Smelly no more

Andy, the shaggy bearded collie hops in the basin, unafraid of the shower that is about to shrink him half-size. Around him are brushes, clippers, shampoo and other dog accessories. Soon, dog groomer Lee Anne Fuller will trim his hair and cut his nails. It is just like in any other salon - except this one is smaller, and it can move.

Fuller from Mel's Mobile Dog Grooming visits Andy every six weeks for a two-hour intensive clean and clip at his owner's workplace where he spends his days. For him, it is more convenient than going to a salon in town. A 30-metre long chord and a pipe connect the mobile salon to tap and power.

Owner Melissa Skurr started helping out her mother-in-law with her Mobile Pet Grooming franchise set up in a trailer.

After the quakes, Skurr bought the business and decided to invest in a van - bigger and more professional than a trailer. The van cost around $10,000, and the equipment to fit it can go up to $20,000, she says.

But then there is no lease, and less costs than a regular salon. Mobile business overheads include petrol, registration, insurance.

A wash-cut-groom visit costs between $40 and $100 depending on the size of the dog, the coat condition and the area. The price is similar to a salon trim, depending on how far the van has to travel.

Fuller, who operates the van, works part time, and can groom two to three dogs a day.

Skurr says demand for mobile grooming is overwhelming, and she would like to get a second van. The competition, however, is fierce with Christchurch's three other mobile groomers and their trailers offering slightly cheaper prices.

Skurr says clients like the convenience, especially busy professionals or elderly people who don't want to drive to the salon. In terms of business though, a lot of time is lost in travel, she says.

At first, Skurr did not consider investing in a salon - she did not have the money, and liked operating from a van.

"Mobile grooming is quite personal. You get to know the clients a lot better. Some people leave their key out for you."

But then the business grew, and a lady was selling her salon for "really, really cheap".

"It would have been cheaper to get another van but it was a great opportunity."

She bought Savoir Dog Grooming salon on Papanui Rd in February last year, took over the client base and picked up lot more new clients.

About 12 dogs walk into the salon every day and keep one part time and two full time staff, including the owner, busy.

Having both the van and a salon caters to all needs, she says.

"When we can't fit dogs in the van, they come to the salon."

And Skurr wants to expand further.

"I'd like to have another van, and bigger premises."

Finding staff is challenging as there is no real grooming training in New Zealand, she says.

"More and more people are getting little dogs now so there is more need for grooming. There's always going to be dogs."