In our last article, we discussed the concept of reptile selection as one of our four keys to beginning a quality reptile trade within your pet store. Our second key, inventory, builds upon that concept. The number of reptiles you stock is just as important as the types you stock.
Often, retailers new to the reptile trade make the mistake of attempting to stock too many reptiles, over-ordering lizards and snakes that do not move fast enough from the shelf. This is detrimental for numerous reasons. Overcrowding of cages can result in the spread of disease and even the potential injury of reptiles.
Further, overcrowding creates a problem that we lovingly call the “hungry little mouths” issue. As we’ve extolled in the past, much of your net revenue from the reptile trade does not come from the sale of reptiles themselves; rather, that revenue comes from sales of reptile accessories and food, which cannot be purchased at a local big-box store.
However, if you stock more reptiles than you can successfully sell, those food costs come down on your own bottom line. After all, you do have to feed your stock. Having too many animals that aren’t moving can result in a continual, exponential loss in terms of food and supplies over time.
Stocking too few animals results in empty cages. Empty cages become a two-fold issue. The first half of the issue is simple: you cannot sell an animal that isn’t there. If your cages are empty, there’s no telling how many sales are being lost on a daily basis. If those cages aren’t full, you’re losing money.
There is also problem of the few animals you do have. Let us consider an example: a new pet store has nine reptile displays, with only two animals remaining. The owner wants to make one order instead of several, so they decide to hold off on ordering more reptiles until those two sell. However, given that lack of selection, public perception of those animals tends to skew negatively, even if the animals themselves are healthy, attractive and otherwise perfectly fine.
In their 2004 Harvard Business Review article, “Stock-Outs Cause Walk-Outs,” Daniel Corsten and Thomas Gruen cite a series of studies which found that between 21 and 43 percent of consumers will actively seek out another store if they cannot find an item that they want. In this case, the pair state that 72 percent of these walkouts “were due to faulty in-store ordering and replenishing practices—retailers ordering too little or too late, generating inaccurate demand forecasts or otherwise mismanaging inventory.” Few and far between are the pet stores that can afford losing a third to a half of their business due to lack of inventory. You simply must ensure that both animals and the materials needed to care for them are on your shelves at all times.
Both the cases of too little and too much inventory creates the problem of the “store mascot.” The more that an animal grows, the more expensive it becomes to care for and the less likely it is to sell. Many retailers erroneously believe that such an animal should have a higher price, given that it’s a bigger, adult animal. This could not be further from the reality of the situation.
Rather than raising the price on an animal that has been in your store overlong, consider dropping the price significantly or even offering a package deal for that animal. This simultaneously gets an older animal out of your display and introduces a customer to your selection of reptile accessories.
So, what’s the magic number? How often should a pet store order reptiles? Unfortunately, there isn’t a one size fits all answer here. Obviously, you need enough reptiles for customers to feel that they have a significant choice in their selection. Many new retailers tend to be “freight-phobic,” trying to save on shipping by making one, larger order, letting cages lay fallow during that time. However, the longer a cage is empty, the more cost is being eaten out of your pocket. One lost customer could mean losing literally thousands of dollars, while you’re only saving a few dollars on shipping and handling.
In most cases, reptile orders should be placed every 7-10 days, once you’ve determined the right amount of animals for your store. This means taking a critical look at your sales averages, your internal costs and the amount of space you’ve allotted to reptile sales. Retailers with high reptile turnover may receive up to two shipments week. Certainly, don’t wait until you’re out of animals—it’s too late, then. Always make sure that your customers have enough reptiles to feel like they’re making an active choice in their new pet.