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July 22, 2016

While many people can’t wait for summer to arrive, summer can prove to be a difficult time for reptile retailers. While kids are out of school, the lure of vacations, poolside lounging and amusement parks often supersedes interest in a new pet. However, that’s not to say that pet retailers are at the mercy of the seasons. In fact, there are many ways to bolster sales during summer slumps.

The largest inhibitor to reptile sales during summer is vacation planning. Simply put, many families simply don’t want to take on the additional responsibility of a new pet immediately before going out of town. As such, animal sales tend to slump across the board. However, as kids head back to school in August and early September, consider targeting these same families for promotions. As routine sets back in and children settle into a predictable schedule, families become more willing to take on a new member of their household.

Seasonally Abundant
Snakes, particularly, provide a viable point of opportunity for astute reptile retailers during the summer. Summer provides many snakes natural breeding time, which makes them more abundant and drives prices down. Further, snakes typically require fewer feedings than other herps. As such, consider bundling a snake with the necessary materials to care for it, offering the snake for free with the purchase of an appropriate enclosure. Doing so can motivate a would-be customer’s new reptile purchase.

However, snakes are not the only reptiles that are summer breeders. Baby monitor lizards and iguanas breed during the summer, leading to an increased stock from wholesalers. These lower prices can allow you to offer deep discounts to customers, ideally convincing on-the-fence customers to get a new pet. As with snakes, consider offering one of these animals as part of a package deal, with a complete setup.

A Hot Topic
One major thing to keep in mind as the summer months blaze on is the health and safety of your reptiles.
Josh Panos, a national sales manager with ZooMed, advocates using the summer months to provide specials on thermometers and humidity gauges, to better keep tabs on the conditions in a reptile’s tank.

“We always recommend having a couple in each enclosure, which will allow hobbyists to get the most accurate readings to reach the most ideal thermal gradient,” Panos said. “In the event that they need to make adjustments to reduce the temperature, lower watt lamps are always good to stock up on.”

Panos also suggests carrying humidifying devices such as ZooMed’s own ReptiRain, Little/Big Dripper, or ReptiFogger, as the drier months of summer and early fall roll on.

“Summer can actually be one of the busier times of year for retailers if they want it to be,” Panos said. “There are so many ways to make consumers feel like they are getting a value with little sacrifice being made.”

One of the absolute worst things a reptile owner can do is place their reptile’s tank in direct sunlight, even through a window. The direct sunlight can amplify the temperature within the tank to lethal levels within minutes via the greenhouse effect. While most reptiles can handle certain degrees of cold, extreme heat can kill an otherwise-healthy snake or lizard in minutes. Even a short time in such heat could be lethal for a reptile.

Similarly, while much has been made of keeping dogs and children in locked cars during the summer months, this advice goes double when dealing with reptiles, especially when transporting a newly purchased reptile from store to home. The small plastic containers so often used to transport reptiles between locations can often contribute to that greenhouse effect, leading to heat-sick or even deceased animals before even returning home. Be sure to tell customers to take their new pet directly home, keep it in the shade and keep the air conditioning on all the while.

Bringing in Customers
Summer can be a good time to hold events that draw in customers.

Panos offers up the idea of holding outdoor, family-style events, such as a terrarium building class. Students would have the opportunity to learn how to build a terrarium, which they could then take home at the end of the day. Not only would such an event allow your customers to learn about the needs and housing for a specific reptile, but it nearly guarantees repeat business.

Above all else, it becomes paramount that the lines of communication between your staff and your customers stay open and honest throughout the duration of these summer months. Ensure that your staff helps your customers make educated, sensible decisions.

A satisfied customer with a healthy, happy pet becomes a repeat customer. A customer that makes an impulse purchase and becomes unable to care for their reptile will never again visit your store. However, with a little care and great communication techniques, this summer can be one to remember.

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