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December 1, 2014

There’s no doubt that the pet industry is booming. As a whole, the pet industry now approaches $70 billion in sales annually, with no signs of slowing down. America’s interest—and really the world’s interest—in animals is at an all-time high with a higher percentage of American citizens owning pets than actually having children.

With this boom, reptiles have seen quite the uptick in popularity. Geckos sell car insurance, chameleons hock paint and frogs croak out beer brands on our televisions. Reptiles have become mainstream and any quality pet shop must leverage this popularity to their best ability for optimal sales.

Out of that $70 billion pie, nearly two-thirds of all pet products sold—close to $41 billion—are pet foods or subsidiary supplies. If you can provide these items where others cannot or will not, you already have a leg up on your competition.

One of the most visible targets for these sales come from the younger generations: Generations X (considered ages 35-49) and Y (considered ages 18-34). According to Experian’s “Simmons National Consumer Survey,” one out of every twenty individuals already own some sort of reptile. What’s more, this demographic is expanding with each passing year encompassing more and more would-be reptile owners.

We believe that there are three primary points of attraction for these pet owners to the reptile world in general: convenience, variety and personality. And as it so happens, these are three fantastic angles through which a canny pet store owner can strategize their future reptile sales.

The amount of technology used in today’s reptile habitats and feeding procedures is outright astounding. Companies worldwide have developed countless innovative ways to take care of pet reptiles which makes care for scaly pets easier than ever. Items like auto-misters, pump waterfalls, foggers and more provide ease of care with an aesthetic edge making them appealing to those Gen-X and Gen-Y buyers. Technology has even advanced in terms of food: items like prepackaged feeder crickets and cactus have become more and more commonplace and should definitely be among your commonly stocked items. This ease of care and convenience can provide a major draw to your store.

Consider also stocking prepackaged reptile kits for the specific animals you carry, especially as your store heads into busier seasons. The ability for a new reptile owner to walk in and, in one package, acquire all of the items they need to have a reptilian pet is simply phenomenal and will definitely help ensure repeat business. These kits—available from numerous manufactures—vary significantly from animal to animal often including some of the convenience items listed above, in addition to animal-specific lighting, substrate and more. If you’re due for a large shipment of a given animal, ensure that your store is stocked with kits, ready for a newbie reptile owner to grab and go.

And of course, be sure to show off these displays.

Concurrent with the advances in convenience and technology, sheer variety in both reptile pets and their necessary supplies have boomed. Advances in captive-breeding procedures and genetics tracking have allowed stores to acquire new and unique morphs and color patterns.

As a store owner, catering to this variety is crucial if you wish to cash in on Gen-X and -Y’s pet boom. Consider keeping a rotating unique animal in addition to your normal reptile standbys, perhaps with a unique color pattern.

This last concept feeds directly into our final concept: personality. While the variety of reptiles themselves provides numerous avenues for a pet owner to express themselves, the ability to customize a display provides a spectacular opportunity to provide a reptile owner new ways to make their pet’s home their own. Look to modern trends and aesthetics when setting up your store’s displays: perhaps a generic desert habitat could be decorated with steampunk elements, turning a potentially plain bearded dragon tank into a desert sci-fi wasteland. Such displays catch the eyes of customers and lead to greater sales for your store. Of course, it goes without saying that anything you display, your store must carry. Anything not in stock equates to lost sales.

I cannot emphasize enough that your store provides unique service and merchandise which cannot be found at the local big-box store. And rather than a weakness, this unique niche is a strength which can be leveraged for happy customers and better sales for your store.

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