As a kid, ten-year-old Bill goes fishing with his dad. Dad loves fishing and wants to share his love of fishing with his son. That first time out on the water, Bill couldn’t be prouder as he nets his first largemouth bass. A successful first trip hooks Bill for life. Bill doesn’t catch another fish the next six times he goes fishing with Dad, but he remembers the thrill of that first fish—the glee of reeling it in.
In a parallel world, ten-year-old Bill doesn’t net that first fish. He spends six hours out on the water with Dad in bored silence. The next time Dad asks about fishing, Bill would rather fire up the PlayStation.
After two or three more offers, Dad simply stops asking if Bill would like to join him—that ship has sailed.
The story here illustrates a key concept: the first impression you make can turn a non-customer into a lifelong devotee. However, just as easily, that first impression can totally disinterest someone in patronizing your store.
At its core, the mission of every pet store comes down to a simple concept: ensuring that healthy, happy pets find caring, loving homes. Foisting a pet onto a customer simply for the purpose of making a sale not only sullies a retailer’s reputation, but also casts a pall upon the entirety of reptile keeping.
Above all else, the sale of an individual reptile represents a thinking, feeling reptile entering a family’s home. That reptile deserves the best of care, which means that the animal’s owner must know exactly what purchasing that reptile entails. Many first-time reptile owners have difficulty understanding their actual wants and needs. A significant discrepancy lies between your customer’s view of what they want versus what they think they want.
Iguanas are one example. While many customers may enter your store wanting an iguana, the care and handling requirements are beyond what most first-time reptile owners are actually capable of providing.
What that customer actually wants is a larger, personable lizard. A bearded dragon is likely a significantly better fit for that customer. While the customer might think they know what they want, a careful inquiry by a knowledgeable staff member can get to the heart of what a customer actually wants and what that customer is prepared to handle in terms of care.
Consider adding an “experience level” to any displays meant to hold reptiles. A relative experience level can demonstrate to a would-be customer how difficult a given reptile might be when considering care, feeding, and other necessary items.
If you are able to go further in depth, you may even wish to include a “general” experience level, then couple that with individualized experience levels, delineated into more specific areas. A given reptile might be given a “Moderate” experience level, but be “Difficult” in terms of food or “Simple” in terms of caging requirements.
In addition, consider making care sheets available to customers. A care sheet can go a long way towards educating your customer on the finer details of a given reptile before they make a costly purchase.
Make use of your pre-existing relationships with your reptile wholesaler to establish a dialogue about the reptiles you choose to stock. By creating a face-to-face dialogue, you are much more likely to be privy to nuanced, accurate information than you would receive from a simple internet query.
While we would love to see reptiles in every home, the fact remains that some homes are simply not well-suited to housing reptiles. Homes with young children, elderly people, or those with weakened immune systems are not recommended for reptiles, as those persons are more susceptible to salmonella and other diseases that might reside dormant upon a reptile’s skin.
In addition, a person who frequently travels probably should not own a reptile such as a chameleon, which requires daily feeding. When a customer enters your store, your staff should have the sense of mind to ask about elements that might interfere with their ability to care for their would-be pet.
In the end, we must always keep in mind that the pets we sell are just that: thinking, feeling creatures. In some cases, a non-sale may be the best thing that can happen to a reptile, if the person who intends to buy them is unable to care for them properly. As retailers, it benefits the whole pet industry to maintain a high ethical standard. Doing so is the best way to ensure that customers become repeat-customers and that the reptile trade continues to grow.