, you should really look at charging $20 for both services together.


You should always be testing new prices, new offers and new combinations of services. This could include premiums to help you sell more of your services at a better price. Often, the perfect time to do this is when quoting a price to a new customer. Evaluate the customer’s response and whether or not they made an appointment. If you need to build your customer base, I would wait and do this when you are booked out a few weeks in advance.


It’s a fact that you will need to raise prices from time to time as part of managing your business. If you never raise your prices, you won’t be in business for long. Your regular monitoring of prices and costs, along with monitoring the competition, will ensure that you make the kind of money you deserve to make in your salon.


There are risks to raising prices, though—particularly when your customers are going through tough financial times. With this in mind, there are signs you can look for to help you determine when is a good time to raise your prices. One example is if your customers say you’re a bargain, or if they can’t believe how much you charged compared to the groomer down the street while doing a much better job.


Still, you probably don’t want to raise your prices too much all at once. A big jump in price might be too much of a shock for your customers. Instead, raise prices in small increments. I have read that you should at least add enough each year to cover inflation. So, if you charge $40 a dog and inflation is two percent, you should raise prices by 80 cents.


I have read that you should not raise your prices across the board. However, I find that other than adding additional services or increasing the prices of your additional services, you almost need to raise your prices on every dog.


Another option is to apply an extra charge to clients who wait more than six weeks between appointments. This can be a big win/win because either clients will pay more or dogs will be in better condition when they come in, increasing efficiency in the salon.


Whichever strategy you choose, you owe it to yourself and your staff to manage your pricing. Remember, how you set the price of the services could be the difference between success and failure. PB


Chris Pawlosky is a Certified Master Groomer, professional handler, breeder, grooming show judge and successful pet store and grooming shop owner (The Pet Connection) since . For years, she served as national training manager for Oster Professional Products, where she developed new initiative educational material to educate at schools and conventions all over the world. Pawlosky is currently working with Judy Hudson to produce the Grooming Professors—a service through which the two industry veterans share their many years of grooming, competing, dog show conditioning and handling with groomers across the country via Facebook and through an interactive website where visitors can access webcasts and videos about everything grooming-related.

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