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A Matter of Taste

Joe Olenik//June 1, 2015//

A Matter of Taste

Joe Olenik //June 1, 2015//

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Decorating an aquarium is fun and for most aquarists it’s also a way of expressing themselves. It’s a statement of who they are and what they like in life. They get to combine their artistic talents with their love of fish and manufacturers of aquarium decorations have taken notice.

“The aquarium décor is usually a reflection of something the owner of the aquarium likes. It’s a diorama that they can relate to. And they like to change the scene frequently.” said Ivan Fielman, VP of national accounts and Canadian national sales manager at Penn-Plax.

Selling Décor

Aquarium decorations are the ultimate in add-on sales.

“Many impulse aquarium sales happen because a consumer walks in and likes the scene or theme that you created in the aquarium. The most effective way to sell décor is to have decorated dry setups ready for the consumer to see and, in many cases, to walk out of the store with,” said Fielman.

Rick Pruess, owner of Pruess Pets in Lansing, Michigan, agrees. He uses wet displays the same way in his store. One of his favorites is a tank that’s set up with LED-lit ornaments and bubble wands. It is in an area with subdued lighting and there are no fish in it, making it almost maintenance-free. With no additional lighting on the tank, the LED’s really pop.
“It’s a selling machine,” said Pruess.

Hobbyists who are setting up a new aquarium usually have some idea of the theme they want to create but many décor purchases are made on impulse. Customers see something that catches their eye and think, “I want that.” Not everyone is an aquatic interior decorator though, so having well-designed live displays—as well as creative dry displays—in your décor department will give hobbyists ideas and can really boost décor sales.

“People often come in with a gray idea of what they want their tank to look like, sort of a fantasy. Our job is to expand that idea to the final product,” said Pruess.

Pretty and Purposeful

Decorations are more than just pretty objects in the aquarium. They give fish places to live, they reduce stress and they prevent aggression among territorial fish and can even create spawning sites. Tall plants along the back of an aquarium help to hide filter tubes, cords and other equipment and they bring fish forward for better viewing.

Darker decorations help accent the colors of fish like neon tetras and African cichlids. Caves and grottos make great homes for sharks, loaches, plecos and other reclusive fish. And don’t forget a background to give the underwater scene depth. Sales staff should be trained in all these benefits and use them in recommending décor items.

Ask anyone what else they want in tank décor and they’ll say three things: color, color and color! With so many options in aquarium decorations, it can be difficult for retailers to decide on a diverse but manageable inventory. You simply can’t stock everything, no matter how big your store is. A dedicated décor department that is well stocked with a variety of themes is sure to be profitable.
“You must carry décor for all possible tastes,” said Fielman. “Just because you don’t like something  doesn’t mean your entire customer base doesn’t like it.”

Ask your customers what they’re looking for and track sales histories to determine what’s selling.

“You have to keep asking yourself what you and your staff can support,” said Pruess. Seek out staff members with a flair for decorating and let them participate in the decorating process. Have them create displays and help with ordering. Train them to interact with customers to see what they‘re interested in so that they can help them meet their goals.

For kids, stay on top of the latest movies—which often spawn aquarium décor lines—and pay attention to current entertainment themes. You always want staples like day-glow plants, SpongeBob and Nemo figures, pirates and mermaids, etc., but rotating your décor inventory according to what’s hot will keep families coming back regularly to see what’s new.

For grown-ups, be sure to have plenty of skulls, sunken ships, pagodas, castles and other interesting theme decorations. Manufacturers like Penn-Plax and Blue Ribbon Pet Products offer amazing selections that allow stores to offer ever-changing variety.

The Natural Look

Artificial plants are great sellers for those who want the natural look but don’t want the extra care associated with live plants. Richard Binkowski of Naja Aquarium & Pet Supply in Milwaukee says naturally colored plants, especially Plants+Plus Silk Plants from Penn-Plax, continue to be popular with stores in his area.

Make sure you stock plenty of natural rock and driftwood to go along with this theme, too. And if your rock bins are underneath your fish sales tanks, decorate the tanks immediately above each bin with those rocks so shoppers can see how great they look under water.

In today’s marketplace, necessities like fish food, filter cartridges and water conditioners can be ordered online or picked up at the local grocery store or home improvement center, so aquatic retailers need to give shoppers a reason to come in.

“The only chance we have in this industry is to make sure we stay relevant,” said Pruess. “We need to show consumers what they want.” Helping hobbyists enhance and enjoy their aquariums with an imaginative selection of aquarium decorations is one good way to do just that.