The sector is booming, but the lack of regulation regarding groomer qualifications and licenses needs to be tackled.
The UK pet grooming industry is alive and well. With an estimated 12 million dogs in the UK, pet groomers have never been so busy. However, this has resulted in challenges arising too.
The global picture
The British pet grooming market is currently estimated to be worth £420 million ($509.8M / €485M) and is forecast to grow by 5.7% annually over the next 10 years.
It is estimated that there are 10,600 pet groomers in the UK. Approximately 2,500 have a high street location, with the remainder working from home setups. The biggest chain of groomers is Pets at Home, which offers grooming in 339 of its stores.
Many grooming salons in the UK are independently owned and operated, typically consisting of a single outlet, with many running their businesses part-time to fit in with their lifestyles.
However, despite the healthy numbers, the industry still has significant room for growth and development. In the UK, anyone can work as a dog groomer. Unlike other animal activities, such as dog daycare, home boarding, kennels and catteries, there are no licensing regulations around grooming.
This is despite the fact that pet groomers will service more pets than any of the other activities mentioned. There is a movement in the devolved nations (Scotland and Wales) to look into pet grooming becoming a licensed activity, but the British government seems reluctant to increase the burden on local authorities to inspect.
Currently, there is no requirement to qualify to become a pet groomer, but there are a number of pathways to be recognized as such.
For those wanting to do a college course, the most popular and gold standard is the City & Guilds Level 2 Dog Grooming Assistant qualification. This is ideal to begin working in the industry and learn the basic skills needed to work under supervision in a dog grooming salon. The City & Guilds Level 3 Diploma in Dog Grooming allows you to work as a professional groomer across the UK.
City & Guilds courses are government-funded in colleges, but not in private training salons, where they need to be privately funded. More recently, other awarding bodies have seen the opportunity in the grooming industry and have started offering level 3 courses (without the need to do level 2 as a pre-requisite) and at lower prices to entice private grooming training salons to adopt their qualifications.
So, how does the market operate? UK pet groomers get repeat business from pet owners who like their work and how they style their dogs. But with groomers being fully booked, sometimes weeks ahead, pet owners have little choice available to them once they have found a pet groomer.
Of more concern is the fact that the owner has little idea as to whether their groomer is qualified.
Having a license is key
The Pet Industry Federation (PIF) remains concerned about the state of the UK pet grooming sector for several reasons. In a recent survey of its membership, 92% thought the pet grooming industry should be licensed.
With licensing, there is the potential for pet groomers to hold a qualification or have undergone some form of training. And this is where the problem starts. Groomers who have worked in the industry successfully for many years do not believe they need to undergo training. But the PIF believes that with groomers seeing pets more often than vets or any other service business, they should have some form of current underpinning knowledge so they can advise pet owners appropriately.
As already stated, the pet owner will judge the quality of the groom itself and decide whether to stay with that groomer or not. But it’s also really important that the pet groomer can offer appropriate advice and knows when to tell the owner to visit the vet, or can deal appropriately with any immediate issues that might occur with the animal.
The grooming sector needs to understand that it has an important role to play in a pet’s life and, as such, should prioritize professionalism rather than competing on price.
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