You may have heard of grooming businesses offering programs, often bathing-related. Spend so many dollars a month and receive “x” amount of baths for your pets. These programs are different, and not indicative of “members only” businesses discussed in this article. In fact, there are no programs to describe here, just membership access.
“Members Only” means there is a membership (fee-based) required to access the grooming services of a grooming business. You become a member to shop at Costco, similarly you become a member to use the services of a members only grooming business.
If you are new to the grooming industry know that this modus operandi is uncommon. Yet these businesses do exist and as management consultants they surely interest us. We interviewed three separate membership-based business owners and by their request their names will remain anonymous. None are spokespersons suggesting their methods to others. All are very pleased with their choices, and emanate a sense of exclusivity that works for them. They do not desire to be objects of curiosity to groomers.
Are they “name” groomers known in professional circles, the competition rings and in trade publications? No.
Personally we sensed deep professionalism in how they handled the interview. They were thoughtful and focused on business, and spoke clearly and to the point.
On the next page there is a comparison chart of key aspects of their operations (2 shops and 1 mobile). All work alone except Shop 1 has a part-time bather. Their backgrounds include 7 or more years of experience as full-charge stylists/groomers. Two of them are certified by associations. None are competition groomers now or in the past.
All use a standing appointment operation with frequency restrictions. Two require all members to not go beyond every 6 weeks between appointments, while the third groomer allows intervals up to every 8 weeks.
The primary benefit for interval limitations is to keep pets always looking their best, and of course, easier to groom. If pets come in very matted their owners must either come in more frequently, or stop what is causing the matting.
For example, some dogs swim in pools and become matted when undercoat is not maintained. Another example, some owners bathe pets under similar circumstances producing mats. Training is available at no charge to members to remove undercoat between appointments.
Hand stripping availability is important. All agree pet owner access to professional hand stripping is a key reason for many of their clients to join. One said 45% of her clientele preferred some or complete hand stripping compared to alternative commercial clipping.
Annual membership fees ranged from $109 to $144. Average total sales of membership fees for each business was approximately $19,000 a year. Their comments included, “My business rent and utilities is entirely paid by membership fees. That’s a wonderful feeling.” Also, “My van payments and major maintenance is paid by membership fees. It is a great way to maintain services with the best vans today.”
None said their grooming prices were the highest fees in their area, but they are above average. The lowest price for a Bichon full groom was $79 and $110 including mobile convenience.
Consultation with pet owner members plays a key role in their grooming operations. As part of the membership fee there is an initial new customer consultation, and an annual review optional at renewal. On average, 55% percent of pet owners opt for renewal consultations.
Ongoing consultations during the membership period are available, and again a key factor for some pet owners to pay a membership fee. We asked what topics are most popular. It seems many of the clients use their groomers as sounding boards sharing what they read and hear about pet care, nutrition and pet ownership in general. Some clients discuss veterinary issues. The groomers understand they cannot diagnose but said members like us to listen to them.
They agree their approach is somewhat holistic in nature, but none use the word “holistic” to describe their services. They are well read including leading grooming trade magazines, Whole Dog Journal, Petfood magazine and two read veterinary magazines. Two sell health support supplements but no dog food.
All three groomers provide customers with a private business phone number. One said she always tries to answer that line immediately. All maintain a regular business phone number for the public and often allow it to go to voicemail knowing their members will use their private access numbers.
Two shops provide a postal mail or email newsletter every 3 months with seasonal reminders. The mobile groomer offers a free conference call instead because he doesn’t like to write. There is little in the way of Q&A sessions on these calls. Members can listen to free digital recordings of the calls on demand via Internet services. He said about 40 listen live. He discusses seasonal needs and trends for pet care and local pet activities. All three groomers make an effort to associate with local breeders and breed clubs.
None advertise for new customers. Yes, I did say none advertise. Only one has a Facebook page but not for her business. Advertising will only bring more new customer inquiries and at the time of their interviews none had any openings for new customers. When they do have openings for new customers, usually resulting from clientele moving out of the area, they send a notice to current members of the availability. That simple notice usually brings them new customers the same week.
Fascinating isn’t it? Perhaps you will consider a members only operation.