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Back to Basics

John Mack//August 3, 2015//

Back to Basics

John Mack //August 3, 2015//

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For those out there that are relatively new to this column, the sheer amount of knowledge necessary to give reptiles a fair shake in the pet trade may be overwhelming. While the idea of adding in an entirely new variety of animal to your repertoire can seem daunting, reptiles should be no more intimidating to you and your staff than adding a new type of guinea pig or hamster.

However, if you are serious about including reptiles in your store for the first time, here are four major pillars that pet retailers should consider as they look to sell reptiles. These pillars are selection, inventory, presentation and pricing.


Select which reptiles you want for your entry into the reptile sales world. Choosing appropriate reptiles is key to establishing a solid sales base in your early forays in the reptile trade. As you train your staff and prepare displays, consider stocking reptiles that will both sell quickly and have relatively easy requirements for care. Bearded dragons, leopard geckos and corn snakes all fit these categories particularly well, which is why they’re so commonly kept in larger pet chains.

Though it seems to go without saying, as you select animals, resist the urge to buy animals because they look “cool.” While your personal tastes may be suitable for you, purchasing animals purely based on your own aesthetic is a near-guarantee that the animal will be languishing in a display for months, rather than in someone’s home.

However, this is not to say that you shouldn’t include higher-end animals in your store’s displays. Keep them to a minimum and understand which animals will make up your bread and butter revenue.

Inventory is the ability for your store to always provide a number of different animals for your customers to choose from. Ideally, your store should be able to stock at least two to three variations for each reptile species. Consider stocking a baseline animal, as well as two different morphs or color variants of that same animal. Providing your customers with those additional options will result in both increased sales and in turn, happier repeat customers.


Presentation may be the most important pillar, as how you display the reptiles and their enclosures directly impacts how well those reptiles will sell. If you plan to carry reptiles and accessories, you must show off those items in your own displays.
Make use of the items you already have within your store to create vibrant habitats for the reptiles. If you have a waterfall display for sale at $150, it does you customers no good for that display to sit in a box on a shelf. You’ll sell more of those features if you have one operating within one your reptile displays.


Many pet store owners erroneously believe that the majority of their profit margin comes from the sale of the animal itself. In our experience, this is rarely the case. Highly priced animals often simply do not sell, taking up precious display space and resulting in greater losses. By pricing animals at a more economical price point, you ensure that your store sells more animals overall, resulting in more profit overall, even at a lesser price point.

We recommend that you price the reptiles at no more than twice the wholesale price. If priced higher, the likelihood that a given animal will not sell increases significantly. If a given animal has been in your store for several months, consider marking it down significantly or even giving the animal away. Providing a giveaway of this sort can provide great goodwill for your potential customers and ensure repeat business—a customer who wins a free bearded dragon or corn snake from your store will surely be back!

The majority of that profit, however, does not come from the animal itself. That profit comes from subsidiary sales for items necessary for proper reptile care. Reptiles and amphibians require a significant investment in enclosures, substrates, lighting, hides, decorative items and food. Unlike their feline and canine compatriots, reptile pet supplies are rarely available at the local big box store or grocery.

In our experience, the amount that your store can make from subsidiary sales can grow over the first year to up to 40 times the price of the animal that triggered the sale. By providing a positive customer service experience coupled with solid variety in both animals and in products, you can ensure that a single animal results in continual sales from that customer for years to come. By focusing on “the long haul”, a single sale can become tens, if not hundreds, more. Without the spark of that initial sale, though, the blazing inferno of subsidiary sales can never exist.

In coming articles, we will be going into far more depth of these key areas so that you can hopefully master your reptile department and generate substantial revenue