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Reptile Habitats are the Key to Long-term Success


December 4, 2017

One of the major points that I’ve tried to hammer home throughout my past articles has been the concept that your relationship with a customer does not, and should not, end with the sale of a given animal. In fact, the vast majority of your profit actually lies with subsidiary purchases, such as food and substrate.

However, the largest of those purchases—one that literally may make or break the purchasing process for your customers—is the housing for that given animal. Cages and enclosures are often overlooked when considering reptiles as a point of sale, but the right cages can make all the difference when selling your reptiles.

Appropriate Housing

The first and singularly important thing to remember is that if you carry a given animal within your store, you must carry the appropriate housing for that animal. While this is easy to pay lip service to, not every cage or enclosure is made equal. As a retailer, you must consider your animal’s species, size (especially sizes in the future) and humidity needs before stocking both reptiles and their enclosures.

Various species of animals simply require different enclosures. Most snakes, for example, tend to do poorly in mesh-walled enclosures, as they can catch their scales against the mesh, leading to potential injury. Aquatic reptiles, obviously, can’t be held in a mesh enclosure; while species that require specific humidity controls must be kept in an enclosure that best suits their humidity needs. If you live in a particularly dry area, species like bearded dragons or banded geckos may thrive in an open, mesh cage. However, if your area is particularly cold, you may find that open-air enclosures are simply inappropriate for your climate, even indoors.

Animal sizing matters greatly in terms of enclosure choices. While given enclosures vary, based on their actual dimensions, there are a number of easily-found guidelines for various reptiles, based on their family. However, retailers should keep in mind the growth of a given reptile over time. Turtles such as red-eared sliders and various species of iguanas can grow particularly large. While a customer may think they have a large enough enclosure at the time of purchase, they may swiftly find that their new pet quickly outgrows their home.

Enclosure Tips

As a basic rule of thumb, consider most lizards requiring an enclosure at least two to three times longer than their full snout-to-tail length, while turtles would require housing around five times their snout-to-tail length. Snakes tend to be a bit trickier, though in most cases one should consider a cage of at least ¾ of the snake’s overall length.

Depth of an enclosure, however, often depends upon the nature of the given species.  A species known for climbing, like most geckos and chameleons, often requires a taller enclosure, while a bearded dragon might not require the additional height. Snakes, similarly, require height based upon their propensity to climb or maneuver vertically. In the end, you simply have to know your animals and effectively communicate that knowledge to your customers. Finally, humidity comes into play for so many reptile species. As a general rule, the more humidity—or, the more control an animal requires for its humidity—the more likely that animal will require a glass or plastic enclosure with solid walls. Animals that thrive in lower humidity will generally do better in open-air, mesh enclosures. Obviously, there are exceptions to this, but in both cases, you—as a retailer—must know your animals and understand how to serve them best.

And, as I’ve advocated in the past, any information or education that you gain when choosing your animals’ enclosures absolutely must be disseminated throughout your staff and your customers. While it may seem easier just to keep all of your animals in similar enclosures prior to sale, their needs may diff er significantly; both your staff and your customers must be aware of these nuances to best serve the animals themselves.

Making the Sale

When it comes to selling enclosures, the uptick in overall reptile sales has given rise to a number of intriguing trends. Universal Rocks’ Jason Wilson spoke about some of the interesting things he’s seen within the realm of enclosures. Founded by Stuart Dunne in Australia, Universal Rocks moved to Dallas in 2007 and provides a fantastic variety of artificial stones, plants and other enclosure materials for reptile enthusiasts.

Wilson was quick to note the rise of “round tanks, smaller enclosures, coffee tables and stands,” noting that “we are seeing a trend toward smaller reptiles and amphibians.” This is leading customers to find more varied, unique ways to display their pets, he said.

Wilson encourages pet retailers to provide “clean, bright, and colorful setups” within their stores, noting that store owners should think of their displays as “something they should put in their highest traffic area.” And, he was quick to echo Reptiles by Mack’s own thoughts in regard to stocking procedures: “In the end, be smart, be practical, and don’t be afraid to think outside the box.”

An enclosure will likely represent, for customers, the single largest purchase they will make for their pet outside of the pet itself. And, in some cases, that enclosure may outstrip the cost of the pet several times over. It is your duty to ensure that your customers make wise choices when deciding upon where their new pet will live. Be sure that they have all the right tools to do the job!

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