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August 3, 2015

Let’s face it, livestock draws new and old customers alike to any location. Having a store with great livestock may seem like a free public zoo or aquarium, but in reality, it is the heart that pumps blood through the store’s body.

In this ever-changing and trendy business, old school ideas concerning livestock have changed considerably. Due to the Internet, people can search and learn about any type of livestock available. Just having basic livestock, even with a caliber of high quality and health, is not enough to offer anymore. The demand for more exotics and less common stock is growing.

Shop Around

Years ago it was not difficult to find specialty stock, but with the demise of so many local wholesale fish companies it’s getting much more difficult to find a single supplier that has it all. This is especially true among saltwater wholesalers. Freshwater suppliers are a bit different and most are trying to be an all-in-one supplier. Still, there are very few wholesalers that can truly offer enough variety on a weekly basis. A little extra effort and time on the store’s part will reap huge reward by searching out several suppliers which can be rotated among purchasing. Some will be better for the bread and butter and others will offer a better selection of specialty varieties.

It will take some extra time to order from several suppliers, but the store will have stock that other stores won’t. The other added benefit is a broader range of specials that you get from multiple suppliers that could set a store apart from competitors in the same areas. Also, ask for three extra specialty species to promote in addition to the supplier’s weekly specials already offered. This will allow the ability to cater to a specialty customers’ interests.

Salt Life

Looking at the recent information in the 2015-2016 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, more than 90 percent of aquarium-owning households in the U.S. have freshwater aquariums. Less than 10 percent of these households have saltwater aquariums. There is great potential for the saltwater specialty category because it is a niche out of the mainstream business, but it does require topnotch expertise. Not all independent pet stores can provide the service found in a high-quality saltwater specialty store. It is certain that the big box stores cannot afford employee costs necessary either.

Also, a lot of the high dollar sales in these saltwater specialty stores are based on low margin merchandise that is easily shopped on the Internet. Livestock sales are most often geared around the customer seeing the livestock in person. Dry goods are just as important as livestock, but there is more opportunity to increase business through a livestock selection with the added benefits of selling some merchandise once the customer is in person in a store.

Keep it Fresh

So how does one go after those opportunities making up the 90 percent of fish keepers owning freshwater fish? Bread and butter fish will still make up the volume of sales in quantity and dollars due to their low cost and ease of care. However, there is an ever increasing market for exotics and more expensive fish. Rare types of cichlids or plecostomus, for example, can fetch several hundred dollars and rival any saltwater species in color, but with much easier husbandry. It’s surprising to see how many customers make the next step up from their basic freshwater community aquarium to more exciting and challenging species. In the process, a store may be selling a few more accessories or even another aquarium set up along with some new foods or treats.

Something else that happens naturally with the excitement of bringing in new fish is a sales team will look forward to livestock shipments as if they were birthday presents. Receiving and putting away the same old fish, shipment after shipment, becomes a dreaded must like cleaning kennels or pens. With this new motivation for receiving livestock, employees enthusiasm will be contagious and extend on to the customer.

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