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GROOMED FOR STARDOM; Brush up pet parlour skills.

Pet store bosses are out combing the country to collar 150 staff in a new recruitment drive.

PETsMART is spending pounds 100,000 launching Britain's first apprenticeship scheme for dog groomers.

The fast-growing chain of pet superstores wants to set up grooming parlours in 30 stores this year but cannot find the staff. Chief executive Giles Clarke says: "We desperately need dog groomers all over the country - and we need lots of them."

Mr Clarke first ran into the problem shortly after US-owned PETsMART took over his Pet City group last October.

The Americans were keen to introduce ideas such as grooming parlours, obedience classes and photo booths for pets in all stores. But Mr Clarke found he was having to bring over Americans to train staff for his grooming parlours.

He has now taken on groomer Melanie Winters to run the PETsMART scheme and is starting a recruitment drive.

PETsMART's specialist services manager Kathy Barrett says: "We can take people who have no experience at all and turn them into a professional.

"There is a shortage of professional groomers as the industry has only just started to take off. There are just not enough people about."

The company's first grooming parlour is in its Swindon store with sites in Eastbourne, Raynes Park in London, Brentford and Cardiff to follow.

At first, grooming parlours will operate in about 35 stores but plans to expand the 60-shop chain mean more are likely.

Dog groomers can earn between pounds 5,000 and pounds 15,000 and will work towards a City & Guilds qualification.

Training will mainly be carried out on the job, but there will also be a teaching centre in Swindon which opens next month.

Around five groomers are needed per store, with the company looking for grooming assistants and supervisors.

"It is a bit like a hairdressers with dogs getting bathed, groomed and shampooed and their nails clipped," says Mr Clarke.

He reckons the job is ideal for people who only want to work part-time or at weekends. Ambitions to move on to other parts of the store will be encouraged.

"The company is growing so fast that there are plenty of opportunities throughout the business," says Miss Barrett.

PETsMART plans to take on 1,000 staff this year as part of pounds 20 million expansion plans to open 30 stores.

The firm aims to have a 300-strong chain within seven years.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Reilly, Kevan
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 17, 1997
Words:402
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