When choosing tables, groomers should invest in products that will be reliable assets to their businesses for years to come.
Groomers deciding what table to purchase have a lot of options to consider, with a variety of features to choose between. Often, cost can seem like the biggest concern, but in the long run, that’s not necessarily the most important factor. It’s easy to find an inexpensive table to fill an immediate need, but in the long term, getting the right high-quality table to suit your needs is priceless. Stylists and grooming business owners should research to find that perfect-for-them table—if it’s an expensive one, there are multiple ways to pay for it.
What features are groomers looking for in a table? Multiple manufacturers say important considerations for their customers include stability and smooth operation.
“The table should be solid at all heights,” says Nancy Apatow, president of Petlift. “When an animal begins to tremble from fear, the table will shake if it is not sturdy and solid. The frame has much to do with this. We use a heavy-gauge steel for the structure which adds to the solid nature of our tables.”
Along with heavy-gauge steel, Petlift’s tables have high-quality motors and heavy-duty bolts to create a long-lasting table. An average table should last for at least 10 years, and Petlift has documented tables that have been in use for 38 to 40 years and are still functioning well.
Several manufacturers say that most groomers are generally better off with an electric lift rather than a hydraulic pump lift.
“Most groomers have difficulties with how the table performs, particularly in the linear motion of going up and down,” says Billy Chen, president of ComfortGroom. “By going with the electric lift, the motion is perfectly smooth.”
Apatow notes that Petlift’s motor can lift up to 700 pounds, allowing groomers to lift 200-pound dogs effortlessly. She also points out that the height range of the table is important. Groomers should ask about the weight capacity of the table and consider what size dogs their clientele includes.
“An electric table is the workhorse of the grooming business,” Apatow says. “If the table has a powerful motor, it will lift effortlessly and quietly.”
Holly Gibson, marketing and innovation manager for Shor-Line, points out that electric tables have the advantage of allowing a greater range of positioning to accommodate multiple groomer heights and dog sizes, as well as requiring less effort from the groomer.
“Most of our customers prefer electric because it is quiet and lifts smoothly,” she says. “Also, any time you can save stress on the groomer’s legs, it is a good thing. Pumping up a hydraulic lift while soothing the pet is something most groomers have no problem doing, but it still takes physical energy. Multiply that by a dozen pets and the electric [table] could save enough energy to groom another dog.”
However, Apatow believes that hydraulic tables can still be a solid alternative to electric ones, especially if cost is a concern. The table just has to be good quality, as one that drops suddenly or shakes can scare skittish dogs.
“If the table has an inferior hydraulic pump, there will be very little resistance and a heavy weight may come down very hard and fast,” Apatow says. “Our hydraulic pump has push capability to bring down a heavy load slowly, and our hydraulic table frames have springs to prevent the table from lowering quickly and bumpers to prevent a table from slamming down.”
Gibson says that ergonomics are another crucial factor. She recommends choosing a table with lots of positioning options so the groomer can decide where the dog will be positioned for each part of the groom.
“Groomers need the flexibility to position themselves just right,” Gibson says. “Whenever the grooming tub or table can do the job for you, groomers should take advantage.”
Lindsay Dressen, national accounts manager for Groomer’s Best, also frequently hears customer concerns about table height. Tables that allow for ergonomically sound grooming can help prevent strain and injuries.
“You want to make sure your table can go low enough for your dog to jump up or walk onto the table so that you are not lifting the dogs up all day,” Dressen says. “I have also heard from many tall women that they need a table that goes to a minimum height of 40 inches so they are not slightly bending over all day. That puts too much strain on their body and will ultimately cost them time and money from being out of work due to injury.”
For those taller groomers, Dressen recommends making sure you can add taller leg levers or casters to raise the height if the table is too low.
The table surface is another factor to look at, as it must be comfortable for the dogs to stand on, as well as easy to clean.
“Slippery tables make for nervous dogs, especially among pets who are not regularly groomed,” Gibson says. “A firm, stable surface that lets the dogs ‘sink’ into the surface lets the dog relax.”
While a table’s price doesn’t need to be the first consideration, groomers still need to take it into account. Tables run from $100 to $200 for a decent, fixed-height, four-post leg design. Hydraulics can be purchased from $200 for a very basic model to $2,000, while electric tables range from about $450 to $2,500.
If you devote the price of just one grooming a week to buying a new table, you could save up for an expensive table in about a year. Some groomers enlist the help of regular customers in financing equipment purchases by offering a slight discount to their best clients if they pre-pay for a year. If you explain that you want to upgrade your equipment to help create a better, safer environment for their dogs, they may be happy to help. The right customers will be delighted not only to receive a discount, but to play a part in your business’ success. Some firms offer financing or leasing programs for large equipment, or a business loan for capital expenditures might be an option.
Chen points out one frequently overlooked cost in budgeting for a table—shipping.
“Most companies charge high shipping rates, whereas ComfortGroom has great relations with our shipping vendors to allow free shipping on tables and other equipment,” he says.
Think carefully about what your ideal table is, including what benefits and features you need to make your business run smoothly and what type is the safest for your usage. Then, choose a company you trust, and find a way to pay for the table that works best for you and your business. PB