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Brands Break New Ground with Natural Reptile Enclosures


August 13, 2018

Last fall, I spent some time discussing the importance of reptile enclosures to your store and how carrying a given animal means offering all of the subsidiary materials necessary to care for that animal. This included consideration of the various factors necessary for optimal reptile health, such as humidity needs, sizing and the animals’ preferred terrain.

With that said, the realm of caging and enclosures offers so much for retailers that I’d be remiss to leave our discussion of enclosures to that one article. In fact, it may well be worth looking to a model totally outside of the pet industry to best demonstrate how to properly promote and sell enclosures and enclosure accessories.

The ubiquitous Swedish furniture chain Ikea takes on a model not typically seen in department stores or other purveyors of household goods. While many stores might display a given item or place it in a conspicuous place on a shelf, Ikea takes a different tack. Rather than simply showing a couch or a bed, they will literally construct entire rooms within their store, complete with bedding, lighting, shelving and numerous other amenities necessary for how that room would be used in daily life. Rather than settling on an image or a mental measurement, Ikea encourages their customers to walk through a “real” room, to interact with their products and to see their products as they might be in their own home.

Now, while store space at most pet stores is certainly more limited than in the giant warehouses of Ikea, the core concept provided by the furniture magnate stands as an ideal paradigm for how your store can best market and sell enclosures.

So many of the stores we’ve visited have the tendency to limit their reptile enclosures to a rack in the back of their store, in relatively bare cages with the basic necessities to display the given reptiles in safety and health. This, I believe, is a mistake. Rather, the most successful stores I’ve seen take a proactive, creative tack in displaying both their reptiles and the enclosures for those reptiles. These stores create realistic habitats for their animals, actively utilizing the other elements of their housing—lamps, hides, substrate and more—to show patrons what they could create for their pets, for just a few dollars more.

Ashley Rademacher, animal care and education director at Zoo Med, echoes this sentiment.

“I really love to see big, naturalistic habitats in a store. Even if they are custom made, it provides a sense of inspiration to pet keepers—a goal to strive for,” Rademacher said. “With true love and understanding of a species comes a desire to provide the best for it. Many pet keepers may be wanting to provide more for their animals but are unsure about how to go about it. Seeing big, creative, natural habitats in a store can help encourage these keepers to think outside the box and create something more than what they had been able to imagine. I encourage stores to set up inspiring displays whenever possible. Use the product you sell to show off what a beautiful habitat your customers could have in their homes. These attractive, naturalistic habitats are a great way to make animals feel comfortable which will usually entice them to show off natural colors and behaviors. This makes both the enclosure and animal more appealing to reptile enthusiasts and novices alike. There always seems to be at least one employee in every store that has a natural talent for setting up habitats… they may have some great, creative ideas and would be happy to help out in one way or another.”

One of the newest innovations in Zoo Med’s catalog might provide a starting point for a canny retailer as they move toward a more creative, proactive series of reptile displays in their store.

Rademacher notes that Zoo Med’s new Paludarium designs are built with “a deep, water tight base which accommodates a Nano style, aquarium-type water feature. Above the water level is a single, front opening door and adequate space for building a ‘shoreline’ as well as ‘canopy’ type features.”

While these enclosures can be created all to their own, Rademacher says that “the sky is the limit” for creative reptile owners and that, with some of their linked accessories, a single Paludarium habitat can become a multi-tiered enclosure, capable of sustaining multiple species in a single large enclosure. Now, imagine such an enclosure in your store; following the Ikea model, you could show off such an impressive display in your store, house multiple creatures within it, and provide customers with a step-by-step purchasing guide on how to create such an enclosure within their own homes.

Ryan McVeigh, marketing brand manager at Zilla, concurs.

“The way to sell someone on an enclosure for their pet is to help them see what it could be. People get excited seeing that they could have this beautiful enclosure in their home as not only a habitat for their pet, but also as a focal point for a room,” McVeigh said. “We, as humans, enjoy nature and the idea of what these exotic habitats look like. By creating easily attainable, yet well-built and beautiful habitats, you can get your customers excited to have that piece of artwork in their home.”

In addition, McVeigh advocates including some of the newest in front-opening terrariums, which make cleaning and animal handling significantly easier, as well as the inclusion of micro-habitats for smaller animals. One could even consider keeping microhabitats at each register, so that every customer who makes a purchase in your store gets a good long look at both the animals you’re featuring and the cute enclosure to house such an animal in an economic, space-saving way.

At its core, though, the fact remains that the sales you make related to enclosures correspond directly to the effort you are willing to put into establishing those enclosures as a fixture and a point of interest within your store. Keep those enclosures on a shelf, and you’re literally shelving your potential profits. Make them a feature, and your cash register will surely be in the same spotlight.

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