Better Sales with Bettas

Keeping pet bettas is a growing trend that can bring in extra income and new customers if given a premium location in your store. So it’s likely a smart move to dedicate an endcap to bettas.

The betta has long been bred as a hardy and beautiful fish that attracts much attention. With the recent abundance of new striking colors and varieties, along with the development of many new accompanying products, there is even more opportunity to grow your sales in this unique category. I’m confident that there will continue to be new offerings for many years to come, giving great appeal to this unique fish.

So how can you capitalize on this category? Devote a key location, such as an endcap, or a 4-foot section in a prime location to the sale and promotion of bettas.

For the sales you can generate from this category, you may want to have even more space. In fact, you need to grab the attention of everyone that enters your store. The potential new hobbyist is just an arm’s length away with this type of display.

As an example, a store in Lexington, Kentucky, devotes over 12 linear feet of shelf space to just this category because of the sales it generates with college students nearby. Another example, in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, there are several 1,000-square-foot stores that are almost exclusively devoted to bettas and the complementary supplies. So don’t be afraid to give it a try in your store.

If you walk into one of the big box pet stores, you will always see a significant display for bettas and supporting products. That’s because they are popular. What makes you different and more effective should be your knowledge and the variety of fish and products you stock. The big box stores, because of their size, can’t be as responsive as an independently-owned retail store. That is an important reason why you and your staff must keep up with all the breed varieties, colors and descriptions associated with these fish.

The Internet is a great study resource since many advanced hobbyists show off their prize bettas on YouTube and in various blogs. There are so many combinations of colors and varieties that the potential for something new or outstanding showing up in any week’s fish order is likely, and variety will draw in hobbyists to seek out their special fish with each new shipment. These special fish can demand a premium. A high end fish can go for as much as $200, but even the $10-$20 fish are quite common.

A few stores that we have visited lately sell as many as 200 bettas each week with a line of people waiting for each new shipment to arrive. In reality, it would be easy to see a weekly 25-50 fish turnover for most any store. This is just in livestock sales.

Now comes the easy part of the sales: the dry goods. There are so many new products for the betta category.

These include habitats or housing, like complete desktop aquariums from multiple manufactures. Some examples are the Betta Falls Kit by Aqueon, the stackable Deco Cubes and Wonder Bubble Tunnels by BioBubble Pets, and the multitude of interesting glass bowls.

There are betta specific foods available as pellets, flakes and frozen diets. Numerous accessories like heaters and mini LED lights are available for bettas. There are many small preset heaters available like the UL approved Mini Heaters from Hydor and the BETTATHERM from ZooMed, which can easily be hidden in the gravel. The mini stick type heaters from multiple companies are also small and compact for use in small aquariums.

Water additives for bettas, like Ocean Nutrition’s Atison’s Betta Spa which contains almond leaf extract for the general health of the fish, can generate significant sales. There are plenty of other special conditioners or treatments from manufacturers like Hikari, which come in small, easy-to-use packaging, or Prodibio, available in single dosage ampules.

You can get a lot of bang for your 4-foot section with the products and fish available for this one specific category, which has been a growing major trend in the aquatics category.

Looking for Better Aquatic Livestock Sales?

Let’s face it, livestock draws new and old customers alike to any location. Having a store with great livestock may seem like a free public zoo or aquarium, but in reality, it is the heart that pumps blood through the store’s body.

In this ever-changing and trendy business, old school ideas concerning livestock have changed considerably. Due to the Internet, people can search and learn about any type of livestock available. Just having basic livestock, even with a caliber of high quality and health, is not enough to offer anymore. The demand for more exotics and less common stock is growing.

Shop Around

Years ago it was not difficult to find specialty stock, but with the demise of so many local wholesale fish companies it’s getting much more difficult to find a single supplier that has it all. This is especially true among saltwater wholesalers. Freshwater suppliers are a bit different and most are trying to be an all-in-one supplier. Still, there are very few wholesalers that can truly offer enough variety on a weekly basis. A little extra effort and time on the store’s part will reap huge reward by searching out several suppliers which can be rotated among purchasing. Some will be better for the bread and butter and others will offer a better selection of specialty varieties.

