As the days grow longer and the nights grow colder, and we take some time to celebrate a year gone by with friends and family, we often take a moment for self-reflection and self-improvement. We take stock of our successes and failures, as we contemplate where to go as the New Year opens.
And, of course, it gives us a chance to look back at the big movers and shakers within the reptile world as we enter 2019.
As has been the trend over the past decade, the reptile trade is one of the fastest-rising, most expansive areas within the pet industry. While 2017 showed again how popular reptiles have become as pets, in 2018 the number of reptile owners continues to increase nationwide, approaching well over an estimated 10 million individual reptiles owned as pets, spread over nearly 5 million households.
Within the field of reptiles as a whole, we still see certain animals rising to the top in terms of sales and overall pet ownership. Much of this comes from these animals’ overall availability, their ease of care, and the improvements continually being made in captive-breeding practices, allowing for not only more reptiles in total, but more unique morphs, colorations and variations within individual species.
Top of the list, as they have been for several years running, are the bearded dragons. Easy to care for, friendly and affable, beardies have become a sure-fire thing within the reptile trade.
However, the demand for bearded dragons, as you likely well know, has quickly begun to outstrip supply. While this does tend to drive up prices, as availability drops, many breeders have begun to address this by increasing the frequency and output of their breeder reptiles, though we do have to keep in mind the natural delays involved here. Most lizards can take up to six months to develop to a size where breeding becomes possible.
For snakes, this can take up to two years. By the time supply starts to run out, this interstitial period can prove brutal when your customers are after a new bearded dragon! But, rest assured, the breeders out there are well on their way to providing many more beardies, ready to find new homes.
This issue is particularly visible in terms of turtles and tortoises. While still an increasing market, an ongoing challenge for both breeders and retailers is getting high-quality specimens available and in-stock. This is primarily due to the numerous state laws concerning mandatory size for turtles prior to sale.
With most turtles needing to adhere to these “four-inch laws,” turtles must be held by breeders for longer before the turtles can be shipped out to stores. Even as turtles become a bigger market segment within reptile sales, both breeders and retailers must be conscious of these laws and the delays they can cause, as demand continues to increase.
Geckos and Snakes
However, bearded dragons are hardly the be-all, end-all within the reptile sales market. Both leopard and crested gecko sales remain hot, with crested gecko sales particularly increasing as compared to recent years.
The market for the Colubridae family of snakes, as well, continues to expand, particularly in the realm of corn snakes. King snakes continue to be in high demand—particularly Mexican black king snakes. Mexican black king snakes typically have the same sort of shimmer to their scales that made the Brazilian rainbow boa so popular within constrictors. However, their docility make them an ideal choice for a new reptile owner or for a pet owner who looks to handle their snake on a regular basis.
Ball pythons continue to be a strong seller within the snake market as well. Much of this, however, has to do with the vast increase in morphs and patterns which have been created by inventive and meticulous breeders.
As the supply of currently-rare morphs increases, their availability to retailers and to customers will go up commensurately, allowing more and more access to these already-popular animals. Undoubtedly, ball pythons will be a key item for both breeders and retailers as time marches forward.
However, these aren’t the only reptiles that have seen a successful 2018. Day geckos continue to become more available—again, thanks to the refinement of captive breeding processes—as well as Pacman frogs. Both creatures come in a variety of colors and provide a strong entry for new reptile owners who want to enjoy variety in their first reptile choice. Similarly, dart frogs and both dumpy tree frogs have benefited greatly from advances in captive-breeding, which have made them so much more accessible to customers.
The Future Favorites
As 2019 grows nearer and we say goodbye to 2018, take a moment to consider your own stock and how well you’ve been able to move reptiles within your own store. While national trends can tell us quite a bit, you may well find that the experience within your home region may tell a different story.
Perhaps there’s a high demand on frog species; perhaps bearded dragons don’t do quite as well near you as they do nationwide. Pay attention to the individual trends within your own store and compare those to the stats available online; mark the similarities and differences, then act accordingly.
As a new year dawns on the horizon and 2018 fades into memory, seize the initiative to make 2019 your best year ever. Learn from the past and make your store’s future brighter!