Hot Industry Trend: Spa Services for Pets

By Alissa Wolf

The pet grooming industry has witnessed a dramatic increase in luxury services for pets in recent years. What’s truly interesting is that people are willing to spend small fortunes on such services for pets as reiki , holistic massage , facials and other high-end treatments that in the past were reserved for humans.

The American Pet Products Association reports that people spent $3.36 billion on pet grooming and boarding services in 2009, which is expected to increase exponentially in the future. What’s even more interesting is that people are willing to spend a pay and a leg on luxury services for pets in the midst of the worst economic climate since the Depression. I spoke with some leading industry professionals to get the inside scoop on why such services for pets are increasing.

According to Wendy Booth, certification coordinator for the National Dog Groomers Association of America, one reason for this trend is because pet groomers are finally getting the recognition they long lacked.”We’re at the bottom of the scale, along with kennel workers,” said the Colorado-based groomer. “But after being in this industry for 30 years, I can now say that what’s been happening in the profession is fabulous. Professionalism is being built in the industry. We have all sorts of things, like Blueberry Facials , that were not heard of even 10 years ago. In this down economy, this is shocking.” Another reason for this trend may have to do with the aging baby boomer population; these folks generally have more disposable income. Plus, their kids are grown and on their own.”Animals have become people’s children,” Booth said. “As we get into the empty nest syndrome, we want a Fifi or a Foofoo. We’re out there spending money on them.”

At Chateau Poochie , the ultra swank pet resort and spa in Pompano Beach, Fla., dogs (and cats) get treated to the most luxurious spa and other services in surroundings most people never experience. “I only hire the most top-notch groomers,” said Chateau Poochie owner Amy Jo Birkenes. “I’m proud to say we are the slowest groomers; we have hand-scissor experts. It’s like a person going to a fabulous hairstylist.”

At the Pet Spa at Harrods in London that caters to “V.I.P.s” (Very Important Pets), pet parents can expect to shell out 295 British pounds (the equivalent to 472 American dollars) for a deluxe pet day spa experience that might include a “peticure” (complete with the latest fashion nail color), a soothing bubble bath, massage, reiki and more.

Birkenes believes that people justify spending lots of money on their pets in a recession because they often go without lots of luxuries. “When people do without, we feel good about doing nice things for our pets,” she said. “Many of us treat our pets better than some family members. Pets often are our best friends.” People are also more isolated, due to the proliferation of the Internet.

“In this social networking world we live in, if you’re not talking to your computer, you’re talking to your dog,” Birkenes said. Plus, pets tend to be more appreciative of the nice things their human parents do for them. “When dogs come out of the grooming salons, they’re so happy that they literally dance around,” Birkenes pointed out. “I’ve actually seen dogs admire themselves in the mirror.”

In addition to the high-fashion haircuts, “peticures” and other luxury services, such treatments as reiki, holistic massage, aromatherapy and other such New Agey modalities for pets are gaining popularity. “People will spend more money on these kinds of services than they will on traditional grooming,” said my friend, Mark Hills, who’s in the grooming supply business. “It’s amazing.” Pet industry experts attribute the growing popularity of holistic services for pets to the fact that many humans themselves are benefiting from these treatments. Even traditional veterinarians are increasingly adding such complementary treatments to their practices.

Why are people willing to spend tons of money on such services for pets, especially in a deep recession ? My guess is because pets are the only beings on earth who offer us humans unconditional loyalty, respect and love. That is priceless.

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