It will take some extra time to order from several suppliers, but the store will have stock that other stores won’t. The other added benefit is a broader range of specials that you get from multiple suppliers that could set a store apart from competitors in the same areas. Also, ask for three extra specialty species to promote in addition to the supplier’s weekly specials already offered. This will allow the ability to cater to a specialty customers’ interests.

Salt Life

Looking at the recent information in the 2015-2016 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, more than 90 percent of aquarium-owning households in the U.S. have freshwater aquariums. Less than 10 percent of these households have saltwater aquariums. There is great potential for the saltwater specialty category because it is a niche out of the mainstream business, but it does require topnotch expertise. Not all independent pet stores can provide the service found in a high-quality saltwater specialty store. It is certain that the big box stores cannot afford employee costs necessary either.

Also, a lot of the high dollar sales in these saltwater specialty stores are based on low margin merchandise that is easily shopped on the Internet. Livestock sales are most often geared around the customer seeing the livestock in person. Dry goods are just as important as livestock, but there is more opportunity to increase business through a livestock selection with the added benefits of selling some merchandise once the customer is in person in a store.

Keep it Fresh

So how does one go after those opportunities making up the 90 percent of fish keepers owning freshwater fish? Bread and butter fish will still make up the volume of sales in quantity and dollars due to their low cost and ease of care. However, there is an ever increasing market for exotics and more expensive fish. Rare types of cichlids or plecostomus, for example, can fetch several hundred dollars and rival any saltwater species in color, but with much easier husbandry. It’s surprising to see how many customers make the next step up from their basic freshwater community aquarium to more exciting and challenging species. In the process, a store may be selling a few more accessories or even another aquarium set up along with some new foods or treats.

Something else that happens naturally with the excitement of bringing in new fish is a sales team will look forward to livestock shipments as if they were birthday presents. Receiving and putting away the same old fish, shipment after shipment, becomes a dreaded must like cleaning kennels or pens. With this new motivation for receiving livestock, employees enthusiasm will be contagious and extend on to the customer.

The Summer Slowdown

Traditionally, sales in the aquatics department slow down in the summer months. Vacations and outdoor family activities leave less time to interact with aquatic pets. Instead of giving up on your aquatic sales, why not try a few simple things to promote items and services that people will need throughout this season, even if they are distracted by outdoor activities?

Early summer is the perfect time for customers to reorganize their aquarium, something they’ve been putting off for other late spring activities. It’s also a good time to remind them about their recommended bulb replacements for lighting and UV sterilizers or to perform those decorating changes they’ve been thinking about. They may need to replace their magnetic impellers on pumps and filters. Customers will have more time for these types of simple maintenance activities, so why not remind them. Create in-store signage recommending things they might not generally think about or create bag stuffers suggesting new ideas and make sure anyone buying aquatic products gets a flier.

Many of your customers are going to take advantage of the good weather and go on vacation. Make sure to have a well-stocked selection of vacation items like food blocks and automatic fish feeders. Explain to your customers that they can use an automatic feeder year round. Further suggest that they work well for adding freeze-dried treats to a staple diet of flakes, which helps to keep fish at optimal health. Educating customers in this way will give them another reason to stop in and stock up on treats and other products you may have brought to their attention. Consider building a vacation products endcap that displays everything they’ll need to keep their aquatic pets healthy and fed while they are away.

Another great sales generator these days is to display complete desktop setups in your store that can be partially drained and sent out the door with their water in a 5-gallon container. This is a newer trend but one that is catching on fast and it’s sure to generate some quick and easy sales. Betta and planted tanks work well with this concept and are simple for the new hobbyist to maintain. A successful small aquarium opens up an opportunity for future larger aquarium sales.

