Among the various industries and businesses that have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the pet grooming business is one which has received the least attention. Pet grooming has been hit in a variety of ways due to the health emergency. In the initial stages of the outbreak, there was widespread panic fuelled by irresponsible rumours that domestic pets could be potential carriers of the virus. These rumours were devoid of any scientific basis and merely leveraged the fact that the virus had first jumped from animals to humans in a wet market in China’s Wuhan town. However, the panic due to these rumours was enough to negatively impact pet ownership and consequently the pet grooming business.
After the initial panic and fear of the unknown was replaced by the return of scientific thinking in public consciousness, pet ownership and adoption figures began to stabilize once again. However, by this time, the virus had greatly expanded in its geographical spread and several countries around the world were gripped in the throes of the pandemic, which continues to this day. As a result, the situation today is such that casualties and positive cases continue to mount. The only solution that seems to be available to governments around the globe in the absence of a guaranteed and affordable vaccine is lockdowns.
Lockdowns have been a death knell for several small business and pet grooming saloons have been no exception. Incidentally, pet ownership figures have actually seen a substantial increase during the lockdown months as a result of the positive effects pets have on mental health. However, given that pet grooming is not recognised as an essential service, pet grooming shops have been forced to keep their shutters closed and most groomers have found themselves out of work. Correspondingly, pet owners have also been forced to adapt to the scenario and groom their pets themselves. At the same time, this situation does not appear to be permanent and certain changes are already being seen.
The primary problem with the current scenario is that several types of pets require expert grooming skills. This imposes limitations on how much pet owners can accomplish. Furthermore, as more and more people begin working under conditions established as per the new normal, they are also likely to face a time crunch and consequently will not be able to devote as much time to their pets’ health and grooming needs. These factors are conducive for the pet grooming industry to make a comeback. Furthermore, given that most other industries too have continued to suffer under the economic pressure incurred due to the COVID-19 crisis, most groomers have not found other jobs and are willing to return to their primary area of expertise.
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Pet grooming saloon owners have chosen either to weather the storm or shut shop temporarily to reduce losses. Neither category is at a marked disadvantage when it comes to reopening operations; while the former category gains from the existence of infrastructure and space, the latter category benefits from the reduced cost of real estate, especially commercial real estate. Pre-pandemic life is resuming in several aspects, even if this resumption is staggered. As a result, it would be fair to assume that pet grooming will follow the same trajectory.