December 2, 2014

If sales have dropped off in your store’s freshwater department, it might just be that be customers are bored with your selection. The saltwater side of the hobby is ever-changing with new corals, fish, invertebrates and products appearing every week. With freshwater, it is more difficult to keep the department interesting but there are ways to accomplish this.

The big box stores have all the common basic fish and then a few not-so-common oddballs in their mix, totaling more than 140 different species of freshwater fish. The big box stores have increased their species selection in the last few years but their big sellers seem to remain bread-and-butter or basic fish. This is evident because the oddballs tend to go on clearance shortly after their introduction for lack of sales.

One of the keys to keeping a good customer’s loyalty is to offer something new and exciting at least each month if not more often. Having the same assortment in the same aquarium location will lead to a lack of interest. A stagnant assortment also leads to lack of enthusiasm in your employees working the department. Create excitement with the store employees and they will pass that excitement on to your customers.

Here are some simple tips to take into consideration:

Most retailers simply walk their tank aisles looking to fill in the tanks that have sold down on fish. Then they reorder the same fish that had been in the tank for years. This is fine to see what is selling and what your staff is promoting to customers but most likely the same fish are ordered over and over again. For fish like cardinals, neons and other staples, this is just fine.

However, for most aquariums you should mix it up more often. Ask your customers what fish they would like to see and take advantage of their suggestions. Dedicate several aquariums to be used for new varieties suggested by your customers. Look over your supplier’s stock list carefully and choose something new to be advertised in those dedicated aquariums. Your customers will soon be coming in with each new shipment to see what is new and on special for the week. Advertise the new arrivals on your Facebook page or at least your webpage.

Keep up with the moving trends in livestock. Livebearers have made a big comeback. Instead of the basic Livebearers varieties that have been around for more 50 years, try some of the hot new varieties which have recently become very popular. So many types of guppies, swordtails and platies are now available that your choice is almost endless and could fill your store. Try just a couple new varieties with each shipment and continue to rotate the varieties with each fish order.
Another trend which has really taken off with a whole new market is the small aquarium like the desktop and nano freshwater setups. If you haven’t started selling them, now is the time to start. With all the dwarf species of hardy fish and plants becoming available for these types of setups, it is very easy to offer something new all the time.

Also in the US, we are just now discovering the beauty of all the dwarf shrimps and snails available that other countries have been enjoying for many years. These make very entertaining and beautiful desktop displays to attract the interests of any hobbyist. They also carry with them a whole following of dedicated products and foods to add sales and profits to your bottom line.
One other suggestion is to have more than just a few individuals and varieties when it comes to fast sellers like angels, discus and corydoras. These fish always look better in larger groups with each variety in separate tanks.

Setting yourself apart from the big box stores is simple but it does take well-trained staff. The increase in sales and customer base will make the time, effort and investment worthwhile.

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