For those of you who have stores in warmer climates, summer is the perfect time to sell heaters for freshwater tanks and chillers for marine aquariums. Many households keep their thermostat set much higher during the day to save on air conditioning costs. At night, the thermostat is turned down much lower for comfort. Aquarium temperatures may reach the mid to upper 80s during the day and then drop to lower temperatures at night when the air conditioning is on. Having a quality heater set at 82–84˚F in most freshwater tanks will prevent huge changes in daytime and nighttime temperatures, which will cause stress and possibly illness in fish.

In marine aquariums, the temperature can be kept, as required, much lower and consistent by using a chiller instead of incurring the high cost of air conditioning. In this case, it may also be necessary to utilize an auto top-off unit for keeping up with excess evaporation from the aquarium. All of these products are added sales but customers can be made aware that they are necessary in maintaining healthy and successful aquariums.

Taking a little more time to talk with your customers will make them feel more appreciated in this slower season. Additionally, it allows you to give them your input and recommendations. For example, treats and frozen foods are often overlooked, so explaining their benefits will not only increase sales during the summer but throughout the year.

When you experience a slowdown in store traffic, you might actually keep sales up by making the most of this downtime to establish and grow that ever-so-important relationship with your customers who do come into your store often.

What Does a Water Test Center Do for Your Store?

Inability to control water quality is a major reason why many people eventually give up on fish keeping. An entry-level hobbyist must understand that an aquarium is an enclosed environment; and when contaminated or improperly balanced, it can have disastrous consequences for its inhabitants’ health. It doesn’t take many fish ailments or mortalities before the potential hobbyist empties the aquarium and puts it in the garage or up for sale. Stores with aquatic sections should be concerned about a scenario like this, especially when it could simply be that resolving a water-quality issue will keep them engaged.

The question you should ask yourself is this: When I sell an aquarium setup, how do I ensure the customer will have success?

These days there are many ways to cycle aquariums faster than the traditional 30-45 days. You and your staff should always offer the same advice, depending on your store protocol for new tank sales and their cycling methods. Walk your customer through the set up and establishment of a healthy biological environment to ensure their success.

Along with this advice, offer free basic water testing, even for those folks who didn’t buy their aquarium from you. This builds credibility in your honest effort to ensure their success. Water testing is an inexpensive way to create new customers who are beholden to you for your help and expertise. The other benefit of water testing is that it allows you to make sure any new fish sold will be going home to a healthy and accepting environment. Otherwise, you could have a very upset customer returning with a problem that could have been avoided.

For the ease of testing and confirming your expertise, set up an area in the store with a professional look that will function as your testing station. Using your front counter, as I have seen in many stores, works well enough but it creates clutter and congestion in an area where it is important to check out your customers quickly without all the distraction. Try using your side counter or an area near the fish department, sink or water source. Place signage indicating the area as a “Water Quality Testing Center,” and advertise the service for free or at a nominal service charge in your fliers, Facebook page and website.

Basic testing should cover the most common water-quality issues. This would include pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate tests, plus adding alkalinity and phosphate tests for saltwater and planted aquariums. Remember we are trying to guide and maintain our entry-level or novice hobbyist. Tests you can add for the more advanced saltwater setups include calcium, silicate, magnesium, iodine, potassium and the list goes on. But these are usually for devout hobbyists who will eventually prefer to use their own test kits at home.

There are many good test kits on the market today and choosing one or two brands goes a long way with support. Get help and education from the manufacturer to develop your testing center. Most have POP material, posters and many offer training for your staff. It is important to use high-grade test kits as they have proven to be much more reliable than test strips.

Problem-solving services, in general, can be a great differentiator between your business and other stores in your area, both small and large. Customers will appreciate any service that solves a problem and builds trust knowing they can count on you for help. This trust will also sell more products and livestock with your recommendations. The problem-solving service concept can be expanded to nutrition as well as safety and health issues and doesn’t have to pertain to just your aquatic section.

