When the economy tanks, Fido gets a buzz cut

SW pet groomers say customers resort to interesting strategies when a downturn hits

Make no bones about it -- the pet grooming business is feeling a pinch. Whether it's a seasonal trend or the ailing economy, many Southwest groomers said they have noticed reduced business.

Rover takes the back seat

Bonnie Kane, owner of Royal Pet Beauty Shop, 3019 Lyndale Ave. S., has been in the business for 24 years, grooming dogs and cats exclusively, although she has done an occasional rabbit. She grooms on average 15 to 25 dogs a day, with fees ranging from $32 to $60, depending on the size and breed of the dog.

During bad economic times, as in recent months, Kane said there's a noticeable change in business.

"Because of the economy, it's kind of bounced up and down," she said.

Kane said she recommends pets come in every four to eight weeks for upkeep, but when the economy slumps people wait longer to bring pets in. "If owners can't afford it and the economy is bad, they just ask me to clip it shorter so the cut will last longer,." Kane said.

She said she encourages regular pet grooming not just to maintain the animal's appearance. "A lot of times we might notice health problems owners might not," she said.

Sticking with the same groomer, Kane said, will enable owners to better notice problems or changes with the animal.

Liz Parker, owner of the Animal Grooming Salon, 617 W. 24th St., has been grooming for 20 years and said her business, run solely on an appointment basis, hasn't noticed the economic shift because of the high number of regulars. But she said she recommends her customers come back every two to three months for upkeep, less frequently than Kane.

Brian Fulmer, owner of Bone Adventure Pet Gear and Grooming, 5045 France Ave. S., said his business has remained fairly constant throughout the tumultuous economic times, because he has many regular customers on a fixed schedule.

He said the rate at which a customer brings their pet in correlates to how much upkeep they are willing to do at home. "Some come in weekly or every two weeks," Fulmer said.

While the economy isn't taking a bite out of his 11-year-old business, Fulmer said that the seasonal shift does hurt. "August is a bit of a quiet time for us," he said.

Seasonal trends

Kane and Parker said this time of year is often a very slow period for business. "August to October is usually pretty bad," Parker said. "People are spending money at the fair and on school supplies," Kane said.

She said the slowest period by far is the first few months of the year. Kane said the weather is a definite factor in the lag in customers. "A lot of people wait through the winter for the spring to get their dog groomed," Parker said.

She said that she specializes in cat grooming, and that works as a supplement when the K-9 clientele is slowed in the winter. "I find a lot of cats getting groomed in the winter," Parker said.

All three owners said they notice a pick up in business right around the holidays. Kane said Easter and Christmas are especially busy. "Summer times are busier too," she said.

Parker said the best time for her business is between March and July.

"The quieter times tend to be just after the holidays," Fulmer said. But he said despite the seasonal shift his store is still grooming 75 to 100 animals per week.

Business marketing

Parker said in addition to her Yellow Pages advertisement she sends out newsletters to her customers, keeping them abreast of happenings with the business.

Kane said she has enough business to keep going, so she doesn't put much into advertising, other than her listing in the Yellow Pages.

Fulmer said despite the good business, he still advertises. As a form of advertisement, all dogs groomed at the store don a bone-patterned fabric bandana; the color reflects their gender or breed. He said when people see the cut dog with the signature bandana they know where the dog was cut.

Echoing other groomers, "Our greatest advertisement is word of mouth," Fulmer said.

Southwest Pet Groomers

Animal Grooming Salon 617 W. 24th St., 870-3559

Bone Adventure Pet Gear and Grooming 5045 France Ave. S., 920-2201

Dog Parlor, Located in the Minnehaha Animal Hospital 4809 Chicago Ave. S., 825-9748

Royal Pet Beauty Shop 3019 Lyndale Ave. S., 822-1655