Dog care providers adjust to clients scaling back
January 7, 2009
Parkites love their dogs, but the economy and post-holiday recovery are causing some owners to scale back on pet care, local business owners say.
Groomers say clients are waiting a few extra weeks to reschedule.
Pam Rapplean, owner of Bark City Pet Emporium, said owners are still buying quality food, but are scaling back on toys and other accessories.
James O’Bryan at Anthony’s Pets said fewer people are signing up for training classes, and Megan Yeske at Silver Creek Animal Clinic said people are waiting longer to get routine treatments like vaccinations.
"I know for a fact some places are struggling. I know one that’s down 75 percent," said Karen Snyder of Mobile Pet Grooming who’s been working in town for several years. "I know another that did 130 dogs in November 2007 and only 80 in November 2008."
Leigh Kracht of Park City Pet Grooming said her regulars are still regular, but her other customers have stopped calling or are waiting longer between visits, perhaps because they have less money.
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"The holidays were busy, but nothing like in the past," she said.
The cost of doing business is rising, she said, making it tough for groomers to negotiate prices. Kracht said her rent quadrupled in 2008.
She hired a new employee during the warmer months, and now doesn’t have enough business to keep her busy.
Joan Rollins, owner of White Pine Grooming Salon, said she’s been grooming for 20 years and has seen ups and downs, but this season was really disappointing.
"To be honest, never in all my years have I seen it slow down like it has around the holidays this year," she said.
It’s now picking up even though the weeks after Christmas are usually slower. She thinks it’s because people aren’t as nervous about money now that the holidays are over.
"I’m taking in more business now than during the normally busy times," she said.
She said if a groomer does a good job, the clients eventually return even if they have to scale back.
That’s the silver lining to this kind of economy, Snyder said. In the last few years when the economy has been good, there have been more pet owners wanting services than people to provide them. As a result, providers begin to focus on quantity over quality. The current slowing will return the focus to quality of service and care, she said.
"Sometimes in the pet care industry companies get so big they lose sight of what’s important," she said.
Rapplean at Bark City Pet Emporium
said food sales are keeping her even with last year. That’s bad, she said, because she was in a trend of doing 30 percent better every year. Pet accessories aren’t selling well, she said.
The bright spot is pet boarding. People are still traveling to see relatives or go on vacation so boarders have seen good business.
O’Bryan at Anthony’s Pets on Gallivan Loop said his clients ask for grooming while the dogs are boarding with them, so the only part of his business that’s suffering is the training. People are seeing it as a luxury they can scale back on temporarily.
But like many businesses in Park City, O’Bryan said they cater to wealthier clientele allowing his business to dodge some of the swings caused by a recession.
Trisha Hipskind of Hank and Bullitts K9 Adventures, a dog-walking/exercise service, said business overall is good and winter is her busiest time. But she hasn’t seen many new clients, and had a few clients tell her they were moving to escape Summit County’s high living costs.
Her friend, Heather Hampsten, owner of the dog walking/hiking service Tail Blazers, said her training and walking business is steady, but she too has clients who have moved away.
Sheri Arsenault, owner of Doginhaus near Jeremy Ranch, has only been in business one year, but is actually hoping the special services she offers will give her an edge in the current climate.
Besides doing boarding, grooming and selling retail, she also contracts with people to offer pet acupuncture and hydrotherapy to help heal pets after surgery or injuries. Although they are "luxury" services, she thinks being a "one-stop" shop for pet care gives her an edge and rounds out her wellness program.
"We have something for everyone," she said. "We just have a lot to offer people."
To respond to slower business this month, she’s doing more to accommodate skiers like adjusting her hours to be open before and after the resorts.