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December 1, 2017

With consumers often showrooming before making a purchase, retailers must develop a plan to make their business attractive enough to capture the sale. My colleagues and I call on hundreds of aquatic stores every year to keep abreast of changes in the category. In preparation for our year-end report to our vendors, our team has compiled notes about what seems to work best at the retail level to drive aquatic product sales. One of the paramount facts that has arisen during this process is that ever-expanding internet sales are seriously affecting brick and mortar stores more than ever.

We have found that retailers who are experiencing growth are those who leverage social media platforms and offer extracurricular in-store events. Many of these retailers focus on their expertise and ability to educate their customers. They generally push products that they have found to be best suited for the systems they promote. To just carry everything under the sun doesn’t guarantee sales growth. After all, the internet has more product variety than any physical store could ever hope to stock. What should set the retailer apart is their expertise. They should be able to recommend complete scalable systems made up of components from working displays on view in their store.

What seems to be most effective is to offer good, better and best scalable systems made up from different manufacturers based upon the retailer’s experience and not necessarily a brand that competes in price. Offering components that have had good success rates allows the retailer to display their expertise, giving consumers choices and explaining options rather than simply selling on price. This approach also makes it a bit harder for the internet seller to duplicate what you have to offer.

I’m not suggesting that expertise trumps price and variety. Popular selling products even when footballed on the internet should be inventoried. Just keep in mind that the successful retailer will grow their business by reassuring the consumer they will be more successful if they follow your advice.
One of the basic ways to sell products, especially against internet sellers, is to have a variety of aquarium displays set up. There’s nothing like seeing a beautiful aquarium setup to inspire a beginner’s imagination. Remember that most consumers are not hobbyists, and if all you cater to are people who already are engaged in the hobby, you’ll be missing the majority of potential sales.

You think to yourself, “I don’t have the room to set up every aquarium kit I sell.” That may be true, but what if you set up aquarium displays with the intention of selling them right from the sales floor? An appealing aquarium with everything, including water and fish, in several different ready-to-go configurations will get walk-in customers’ attention. It’s easy to drain the majority of water in the tank into a travel container, bag the fish and… Voila! A sale is made.

Even if you can’t do the same for larger aquarium setups, our store surveys indicate that, these days, 70 percent of tank sales are 30 gallon and smaller, so don’t ignore the smaller tank and nano market. The advantage to the ready-to-go display is that for those customers who are beginning, it is an easy and fairly safe way to get into the hobby and for those who have a bit more of the pioneering spirit, the displays will inspire and encourage them to buy the kit dry and design their own look.

Advertising your business is essential, even if you just ask satisfied customers to rate you on Yelp or your Facebook page. You might consider becoming involved with a local pet club or create bag-stuffer fliers with information about an in-store seminar planned for the near future.

Finally, when planning events for advertising, don’t forget that your distributor sales person is your best asset when it comes to obtaining added value support from manufacturers. Distributors have relationships with manufacturers and are better connected than most retailers to approach their suppliers for door prizes, samples and signage to support your efforts.

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