BY JEFF SAN SOUCI
The Aquatics Business is shrinking! This is the cry we hear on a daily basis. At the same time, we must ask ourselves, what are we doing to grow the business? How are we changing? What are we doing today that is different from yesterday? Sounds like rhetoric, but it is so important to change and stay on top of the trends and constantly learn. We all know the world of retail, sales and marketing is changing rapidly and we must adjust.
At the same time, retail is hectic, days are busy and the clock goes really fast. It is so important for retailers to step away from the grind and get some fresh air at events like Aquatic Experience. Spend a few days at an event that was created to help build the aquatics business and engage consumers. No dog and cat brushes are for sale at this event—just aquatics and people who want to share their passion for aquatics. On top of that, thousands of consumers are present, who pay to attend the event for the day to learn about our great hobby.
I love it when dealers ask me why they should attend events like Aquatic Experience. I ask them, how can they not go? These are three days of education that you will not find anywhere else in the world. A full fish health management course occurs on Friday that teaches best practices in fish husbandry and care. They have expert marketers sharing tips on how small business can be successful, round table discussions with fellow retailers, legislative updates from PIJAC, sessions on trends in fish keeping and care and much more.
This year, some of the latest trends in aquatics were on display, including the 5th Annual Aquascaping Live contest where contestants from all over the country travel to compete for over $4,000 in prize money. The show was home to the 3rd International Shrimp Contest USA, where over 300 prize shrimp were on display, along with experts from around the world.
All in one room, you could speak with George Farmer, a world famous aquascaper from the U.K., or Christel Kasselmann, who is billed as one of the world experts in aquatic plants. When you are done, you can walk 30 feet and learn about the shrimp industry from Chris Lukhaup, “The Shrimp King.” Down the aisle, the American Cichlid Association (ACA) is hosting a fish show, where some of the most amazing cichlids are on display. Lastly, vendors from around the country have set up booths to showcase their wares and engage with fish enthusiasts.
As a manufacturer, not attending means you’ve missed one of the most important things in today’s world, which is engaging with the most important person in a marketer’s life: the consumer. If you listen and understand the consumer, you can win. As a manufacturer, there are no better lessons then those you receive while talking to actual consumers who buy your products on a daily basis. Yes, it can be painful—and sometimes the truth really hurts—but at the end, it is reality.
Most importantly, it is so energizing and refreshing to see the consumers pouring in and excited about fish and everything they see. Kids and families are all getting exposed to this great hobby.
The bottom line is, we need new ways to engage consumers in the hobby and events like these are great ways to build our industry. Does a photo on Facebook of a beautiful aquarium, a pristine school of harlequin rasboras, or an amazing planted aquarium inspire the same emotional connection as kids seeing it live? No way! There is nothing like staring into a live aquarium.
Come and see it to believe it. However, at the end of it all, these events need your support to continue. The more dealers that come, the better the event will be.