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April 1, 2016

It’s safe to say that, without filters and pumps, the aquarium hobby would not exist. No pieces of equipment are more essential to keeping aquatic creatures alive and the array of styles, sizes and prices in today’s market is truly staggering. Aquatic shops need to stock a well-rounded selection of quality products that serve the needs of their customers and that they can sell profitably. These products have to be backed up by a staff that is not only knowledgeable in the filters themselves, but also in how to recommend the best solutions for each customer’s success.

“As an independent retailer in today’s marketplace, you need to be aware of products’ mass and online pricing,” said Les Wilson of Cobalt Aquatics. “Many filters can be purchased and shipped direct to an online consumer cheaper than a store can buy with their everyday discount from a distributor. Do your research on both the product lines and your customer base’s buying habits and tech savvy about price comparing. After that hurdle, don’t forget the product line should be quality, easy to use and offer differentiation from the competition! Look for companies with robust warranties and a reputation for working with retailers when an issue might arise.”

Convenience, Convenience, Convenience

No single filter type works best for everyone. Getting to know your customers’ needs and budgets will help you guide them to good buying decisions. The most commonly used style of aquarium filter in the U.S., particularly with small tank owners and those new to the hobby, is the power filter that hangs on the back of the tank.

“For consumers that want to perform quick and easy maintenance, Aqueon QuietFlow filters and replacement carbon cartridges are the ideal solution,” said Lenitra Friend, brand manager at Central Garden & Pet.

According to Friend, the important selling points of aquarium filters should be ease of use, effective filtering ability and a good size assortment for consumers to choose from.

Canister filters are the choice of more serious hobbyists, particularly those who have large tanks, large fish, cichlids, live planted aquariums and marine fish tanks.

“Hydor Professional Canister Filters offer unique attachments and ease of use for consumers,” said Brian Shavlik, east zone sales manager at Hydor USA. “Hydor filters range in size for aquariums 20 to 150 gallons, are easy to prime and operate silently.”

Convenience is key in today’s world. While canister filters do not have to be serviced as often as hang-on designs, doing so is a bit more tedious and involved. The Cobalt EXT canister filter’s unique in-line pump design allows the user to disconnect the media chamber quickly and easily, while maintaining flow within the aquarium. The filter self-primes when returned to the tank.

For the Reefers

With the continued popularity of reef aquarium keeping, circulation and drive pumps are a must in every aquatic specialty shop’s inventory. Quality construction and versatility are paramount to the hobbyist.

“Hydor Circulation Pumps are all made in Italy and carry a two year warranty,” Shavlik said. “Hydor offers a diversity of sizes in circulation pumps in both flow rate and physical size. The Nano Koralia is small and perfect for all of the Nano Cube style aquariums. The New Koralia Third Generation has a new patented Dual Magnetic Support System. It allows the user to position the Koralia freely inside the aquarium. The pump can pivot in virtually any direction to guarantee flow where it is needed. It is enhanced with vibration absorbing silicone for silent operation.”

Many advanced hobbyists shop regularly online, and store operators need to have the support of manufacturers when it comes to pricing.

“The New Third Generation Pumps are protected by MAP [minimum advertised price],” Shavlik said.

Many reef hobbyists use wavemakers or random timers to simulate ocean currents in their aquariums. These devices can cause some circulation pumps to wear out or become damaged through constant on-off cycles.

SICCE Syncra and Voyager pumps are engineered with no mechanical stop or clutch, making them timer safe without damaging the pump. In addition, aquarium hobbyists are becoming more concerned with energy efficiency, and SICCE filters and pumps are specifically designed to consume less electricity while offering the highest quality, versatility and longevity on the market. Most importantly, Ralph Cabbage, CEO of SICCE USA, is committed to positioning independent retailers to be successful and compete effectively against mass and online vendors.

Pumping up Sales

Brick and mortar specialty shops offer hobbyists the opportunity to see products first hand and ask questions in real time. Having a working display of the different filters and pumps you sell gives shoppers an opportunity to see them in use and gives your sales staff the ability to demonstrate them live. A well-trained staff can not only generate sales, but can also ensure a steady return clientele for cartridges, media and advice. Successful hobbyists tend to stick with it, and most are more than willing to indulge in their favorite activity. Choosing a quality line of filters and pumps, with strong manufacturer support will ensure success for you and your customers.

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