What We Can Do About The Groomer Shortage

In this episode of Greedy Bitch

What We Can Do About The Groomer Shortage

We'll discuss:

  • Potential reasons for the groomer shortage
  • Ways the grooming industry can fix this groomer shortage
  • And more!

Hello, hello and welcome to Greedy Bitch, a podcast where groomers stop apologizing for charging their worth.  I’m your host River Lee, founder of the Savvy Groomer. Let’s talk about today's topic:

What We Can Do About The Groomer Shortage

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard that we are currently experiencing a pet groomer shortage like never before. I like to call it a pet groomer drought! Today I’m going to break down the groomer drought and what we can do about it as an industry.

Why is there a groomer drought?

If you haven’t heard, we are currently experiencing a huge shortage of pet groomers. The industry needs more pet groomers!

There are three theories about why there is such a massive shortage.

First, Covid-19:

I know it sounds cliche but the truth is the circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic caused a lot of groomers to close their shops for months — some chose to retire, change careers, or spend more time at home with their two or four legged kids. For many, it was easier to let the business go rather than weather the storm.  For others their health made it simply not safe to go into work so they had to make hard choices.  Grooming is a physical job and for many this was just the push to leave an industry where our back hurts, we breathe pet hair in all day and move on to potentially greener pastures.

Second, groomers making career shifts:

Since many salons have been closed or only allowed limited hours, many groomers decided to open their own businesses instead of going back into their old shop or relying on unemployment. During the pandemic, mobile groomers and in their home salons have exploded in popularity. Those who switched from shop to mobile or one on one went from grooming 8-10 dogs a day in a shop to grooming 5-6 per day. Just to do some quick math - that’s the difference between grooming between 2080 - 2600 appointments a year to 1300 - 1560 appointments a year.  Every groomer who made a shift from shop to mobile is grooming an average of 780 - 1040 less appointments a year.  That’s a LOT of appointments to have to be filled in by another groomer! 

Third, no one was training new groomers:

During Covid-19 grooming schools were shut down across the country for months or even years. No schools means no new groomers.  You may argue, “I didn’t learn at a grooming school, I learned on the job!” and I agree but as there are less and less groomers it’s become increasingly so that as an industry we rely on grooming schools to help us get new groomers out the door.  Alternatively, places like Petco and PetSmart, who are some of the highest creators of new groomers nationwide, were closed for a long time in most states. Just to put in perspective there are almost 1400 Petco stores in the U.S. alone, and about 1650 PetSmart locations.  If each of those stores trained just one groomer a year, that’s 3,050 groomers that were not trained in 2020. 


Lastly, people just simply got more dogs:

Again, Covid-19 reshaped the world. People who were working from home or who were home more often decided to get a dog.  Not only did they adopt a dog but many of them adopted dogs that required regular grooming.  The explosion of Doodles and Poodle mixes has made the demand for skilled grooming higher than ever - especially these mixes of high maintenance, difficult coats and often difficult temperaments.  Where a groomer may have breezed through a day of 6-8 Shih Tzus, they now find themselves trying not to burn out while they wrestle 2 or 3 80 pound Doodles whose owner wants a hand scissor cut because it’s the “breed standard”.  Those who have been grooming 5, 10, 15, 20+ years have seen the shift in breeds and mixes. We almost would rather have the Cockers, Wheatons or Scotties, instead of the Bernedoodles, Shepadoodles, and Aussiedoodles - well, almost.

These have all made the entire industry make a giant shift

What do we do as an industry to fix the groomer shortage?

The groomer shortage is obviously a huge problem, so here are four things we can do to help fix it.

Build your staff

While it might be a long-term fix, investing in your staff is a huge way to help fix the groomer shortage. If you currently have bathers or other novice employees, train them and build them up to become your ideal groomer over the next year or two. 

An alternative but great way to invest in your future staff is to join a grooming school mentorship program. You’ll get a free intern for 100–150 hours of work. Once their internship is over, you can hire them as hourly employees and continue their training. 

Recruit from your competition

Think about what makes your salon and your location special. Maybe it is nice weather, better pay, lower taxes, or growth opportunities. Try to entice groomers from another state to relocate and work for you. Just a word to the wise: this can be a little tricky since if a staff member is easily swayed by extra money or if they think the grass is always greener - they may choose to leave your business when a better opportunity arises.

Go solo

Many businesses want to go big, hiring many groomers or having big mobile fleets, but that requires a lot of employee management. If you’d rather wrangle dogs than employees, consider going solo. If you find a niche, market well, and set high prices then you will have effortless success as a solo groomer. I have taught many solo groomers how to work less than 40 hours a week and earn 6 figures.  There is a lot of opportunity available for those who are ready to step into excellence.

Increase your prices

The bottom line is that we need more groomers. The best way to attract more groomers is to raise prices! Right now there is a lot of belief that groomers earn very little money or are broke.  By charging more than a liveable wage you are helping the market correct itself.  Grooming prices have simply not kept up with inflation. A groomer charging $45 in 1980 would need to be charging $144 in 2020 to keep up with inflation. Now that number is closer to $160!  We need to stop apologizing for charging our value and start taking control of our future.

For those looking to restructure or increase your prices The Savvy Groomer is offering a 6-module masterclass on how to calculate your pricing, increase your pricing, and strategies to communicate your pricing to your clients!  You’ll feel better knowing to stop winging your prices. We’ll teach you how to really understand your business, your model, your numbers, your employees and the customer psychology that dictates prices that will sustain your business.  If you’re ready to learn the formula for success go to our Price Increase Masterclass. You’ll also find other tools to grow your business on our website www.savvygroomer.com.

Thank you all so much for listening to this podcast: What We Can Do About The Groomer Shortage. As always, happy grooming!