Is your store up to date with the latest in the freshwater hobby?
Many aquatic-only stores and full line pet stores often forget to work on growing their freshwater aquatic department. With all the new excitement in saltwater corals, invertebrates, fish and the high-tech equipment geared toward the marine hobby, many stores neglect their freshwater category. If yours is not attracting new and old customers alike, it is probably time to renew your freshwater section, and selection.
First and foremost, is your department pleasing to the eye upon first impression? It will be hard to draw new hobbyists into the department if it looks drab, old or dingy.
Although bare tanks are great for catching fish and maintenance, they are not very appealing to customers and don’t lead to sales of décor and ornaments, so aquariums should be clean and well decorated. Also, bare tanks will not allow the fish to be at their very best color or vigor, and can sometimes lead to stress-related illnesses.
The floors and shelves around the aquariums also should be clean and tidy. Bags of aquarium gravel or décor below the aquarium racks tend to show only the dust and water spots on the merchandise, detracting from the fish displays above. If you must display gravel under the aquarium racks because of space issues, be sure to assign someone to clean and merchandise the area weekly.
Secondly, your livestock needs to be healthy, active and growing. Having the rarest, coolest fish or plants in your store doesn’t matter if they are unhealthy. Feeding your fish well and providing optimal water conditions for the fish and plants is very important in representing the quality and pride of your store to the customers. It is well worth the investment, as your losses will be less and customer satisfaction will grow. A well-trained staff member should be able to detect any issues or problems with your livestock before it gets out of control while making the minimum twice-daily inspections or feedings that are necessary.
Another important factor to consider is the type of livestock you sell. Do you only offer the easy bread-and-butter fish like those found in the big-box stores? If so, do you change the variety and colors of these basic community fish? Instead of ordering the same colors and sizes each week, try to vary them with each order.
There are so many new fish available today from your wholesalers that it is easy to have something new and exciting added to each order. Most livestock wholesalers sell 300 to 400 species of freshwater fish and invertebrates, and up to 100 varieties of live plants. So many new species of beautiful small fish are now available for planted aquariums that it can be hard to stock them all at one time.
If you stock only three common types of Corydoras or Plecostomus, try several different species for those hobbyists looking for a more colorful and exciting fish. Rainbow fish have become quite popular and many new varieties are readily available. Cichlids from around the world continue to be discovered or bred for more brilliant colors and have something new to offer almost every month.
Spend time with your wholesalers, or at least their price lists, to find new fish for the store.
One last point. Remember the old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words?” Set up a few display tanks that are well maintained to show your customers what their aquarium can look like. An example of a small desktop aquarium with hearty live plants, small colorful fish and shrimp at the counter will always attract a new hobbyist. Keep it well maintained and use it to show your store has something special to offer in selection, quality, appearance and, most importantly, the knowledge to support a successful hobby.