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Reconsidering the Starter Kit

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Most retailers sell starter kits of various kinds: starter aquariums, rabbit setups, snake kits, etc. Having aquarium kits available can get customers to take the plunge and get started keeping fish.

“By having the components matched and in one package, it takes the confusion and anxiety out of deciding what customers need, and which products to purchase,” said Curt Nuenighoff, director of environments for United Pet Group Aquatics. “Newcomers to the hobby can easily be stressed by not having the knowledge of what to buy, and kits can remove that barrier to entry.”

Kits also entice potential fish-keepers by giving them clarity of cost – there’s less guessing what the total setup will cost and no trying to add things up in their heads.
“By having a complete cost, the consumer has a better idea of what their investment will be, and can choose the type/size aquarium that best fits their budget,” adds Nuenighoff.
Another way starter kits can drive sales is discounting the price of the components in the kit.

The Set Up

“When assembling a kit it is important to focus on the success of the aquarium owner as much as the price point,” said Frank Kudla, vice president at Aquatop Aquatic Supplies. “A common mistake is discounting the quality of the equipment to the point where the setup is marginalized and the beginning fish-keeper is unlikely to be successful. One strategy is to offer a price-point kit as well as a deluxe kit and being prepared to explain the difference both in signage and in person.”

Going along with this concept, retailers should consider including LEDs in their kits, or at least offering this as an option for upgrading.

“Since the introduction of LED lighting, it’s now the industry standard for aquarium lighting,” said Nuenighoff. “The advantages of LED lighting greatly outweigh incandescent and fluorescent.”

Of course, store staff must be prepared to explain to customers why paying more for LEDs is worth it.

“Aquatop offers the Sky-Nano aquarium kits, which include an industry first, zero-bypass hang-on-tank filter as well as advanced LED lighting,” said David Chai, president of Aquatop. “Available in 4 and 7 gallon sizes, the Sky-Nano kits use high clarity glass and a modern frameless design.”

Retailers may also consider tailoring the kits offered to specific types of popular fish.

“GloFish kits, the newest concept to hit the aquarium industry, have also become very popular,” said Nuenighoff. “This ties back to innovations in lighting. LEDs make the most of GloFishes’ amazing colors and fluorescence.”

Combating Issues

Beyond the basics of tank, filter, heater and gravel, the various chemicals to treat the water can be an attractive addition to a starter kit or an easy add-on sale. AquaSafe PLUS Water Conditioner from Tetra makes tap water safe for fish instantly and is also available in a formula for goldfish, AquaSafe Water Conditioner for Goldfish.

An issue that some potential fish-keepers have is the wait time between when they buy a tank and when they can stock it with fish. One way to get past this problem is to include one of the products that quickly cycles tanks in the starter kit. One such product is SafeStart by Tetra. SafeStart sets up the biological filter and allows immediate stocking of fish.

“One of the most often heard complaints regarding new setups is cloudy water,” said Chai. “Usually caused by a bacterial bloom, which is a natural part of cycling a new aquarium, the high turbidity can be quite unsightly. Aquatop’s Clear Magic is a water treatment that clears cloudy water quickly and safely in both fresh and saltwater aquarium setups.”

If retailers are selling starter kits, they also need to sell the fish to put in the kit. There are many choices available for beginners. Michael Griffiths, marketing specialist at Segrest Farms, recommends bettas, livebearers, cory catfish and GloFish, among some other, less conventional choices.

“One of my favorite ‘beginner’ fish, the tiger barb, is a great choice for the medium to large aquarium,” said Griffith. “While many have problems with tiger barbs picking on other fish, this is almost always because they are not being stocked in sufficient numbers. A school of a dozen (or more) tiger barbs is an active and energetic group of fish that will add excitement to your customer’s tank.”

For large starter setups, Griffiths suggests oscars.

“Oscars are perhaps the most popular cichlid, and for good reason,” he said. “While they do grow large and are generally quite messy, oscars are without a doubt one of the most personable fish you can find.”

Both Chai and Nuenighoff agreed that the best way to sell aquarium starter kits is to have one setup for display in the store. Customers are more likely to buy a starter kit when they can see it up and running and looking beautiful.

“A properly set up and visually appealing aquarium sparks interest and desire,” said Chai.

Having an aquarium kit on display can generate additional sales of related items.

“Creating a real-life display also provides you with an opportunity to cross-sell gravel, plants, décor, air pumps and bubblers,” said Nuenighoff.

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