Last issue, we examined how to properly price your reptiles, ensuring that your store makes a profit from not just your sale of reptiles, but also to ensure repeat business through food, equipment and other secondary sales. This time around, let’s take a look at how to maintain your inventory so that you can avoid lost sales.
Inventory in the reptile trade means walking a tenuous balance. If you keep too few reptiles in your store, your store will sell out quickly, leaving open cages and lost sales until those cages are full again. If you stock too many reptiles, you run the risk of your animals sitting on the shelves, becoming the dreaded “store mascots,”or even dying, if your staff is not adequately trained to care for the influx of reptiles.
The key to walking this balance lies in your ordering. Consider regularly ordering your reptiles every 7-14 days, if priced in the manner we discussed last issue. While this might seem excessive in terms of shipping cost, the cost to have reptiles shipped to your store is decidedly less than the aggregate cost of extended care and feeding for a reptile that’s been in your store for more than 3-4 weeks.
Small, frequent orders allow you the flexibility to adjust to customers’ buying trends, and ensures that your cages are always full. Less regular shipments can result in imbalanced displays as customers buy out the popular animals and your store is left waiting to sell off the last few reptiles. Empty displays equate to lost sales. Smaller, regular shipments keep those displays well-stocked and attractive to potential customers.
Also, consider the structure of your reptile sales. Our recommendation is to keep approximately 80 percent of your reptile stock as “standard,” with the remaining 20 percent rotating or seasonal. This provides both a sense of newness for your customers, who will ideally be back in each month for food or the like, and are interested in checking out the new stock, while providing all the basics that a new reptile owner would need to begin. Further, having a set core of animals allows your staff to learn and adapt to care for those animals easily.
Once you have such a pattern established, a savvy store owner will shape their reptile supplies around items meant for those core animals. Keep food and other supplementary materials for those animals always in stock, as your store will make significant profit from these materials.
Again, staff training is key here. If a corn snake, for example, needs a specific heating coil in the cage, your staff should be knowledgeable enough to make that sale to a new reptile owner. Only after your core animals are established should you consider changing out displays for seasonal sales or promotions.
Sales and promotions offer a particular challenge. While a sale on a given animal may double or even triple sales, sales also require more frequent restocking and reordering. Note that restocking does not simply end with the reptiles themselves. Be sure to have plenty of food, tanks, heating and lighting options, and more before offering a major promotion. Those sales mean just as much as the reptiles themselves!
This flexibility must also carry over to your reptile habitats and displays. Consider using multipurpose caging that can easily be changed out, based on the reptile’s needs. If you run out of a certain species early, it can be an easy matter to change over that empty cage and display another animal. Key to this strategy is ensuring that your staff knows how to properly care for the given animals. Efficient training in best reptile practices encourages your staff not only to do their job better, but also allows them to be a resource for your customers.
One last danger, regarding reorders and stocking, is that of how to properly keep your reptiles while in your store. While some animals can be kept together, many cannot due to safety concerns. Care is of the utmost importance here.
Bearded dragons, for example, can usually be kept together. But if your bearded dragons are not fed on a regular schedule, they can, and will, nibble at one another’s toes and tails, leading to injury. King snakes often feed on other snakes, so caging them with others, even of the same species, will result in disaster.
Our next article: The Veiled Chameleon, an often-misunderstood reptile that can do big things for your bottom line.