With some dedicated effort on your part, you can outperform your competition, just by being your customer’s problem solver.

Freshening up Freshwater Livestock

If sales have dropped off in your store’s freshwater department, it might just be that be customers are bored with your selection. The saltwater side of the hobby is ever-changing with new corals, fish, invertebrates and products appearing every week. With freshwater, it is more difficult to keep the department interesting but there are ways to accomplish this.

The big box stores have all the common basic fish and then a few not-so-common oddballs in their mix, totaling more than 140 different species of freshwater fish. The big box stores have increased their species selection in the last few years but their big sellers seem to remain bread-and-butter or basic fish. This is evident because the oddballs tend to go on clearance shortly after their introduction for lack of sales.

One of the keys to keeping a good customer’s loyalty is to offer something new and exciting at least each month if not more often. Having the same assortment in the same aquarium location will lead to a lack of interest. A stagnant assortment also leads to lack of enthusiasm in your employees working the department. Create excitement with the store employees and they will pass that excitement on to your customers.

Here are some simple tips to take into consideration:

Most retailers simply walk their tank aisles looking to fill in the tanks that have sold down on fish. Then they reorder the same fish that had been in the tank for years. This is fine to see what is selling and what your staff is promoting to customers but most likely the same fish are ordered over and over again. For fish like cardinals, neons and other staples, this is just fine.

However, for most aquariums you should mix it up more often. Ask your customers what fish they would like to see and take advantage of their suggestions. Dedicate several aquariums to be used for new varieties suggested by your customers. Look over your supplier’s stock list carefully and choose something new to be advertised in those dedicated aquariums. Your customers will soon be coming in with each new shipment to see what is new and on special for the week. Advertise the new arrivals on your Facebook page or at least your webpage.

Keep up with the moving trends in livestock. Livebearers have made a big comeback. Instead of the basic Livebearers varieties that have been around for more 50 years, try some of the hot new varieties which have recently become very popular. So many types of guppies, swordtails and platies are now available that your choice is almost endless and could fill your store. Try just a couple new varieties with each shipment and continue to rotate the varieties with each fish order.
Another trend which has really taken off with a whole new market is the small aquarium like the desktop and nano freshwater setups. If you haven’t started selling them, now is the time to start. With all the dwarf species of hardy fish and plants becoming available for these types of setups, it is very easy to offer something new all the time.

Also in the US, we are just now discovering the beauty of all the dwarf shrimps and snails available that other countries have been enjoying for many years. These make very entertaining and beautiful desktop displays to attract the interests of any hobbyist. They also carry with them a whole following of dedicated products and foods to add sales and profits to your bottom line.
One other suggestion is to have more than just a few individuals and varieties when it comes to fast sellers like angels, discus and corydoras. These fish always look better in larger groups with each variety in separate tanks.

Setting yourself apart from the big box stores is simple but it does take well-trained staff. The increase in sales and customer base will make the time, effort and investment worthwhile.

Your Store Should Be Your Showroom

Where else is your customer going to get great examples of how a home aquarium or terrarium will look if they can’t see them set up on display in your store? For those stores who stock aquatic and reptile habitats, it is essential to display ideas that will draw the customer’s interest.

Most of the successful stores we visit while detailing our vendor’s products have a knack for drawing in new customers. Any store can have a nice variety of aquariums and terrariums in assorted sizes and shapes. However, if they are just collecting dust, they may as well be in storage. Stores that have several displays set up will give their customers an idea of how they might look in their home, maybe even drawing in new customers who had just stopped in to buy supplies.

We often hear complaints from store owners that too many families come in just to visit the free zoo within their stores. Many of those family lookers eventually succumb to our wonderful world of pet hobbies because of their children’s interest. One new customer can mean additional thousands of dollars in future purchases or free word-of-mouth advertising.

