How Will Covid-19 Change the Pet Grooming Industry?
Part I: Speculation Grows
by Grooming Business in a Box® Team at PetGroomer.com
Part I: Speculation Grows (information gathered prior to online survey of groomers)
Part II: May 2020 Online Survey for Pet Groomers (at PetGroomer.com/1-surveys/ )
Part III: Initial Survey Results and Analysis (begins June 15, 2020)
Part IV: Final Results and Analysis (July 2020)
Part V: In Fall 2020 there will be another survey based on actual experiences with "reopening the industry."
Note: PetGroomer.com Surveys are always anonymous, and never ask you about your personal health, only experiences as a grooming industry member. Since 1997 we have never sold visitor information, and never will. And of course, surveys are anonymous.
Part I – Speculation Grows
Our goal of this series of documents and a major online survey is to listen to pet groomers. Every member of the industry has been affected by the Covid-19 crisis. It’s not often in the grooming industry that such a statement can be made. Many will recount hardships no doubt, including the millions of pet owners we serve.
When the Covid-19 crisis passes will pet grooming be business as usual? No. In Part 1 of this report we simply pass along comments and ideas from interactions with pet groomers in person and online. We also briefly lend our thoughts and reactions having been members of the industry since 1961.
It is speculation at this point, but the pet grooming industry will have changed after the Covid-19 crisis, and possibly in many ways. Millions of pets will continue to be groomed in the future, the industry is not going away. Will their regular groomers be there to serve them again? No one can say for sure. Will the operation of grooming businesses change? It’s very possible. What else? Let’s listen to groomers for early indications.
If you are a pet groomer we invite you to take an anonymous online survey opening May 1, 2020 at PetGroomer.com helping us to learn more about how Covid-19 is potentially changing the business landscape of pet grooming. Absolutely no medical or general information about your health is requested by the survey in order to protect your privacy, and again, it is an anonymous survey. We don’t record your contact information to sell or for any other purpose.
The survey is open to groomers worldwide. You can access PetGroomer.com Surveys Since 1997 here. Thank you for anonymously sharing information how Covid-19 affected your grooming career and/or business operation. The results will be published to the industry at no charge through PetGroomer.com, and PetGroomer.com Magazine.
Listening to Pet Groomers
There are 11 areas of interest within this project. They provide structure to this initial report as well as Part II, the upcoming online national survey beginning in May 2020. From what we are hearing in GroomerTALK Community, as well as some select discussion groups, the following areas of interest organize the project.
1. Is Grooming Essential, or Not?
2. Zero Human Contact Grooming
a. Mobile Grooming
b. Home-based Groomers and Commercial Shops
3. Social Distancing Grooming
4. Mobile Grooming Exceptions
5. Veterinary Prescribed Grooming
6. Will Employees Return to Prior Employers?
a. Rights of Grooming Employees in a Risk Environment
7. How Many Grooming Businesses Reopen Post Covid-19?
8. Will Pet Owner Demand for Grooming Services Shift Post Covid-19?
9. Impact on Grooming Supply Vendors
10. Facility Design and Operations Procedural Changes Post Covid-19
11. Can Pets Pose Covid-19 to Groomers
Essential, or Not?
Is pet grooming an essential service during a health crisis such as Covid-19? Our experience was not so black and white as some individuals stating it was not rather quickly in this early phase of the Covid-19.
At our business (1961-86) we worked with 36 veterinarian clinics sending us prescribed medicated bath dogs and cats almost every day of the year. Many of these pets were in distress with various skin conditions. Often skin was red and swollen from constant scratching and licking. Perhaps many groomers don’t specialize in providing veterinarian prescribed baths, or only rarely. Our doing so brought us thousands of referrals we turned into regular clients.
Last week we contacted a groomer that has used our management consultation services for many years. Just as we did, she frequently provides vet prescribed treatments, several a week. Her business, a commercial location, was forced to close since it was not considered essential by authorities. Much to her credit to help suffering pets, she organized an effort to continue services for these distressed pets by grooming at vet offices mandating the need for the grooming on a case-by-case basis. Because the treatments were vet prescribed and she worked on-site at vet locations practicing social distancing (sometimes borrowing an idle mobile grooming van taken to vet offices) clearance was granted by the authorities. Essential grooming may not be ubiquitous for all groomers but the point of view it is essential does exist across the United States.
Moving on we know of many groomers that were able to continue grooming with the support of local government. Some state and local definitions for Essential Services do include Animal Care. Of course, there are areas (or interpretations) where animal care does not include grooming, yet others give thumbs up. Where social distancing was demonstrated clearances and exceptions were often made.
Our national survey will certainly focus on this important topic in detail.
