Pet Groomer Shortages and How They Can Be Overcome

Jan 13, 2022 | Pet Grooming Business

Pet groomer shortages in the US are a reality, and the increase in pet ownership is one of the largest contributing factors. Pet ownership numbers made an incredible jump during the 2020 pandemic, growing from 140 million to 149 million. This growth of 7% far outstripped the projected increase of 2% expected by the industry. 

The increase in pet ownership is also driving the demand for pet grooming services. However, for years pet grooming businesses have been struggling to build and maintain highly-skilled pet grooming staff, and this shortage just got worse. The lack of pet groomers is creating huge backlogs for pet grooming salons, and these businesses are struggling to cope with the growing demand for their services. 

Unfortunately, pet groomer shortages affect pets and their pet owners more than anyone else. Professional pet grooming salon owners know that they cannot squeeze in more clients than they can safely cope with during their working day. But due to worker shortages, they are forced to turn down appointments, both from their regular customers and new ones. 

Pet Grooming Services Market Continues its Healthy Growth

Despite the outbreak of the pandemic, the US pet care market accounted for about $99 billion in 2020. Increasing pet ownership during the period up to 2025 is expected to remain slightly positive, leading to further industry growth. 

In the US, the anticipated pet grooming services market growth for both cats and dogs is expected at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 5% until 2026. This is due to the increasing awareness of the health and hygiene of pets. Included in these predictions, is an increase in the demand for pet grooming services, expected to reach over $3 billion by 2026. 

This growth is largely due to the willingness of people who adopt pets to spend on extras that enhance their wellbeing. These include premium healthcare, regular pet grooming, training, and feeding them more expensive organic food. Skin-related infections, allergies, bacterial diseases, and other skin disorders, are also increasing in pets, and this has led to a bigger demand for regular grooming services. Pet grooming helps reduce skin diseases and their irritating symptoms. 

Currently, 42 million households in the US own cats, and despite them being self-cleaning animals, grooming helps prevent parasitic infections and removes dead hair. Grooming services offered by salons and mobile groomers are both convenient and very affordable, contributing to their popularity. 

Reasons for Pet Groomer Shortages

The boom in pet ownership and the challenges of the pandemic are making pet groomer shortages worse, according to many salon owners. Since many pet grooming businesses closed during the various lockdowns, many of their groomers decided it was time to retire, while others moved on to other careers. Coupled with this, the industry does not seem to be attracting enough young people, despite the low barrier to entry, benefits like flexible schedules, health insurance and paid time off, and the possibility to earn good money. 

There aren’t very stringent requirements for someone wanting a career as a pet groomer, but they are paid according to their experience level. The average pet groomer salary in the US is $17.78 per hour, but this figure depends on the state. For example, pet groomers in Vermont earn 25% above the national average, whereas those in Mississippi and New Mexico about 25% less.  

In most states, pet groomers don’t require licensing or certification. Many start their training by accepting apprenticeships at pet grooming salons, veterinary clinics, or pet shelters. Others prefer to partake in special training programs available in most states. There are several possibilities for enhancing their careers too, either by taking on a management position or opening their own salon. 

Consequences of Pet Groomer Shortages

Being short-staffed means that pet grooming businesses can barely keep up with the work. Besides constraining them from plans to grow their business, it adds stress to the owners, management, and the rest of the employees, who have to work extra hard to meet the salon’s needs. 

For the pet owners, it means that they are either having to extend the time between grooming sessions or to groom their pets at home. Both of these solutions are not ideal for pets or their owners. Firstly, regular grooming is essential for most pets because it helps maintain their coats, nails, ears and helps with the detection of problems sooner rather than later. Secondly, most pet owners are very busy with their own work and find that they cannot put time aside to give their pets the thorough grooming they need. Finally, pets become attached to their groomers and look forward to their grooming sessions, meaning the shortages are causing disruptions to their routine. 

Overcoming Pet Groomer Shortages

Across the US, reports show how desperate the situation has become. Recently, business owners in Sioux Falls complained to their local business journal, the Argus Leader, about the shortages. One veterinarian is forced to groom dogs between seeing clients as she waits for someone to apply for the job listing bathers or pet groomers. According to the report, the city has 20 grooming businesses, all booked out for months in advance. 

Some suggestions for attracting new workers include upgrading the pet grooming equipment, offering health insurance, work flexibility, and higher commissions. However, many business owners say they are already offering all this but cannot attract applications. The demand for groomers is so high that businesses try to lure employees away from other salons with better offers. 

Here are some ways that your business can adopt to overcome pet groomer shortages: 

Continued Focus on Customer Experience 

With the shortages of pet groomers, you may inevitably have to disappoint customers by telling them to try another salon or give them appointments with longer waiting times. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot continue giving your customers the best customer experience. 

Be pleasant and continue connecting with your human customers and their pets. Don’t be tempted to take on more pets than you can possibly cope with. This will place more stress on everyone, especially your employees, and this will rub off on the pets they are grooming. 

Your customers will forgive having to wait for an appointment a bit longer because they can see you are making the extra effort to offer them a positive experience. 

Managing Customer Expectations 

Many people will find it hard to accept that you can’t just squeeze in an appointment for their pet. Be nice and explain to them why you are booked out. Point out that regular clients book their appointments months in advance, often booking several appointments for the year ahead. Tell them that this is what they should also be doing if they want their pet groomed regularly. 

Training and Retaining Pet Groomers 

Understanding the reasons why you are short-staffed will offer you better insights into how to overcome the shortages. The higher the staff turnover rate in a business, the more costly it becomes because time and effort are required to rehire. Therefore, staff retention is essential to your business. 

According to Indeed, some of the top reasons employees give for leaving their job include feeling unchallenged, feeling undervalued, not getting enough feedback, being uninspired, looking for advancement, and looking for a higher salary. 

As a pet grooming salon owner, some of these issues are easier to address than others. However, make a point of investing time with your employees, showing them that as their leader, you can guide them to remain focused on their skills, and learn new ones. By helping them, you are also helping your business. The more staff you retain, the easier it is for you to attract employees to your business. Happy employees speak with others, encouraging them to try for a job with you. 

Education Offers Greater Skills

Pet grooming is a skilled trade, and perhaps a higher education is not needed for it. However, taking a course in pet grooming enhances the abilities of employees. These abilities help them offer quality services and increased speeds, and the more pets they groom, the more money they and your business can make. As a pet grooming salon owner, you can offer training or an apprenticeship to encourage young people in your area to take up a career in pet grooming.

 Unfortunately, professional dog grooming is not promoted enough when compared to other careers. Usually, most groomers learn their trade from other groomers – and this is not bringing in enough skilled people to cope with the demand.  

Final Take 

In a sector expected to grow by a whole 29% before the end of this decade, the job openings and career opportunities for pet groomers will continue to grow. There is no better time for animal lovers to get started in a career path in a job that pays well, including pay raises according to experience and certification. Also, pet groomers can expect to make more when working overtime. 

Running a pet grooming business, whether you own a storefront or mobile unit, is challenging enough, even without all the pet groomer shortages. Groomsoft, pet grooming software, offers unmatched service and security, helping you manage and organize your business with online appointment bookings, appointment reminders and much more. See how you can save time with the software’s smart features that include route optimization for mobile groomers, automatic appointment confirmations with text messaging reminders, vaccination reminders  and free US based support.

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