Remember that children grow up and become consumers and are a big part of the future for our industry. They won’t be excited by a bunch of empty aquariums and terrariums sitting in a big showroom. You don’t need artful displays of dog food and cat posts, but aquariums and terrariums require a little extra effort to educate and entice the consumer.

Plan ahead as we come into the holiday season. Aquariums and terrariums need time to mature and grow, whether it is a nano reef tank, live planted aquarium, or an amphibian terrarium. The savvy store will set up several desktop sized display units that can be sold as complete packages out the door.

There are even a few distributors jumping on the bandwagon by offering complete desktops to their dealers that only need water added and the provided cycling bacteria at the point of sale. A great idea is an instant aquarium, ready to be sold with a betta or freshwater shrimps and a few plants added. The water and fish can be bagged up for customers to merely add back into the aquarium once they arrive home. The Styrofoam boxes most stores throw away make great waterproof transport boxes for the ride home.

Make your displays something that a casual visitor to your store can’t resist. Let them envision that beautiful aquarium or terrarium setup in their family room, office or even their children’s bedroom. Don’t forget to upload images of your displays to your website and Facebook page to help draw customers into your store. Customers may come in once a month to buy consumables, but you will need to spark their imagination to get them to spend bigger dollars.

If you have floor space dedicated to all those empty aquariums and terrariums, make sure to decorate them with backgrounds, gravel or ground cover, ornaments and use a variety of stands, canopies and lights that are turned on. Don’t let the opportunity pass to capture the interest of a new or existing customer simply walking through the aisle.

Having a simple display with LED lighting simulating a 24 hour day is easy to add to one of those empty aquariums and will be a great attention grabber when talking to a prospective customer. You can run through the entire day period in a matter of minutes for demonstration purposes.

What Level of Customer Service Does Your Store Offer?

I’m sure you’ve heard the old cliché about the pet store with half its lights turned off with the clerk sitting behind the cash register reading a paperback book, never looking up once while the consumer walked through the store and finally left without exchanging a word.

That probably isn’t as true today as it was many years ago, but there are still stores not stepping up to offer the kind of customer service that will bring the consumer back to their store and build loyalty. Good customer service doesn’t stop with asking if you can help. Yes, there is a fine line between assistance and harassment; you don’t want to come off looking like a used car salesperson, but just because the customer said they didn’t need help when they entered the store doesn’t mean they won’t after looking around for a while.

Good customer service is an intuitive thing, you should always be aware of any customer in the store. If they pick up an item and look at it, that is one indication that you might offer help. Placing an 8×5 inch sign in each department offering expert advice will make the customer more comfortable when you do reach out to them.

Some stores who are on top of their customer service game offer in-store features, such as a puppy walk, a secure space that allows a prospective owner to meet and bond with a puppy, or a play pen, which lets a customer place their pet in a secure area while shopping. Other features like a claw clipping station, a water testing station or a help desk and parts center as free services are what will set your store apart from your competition.

I remember one store that I visited while detailing in Spokane, Wash. The moment you walked into their store you were greeted as if you were the most important customer of the day and that they were glad you stopped in. This store sticks out in my memory because I got very little done there that day; they were so busy there wasn’t much time to talk with me. I finally left to call on other stores, but even though they hadn’t had much time to talk to me I didn’t feel neglected. It was obvious that they were super busy. The other stores in the area weren’t nearly as friendly, or as busy.

Something to keep in mind: Even if you have great customer service, only those who walk into your store will know about it. If you’re proud of your service, advertise that fact. Make a point of your superior customer service on your website, Facebook page and in-store signage, and then of course, live up to your customer’s expectations.

Really it comes down to this: The most important component to good customer service is attitude. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from retailers, “They bought the product from (a big-box-store/internet) and expect me to show them how to use it.” Then they say how they told the consumer to “Go blow it out their barracks-bag.” That, in my opinion, is the kiss of death. The retailer just lost a customer for life, and might even get a bad review about their attitude on Yelp or other review sites on the Internet.