Zero Human Contact Grooming
It is possible to groom with zero human-to-human physical contact. We know and hear of groomers operating this way with local approval. Here are some general procedural examples from groomers working out of their homes or properties, and mobile vans and trailers. Our national survey will seek additional details.
Pet owners leave their pets in garages or backyards. Mobile groomers parks at their homes and retrieve pets from either location while wearing gloves. Grooming is done in the van and the pets are immediately bathed while still wearing gloves. When grooms are done pets go back to the garages or backyards by groomers wearing gloves. Payments are made by cell phone, no human interaction, no cash or even swiping cards. Vans and trailers are then sterilized. Zero human contact.
Home-based Groomers and Some Commercial Shops
Here is a zero human contact method. In fenced area, such as yards, cages are placed. Pet owners drive to groomer locations. Groomers remain behind locked doors. The owner places their pet in the appropriate cage many feet from the building while groomers observe. Pet owners depart to come back later. Groomers retrieve pets from cages wearing gloves and then go immediately to bathing tubs. Cages are sterilized. Once a grooms is done the owner returns to the groomer. Their pet is placed back in exterior cage and the groomer goes back inside behind locked doors. The pet owner reunites with the pet opening the cage and going back to their car. Payment is made by phone. After each pet owner departs the cage is again sterilized by a glove-protected attendant. Once again, no cash was handled nor payment cards. There was zero human contact, far better than social distancing, no?
Our survey will further explore ingenious ideas by groomers to use zero human contact grooming services.
Social Distancing Grooming
Many groomers are already using social distancing where grooming is considered essential. In the last week some counties in Texas and Kansas eased the definition of essential and groomers practicing social distancing resumed business. Surely the opposite is true elsewhere.
Mobile Grooming Exceptions
We have enough evidence already to speculate that mobile grooming has been the least affected, but that is not to say the majority of mobile businesses are allowed to operate. Mobile grooming can be done with zero human contact and we have stories of mobile groomers allowed to return to work, or that have been allowed to operate all along. Several mobile groomers that participate at GroomerTALK Community have been allowed to operate all along.
Veterinary Prescribed Grooming
We also know from groomers at GroomerTALK they have approached veterinarians and are working for them doing vet prescribed grooming. Our national online survey will take a much closer look at this facet of essential grooming.
Will Employees Return to Prior Employers?
Probably, but not all. There has been much discontent expressed in social media by grooming employees. They want more control of deciding whether to work or not. What rights do employees have in deciding what level of exposure in risk environment? When can their employment be terminated if they refuse to work over these risks?
There are employers who have learned that employees they laid off have started house-call businesses of their own. Are they serving customers of past employers? Specifically we know a case where an employer says some of her groomers violated their signed client confidentiality agreements and approached and groomed the employer’s customers in the pet owner homes. The employer stated she is not likely to rehire them.
There are other factors to explore with the national online survey. Some employed groomers have shared they have left grooming to work in essential-rated jobs. We expect more surprises.
How Many Grooming Businesses Will Reopen Post Covid-19?
There are self-employed groomers we know that have already decided to retire early and closed their businesses for good. It is possible there will be many bankruptcies of grooming business owners if they cannot resume operations soon.
We speculate financial hardships may close hundreds or thousands of grooming businesses for good following the peak of the Covid-19 crisis unless groomers can reopen before May or June 2020.
Will Pet Owner Demand for Grooming Services Shift Post Covid-19?
Here we speculate again. We expect our online survey will reveal a major potential for major change in pet owner demand. If thousands of grooming business do not reopen where will pet owners find services? Corporate stores? It is a distinct potential.
The chronic shortage of grooming employees was already at a peak before Fall 2019. If an area loses independent grooming shops and pet owners shift to corporate, will corporate stores be able to handle demand? How many new independents will open?
We have noted others in GroomerTALK reflecting this same concern. Unless groomers resume operations soon, expect some surprising shifts in pet owner demand and fulfillment.
Impact on Grooming Supply Vendors
No doubt our supply vendors have been hard hit. There are thousands of groomers operating offering some limited sales.
Facility Design and Operations Procedural Changes Post Covid-19
Our Grooming Business in a Box® team is already preparing new floor plans with enhanced features supporting more sterile working environments.
New features will show the impact from our experience with social distancing operations, and maintaining far cleaner operations including UV sterilization methods for surfaces and air quality.
Can Pets Pose Covid-19 Risks to Groomers?
Once again there were resounding no’s and yet some yes's. In our national online survey we will address this issue and offer more complete veterinary test results.
Here we have presented areas of study for the national online survey. We speculate there will be evident changes in the grooming industry post Covid-19. However, grooming will go on once again, and be a vital contributor to millions of pet owners. We look forward to listening to thousands of groomers taking our survey and sharing their responses.