Gravy of Profitability in Pet Grooming

Silver Gravy BoatPet owners pay more to have their pets not only bathed, but also styled by professional groomers. It seems logical to expect more net operating profit when you sell a higher-priced bath and styling service instead of a bath-only service. However, this logic can fail you when two factors are present:

  • Bathing Department
  • Pet Bather(s)

The financial purpose of a bathing department is 1) to employ pet bathers to bath all pets, even the complete grooming pets finished by stylists, and 2)to boost profitability. When a full-charge groomer bathes a pet, the business generally loses some profit on that service order because a pet bather could do the bathing duties for less wages.

Think about it. Workers paid a lower wage, in this case pet bathers, replace higher wage groomers from doing bathing and drying, ears and nails duties. Accountants hire bookkeeper employees and attorneys hire paralegals to maintain competitive prices by reducing labor costs. Similarly, some hair salons for people have staff that only shampoo.

The savings for one service may not seem like a lot, but when you annualize many services over a year the savings in wages can be thousands of dollars, even tens of thousands. Take a closer look.

If a full-charge groomer earns 60 percent commission and grooms a $40 bath-only pet without the help of a pet bather, the groomer earns $24 gross. It is the same as saying the owner paid the groomer $24 in wages to groom the bath-only pet. If the same pet is done by a pet bather capable of doing as few as 12 bath-only services in 8 hours and is paid well at $15 an hour wage, the pet bather earns $10 gross. Wages are reduced by $14.
How did we calculate the $10? The pet bather averages one bathing service every 40 minutes when doing 12 in 8 hours. Forty minutes is $10 in wages.

Why do owners pay $24 gross wages versus $10 for same pet?

Don’t waste the gravy! Owners have an important choice to make when compensating for bath-only pets. The owner has a choice. Pay a commission groomer $24 or pay a skilled pet bather $10 to do the same bath-only pet? We call this $14 difference the “gravy of profitability.” The requirements are simple, a bathing department, pet bathers and assigning bath-only pets to pet bathers. Our skilled bathers could bun and bow, neaten with scissors, thin and clip “Poodle faces” for touch-up baths. Their work was supervised and quality control checked. The gravy savings on labor may be higher or lower depending upon bath-only fees, but labor costs should always be lower when you assign bath-only pets to skilled bathers.

It’s a no brainer to experienced business owners with financial acumen. It doesn’t take long for the gravy boat to add up to thousands of dollars a year. However, many grooming business owners don’t implement this operational guideline.

Industry consultant and founder of Grooming Business in a Box, Madeline Ogle has said for decades, “Financially, the worst hiring mistake of a business owner hiring their first employee is to add another groomer. Hire a bather! Get your bathing department established. Build up your bath-only clientele. You don’t have to cut wages or raise prices to boost profit.”

Wait! Did you catch the pet bather wage in our example? $15 an hour! How many bathers earn $15 an hour? Plenty of full-charge groomers don’t earn $15 an hour.

We never advocate cutting commissions or hourly wages. We create a smart, safe operation instead. In our example, no one endured a pay cut to dramatically boost profitability.

Smart business owners take this simple formula and accumulate big gravy boats, and discover a way to pay for more employee benefits.

Gimme Some More Gravy

Groomers earn higher wages because they have more advanced skills. It is as it should be. Pet bather wage rates are less, as it should be. When we examine the differences an irony emerges. Using the “gravy” formula above, owners net more operating profit from bathers compared to groomers.

Numbers reveal amazing facts. A 60% groomer grooms 8 pets with total sales of $360. The groomer’s share is $216 gross and the owner’s share is $144. A bather does 12 bath-only pets in 8 hours with the same total sales of $360. At $15 an hour, the bather earns $120 gross, and the owner’s share is $240. The owner’s share from the bather is $96 higher than the groomer’s share from the groomer! Annualized that’s almost $26,000 a year.

he moral of the story. The gravy in pet grooming is bath-only services. Market significant bath-only demand as well as full-service grooming, and use the gravy formula. Pay your bathers well. Let groomers earn their higher wages doing what they do best, the finish art of styling. Employ bathers in a bathing department, and assign bath-only pets to pet bathers only. As long as you monitor bather productivity and quality, you prosper without wage cuts.  ▲