Instead of turning customers away, be patient and helpful and make them want to buy something from you in gratitude for your kind help. Just because they bought something from a discounter doesn’t mean they won’t buy something from you if you have been friendly and helpful. This is especially likely if you have solved a problem for them.

Why Expanding Your Store’s Aquatic Garden is a Good Idea

We are seeing more and more aquatic stores adding freshwater planted tanks to their mix of store setups. Even stores that had been strictly saltwater oriented in the past are adding this growing freshwater category.

When we ask why a retail owner has expanded into planted tanks, the overwhelming response we get is that it adds diversity to their offering and draws new customers into the store that they didn’t have before.

A live plant display tank can add real zest to any aquatic section. There is a large variety of live plants available, and with a few beautiful display tanks set up in strategic areas of the store, a new profit center is born.

The best store displays we’ve seen are those with display tanks set up and maintained near an end cap showcasing the items that support the planted tank hobby. Having suggested items such as the proper lighting fixtures and bulbs, plant substrates, circulation pumps, canister filters, carbon dioxide units, drift wood, rocks, pruning and accessory tools, close by will encourage consumers to open their wallets and try something new.

Having a green thumb in the aquatic plant hobby can be as rewarding and grant the same feeling of accomplishment to those with vegetable or flower gardens and house plants. Having a planted aquarium can be very addictive, and even basic customers will want to experiment with and expand their hobby to include several different biotopes of planted setups.

Once a customer has set up their new freshwater planted aquarium, the retailer can expect frequent return visits for consumables like plant fertilizers, CO2, RO water, water quality additives and of course, more fish and plants. There is very little competition from large chains when it comes to planted tanks, so stores that have entered into this category will experience a steady growth if they concentrate on offering setup advice and recommendations that only a specialty store can provide.

Try to appeal to all potential customer groups by setting up several aquarium sizes, offering the consumer suggestions from a small desktop cube to a 15-gallon tank and even up to 55-gallon or larger setups. In this way, a wide variety of choices will inspire any customer to try their own live planted tank.

Just like any store display, live planted tanks require maintenance. Potential customers are not going to be impressed if the plants have yellowing and decaying leaves or a dead fish is lying on the gravel. Be sure to assign a store aquatic specialist to check on and maintain the display tanks daily to keep them in optimum shape. Customers need to know that these tanks are not maintenance free, but the reward is having a beautiful aquatic garden of their own.

Try running a photo contest monthly to keep your new hobbyist engaged. Check with your suppliers or manufacturers for grand prizes such as canister filters, circulation pumps or heating cables to reward the accomplished winners. If you assure the manufacturer that you will display the product as a grand prize in your store for 30 days, you would be surprised how many companies would participate. Talk to your distributor salesperson for other specific product ideas.

Why Target Aquatic and Reptile Enthusiasts?

There is no doubt that dog and cat products, foods and related services make up the largest category driving industry sales.

But it is also the most crowded category with competitors such as big-box stores, grocery stores and large pet store chains, which all have tremendous buying power.  They key into these products and services as part of their projected growth strategy.

For example, walk into any Wal-Mart and you will see 80 percent or more of the pet department merchandise is dedicated to dog and cat products. On the other hand, aquatic products are generally dedicated to only 10 percent, or 8-12 linear feet of the total pet department, and reptile products are almost nonexistent. These stores only stock the very basic items, which will leave a lot of choices and variety out of their mix, creating an opportunity for pet specialty stores to satisfy the consumers’ wants and needs.

While detailing pet stores for our vendors, I have even seen regional pet store chains with just about the same product spread as Wal-Mart, and I always wonder why they don’t key into products that are not available in Wal-Mart and other mass outlets.

