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March 31, 2015

Thanks to Penn-Plax’s commitment to producing high-quality, licensed products for the aquarium industry, there is already a wide variety of SpongeBob products on the market. After all, the show has been on television since 1999 and the yellow, square, squeaky-voiced character remains popular with each new generation of kids. In preparation for the movie, Penn-Plax worked with Nickelodeon to create new aquarium ornaments, including a superhero SpongeBob complete with muscles.

“We have a longstanding relationship with Nickelodeon and Disney, which helps things move through at a faster rate when necessary,” said Gerry Brostek, COO of Penn-Plax. That business alliance was helpful in getting the new superhero SpongeBob aquarium ornaments on the market in time for the release of the movie but it also helped with getting things moving on Disney’s “Frozen.”

When it became apparent just how popular “Frozen” had become, Penn-Plax worked to get products out to retailers in time for the holidays and it paid off. “We had ‘Frozen’ products in right before Christmas and they flew off the shelves pretty quick,” said Siegfried Gutekunst, owner of The Hidden Reef in Levittown, Penn.

Capitalizing on Popularity

The successful sales of “Frozen” and SpongeBob products around Christmas and spikes in sales around the release of the new movie are both good examples of why licensing can be beneficial to both manufacturers and retailers. The bright packaging and familiar characters not only liven up the aquatic area but the products also often lead to incremental and impulse sales. They also can attract new hobbyists.

“Our objectives are to bring new sales into the aquatic department of the pet store and to attract younger people and get them interested in the hobby in the hopes that they will retain that interest throughout their life,” said Brostek.

In order to accomplish its objectives, Penn-Plax has two main priorities.

First, Penn-Plax is particular about the franchises with which it will work. It looks for something that is popular and will generate sales at retail, while also trying to keep in mind it wants something with longevity, not just a flash in the pan.

“The development time from concept to product can be as long as a year, so you have to have faith in the property you commit to and look for something that will be evergreen,” Brostek said. Of course, the property also should make sense with water, which is why you see products featuring characters from “The Little Mermaid,” “Finding Nemo” and SpongeBob, rather than “Star Wars,” even though it has legions of loyal fans.
Second, the company is committed to making quality products that work.

“We want the customer to have a good experience to help them remain enthusiastic about fish,” Brostek said. “We call out in the packaging whether this is an appropriate size for a goldfish or a betta—the two types of fish kids are likely to start out with—and then we include information about feeding and changing the water in the directions.”

Working With a Trusted Brand

Licensing can be an important tool for manufacturers and retailers even with products that don’t have anything to do with movies and television shows. KollerCraft has a longstanding licensing agreement with Mars Fishcare, using the popular brand on its desktop aquariums.

“Licensing is used by brand owners to extend a trademark or character onto products of a completely different nature,” said Rand Kollman, vice president of sales and marketing for KollerCraft. “The partnership between us and Mars Fishcare helps provide unique aquarium products to the industry under a brand name pet store customers know and trust.”

KollerCraft manufactures aquariums with a unique style that includes filtration and LED lighting. Paired with Mars Fishcare’s API Perfect Start, which allows immediate addition of fish into the aquarium, the kits are perfect for people just starting out with fish. Sold only through independent channels, these kits not only introduce people to a new hobby but also, hopefully, keep them in the hobby for a long time.

Building Excitement

If you haven’t capitalized on the incremental sales garnered in the world of licensed aquarium products, now may be a perfect time. The “Sponge Out of Water” movie has SpongeBob back in the spotlight again and there’s plenty of time to put those products front and center, especially to gear up for the DVD release. And in the summer of 2016, Disney is coming out with “Finding Dory,” a sequel to the popular “Finding Nemo,” a movie that created a huge stir in the aquatic industry.

Be prepared for the demand not only by stocking up on aquarium starter kits, ornaments and decorations but by planning a marketing strategy that will really take advantage of this exciting time for fish sales. Penn-Plax has a team of retail sales consultants who will come to your store to help with merchandising and the company also offers movie posters and signage to increase your impact.

You can also think about hosting special events, such as a movie screening in your store, or opening your store up to events such as birthday parties, if you have the space. Gutekunst has found that parties are a good way to bring more kids into a store. And when you have a fish-themed birthday party, it only makes sense that many of the gifts will center on fish.

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