To me, the aquatic and reptile sections seem to be the best areas for pet specialty growth, with little competition from the big-box stores. Any full-line store willing to dedicate some floor space to display aquariums and terrariums will have the advantage of variety and price. Adding a few impressive freshwater or saltwater setup displays will attract potential new customers.
With the vast amount of products available through distributors, the variety of products available to pet specialty stores is something that mass-market outlets will not try to compete with for many reasons, including the need for a well-trained sales staff and available warehouse space.

Big-box stores that have their own distribution system cannot keep up with the changing technology and bewildering variety of aquatic and reptile products coming to market so quickly these days. This discourages most mass retailers and keeps them from expanding their offerings in any meaningful way.

Aquatic and reptile enthusiasts are generally willing to spend their hard-earned money on new and innovative products.  After dog products, aquarium is next highest, with cat and reptile following in highest average dollars spent per visit.

For those stores that actually sell livestock, their advantage over mass outlets increases exponentially. Being able to offer the pet along with the habitat generally closes the sale. Livestock is sold on the internet, but most pet owners like to see what they are buying in person and get to know more about their pet through conversation.

Try added-value customer services in your store that the big-box cannot offer.  Good examples are having an aquarium water-testing center, or provide specific reptile wellness sheets to hand out at the time of sale. Increase your draw by offering free incentive products at the time of purchase, such as a free chlorine/chloramine-removing water conditioner for aquatics, or maybe a free sample of cricket water gel with any carnivorous reptile that eats crickets.

Little things like these keep the customers coming back — something mass outlets will probably never do because of their size and scope of business.

An Attraction of Distraction?

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.

Why Should Retailers Attend the Global Pet Expo

I have been attending the Global Pet Expo as far back as the early ‘80s. Back then it was called the APPMA Trade Show, American Pet Product Manufacturers Association, and was designed to showcase manufacturer’s new products to their distributor network and retailers were not allowed to attend the show.

That was back then, nowadays, with the advent of market globalization and the consolidation trends that started in the ‘90s, the APPMA had to adjust with the changing times. In 2005, the APPMA and PIDA Pet Shows were combined and rebranded as the Global Pet Expo. Now, any enterprising retailer can attend and take advantage of the largest international pet trade show in North America allowing them to network with the principals of the vendors whose products they stock in their stores.

When attending the Global Pet Expo, you’ll find this show is where new and also established vendors spend their money to launch and promote their lines or new products.

You will also see there is a large international presence of foreign manufacturers from Europe and Asia displaying their wares.

Regional shows have gotten better and better, but company principals are often not present. At the Global Pet Expo, you will find out there is nothing quite like visiting with owners and CEOs of the various companies who design and distribute the products you buy.  It’s great to see the new products and to meet people, but why not come prepared to take real advantage of a show like this one? This is the perfect opportunity to discuss your business with the owner or CEO of a company, or their national sales manager. There is no better time than the Global Pet Expo to meet this many people, all in one place, who are so important to your business.

Bring a list of questions or issues you may have with specific vendor’s products or services. This is also the perfect time to share your calendar of events and promotions that you have planned throughout the year. Why not have organized written programs with associated costs for participation, like discounts and vendor support requests for your anniversary promotion, customer appreciation promotions and emails, or mailers and TV advertising opportunities?

A complete, “ready to go program” in print to hand out at your meetings will increase your chances of success. You will find that if you have well thought out programs, most vendors you approach will treat your proposal seriously.

If they feel you have done the research and they will get a fair return on the dollars or discounts requested for their cooperative participation in your programs, most will help and support your promotions and advertising potential.

Don’t forget your distributors, as most of them will be attending this show as well. You should consider working with them before, during and after the show, since they will be a major component to all of your year-long promotional programs.

One important tip, start taking care of business on the first day as the exhibitors are ready and willing to talk. Most attendees say they only want to walk the show the first day. It is the perfect day to get quality time with the manufacturer’s principals and sales managers, because many may not be there on the last day of the show.

This is a large show, so don’t wait to get started or you will be rushed on the last day. Use the last day to follow-up and finalize any business previously discussed.


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