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November 1, 2014

In retail, seasonality can be everything. Office supply stores perk up during back-to-school days, costume stores make the most money around

Halloween. What about pet stores? Yes, even pet stores have to be concerned with seasonality in order to ensure solid profits year-round from the sale of reptiles.

For decades, the reptile trade revolved around specific breeding seasons. Ball pythons, for instance, were primarily available from late summer up through winter, while their corn snake cousins blossomed during midsummer. Anoles, on the other hand, were not typically available during the winter months.

With the advent of viable full-year breeding practices, the actual availability of reptiles has increased both significantly and steadily over the years. This provides a canny store owner the ability to ensure that their store can maintain a quality, varied stock throughout the year.

However, year-round breeding does not necessarily mean that seasonality has been bred out the reptile trade. Far from it; in fact, in our experience, customer demand provides a strong impetus towards seasonal trends and sales.

Reptiles, as pets, are decidedly indoor animals. And, during summer, most individuals try to make the most of the nice weather and spend time outdoors or even on vacation. Because of this, new reptile sales tend to downshift in the summer months, peaking towards the winter holiday months.
So, how does a canny store owner counteract this seasonal trend? Firstly, you’ve got to price your reptiles aggressively. It’s easy to want to maintain a given price point throughout the year, but it’s more important to maintain your overall sales numbers rather than your profit per reptile sale.

Given the lucrative nature of subsidiary and follow-up sales, it’s perfectly okay to sell an off-season reptile at a significantly lower price, provided that you can get that customer coming back to buy food, substrate, lighting, and other accessories.

Secondly, know your competition. Most of the larger retailers and leading independents have the concept of seasonality practically down a science and are able to shift between seasonal sales and promotions with ease. Take a trip to your favorite big box pet store and take a look at what they’re doing in both high-sales and low-sales seasons.

Most importantly, have a seasonal plan. It’s all well and good to want to try a new promotion or a big sale, but without the necessary supply of animals and subsidiary materials from your suppliers, no sale could possibly be successful.

The best way to ensure your supply is both timely and high quality is pure, unadulterated communications. At all levels, you must communicate regularly and positively with your suppliers, your breeders, your shipping and logistics personnel, and whomever else that your store might have dealings.

Positive, regular communication allows those individuals associated with your business to stay better prepared to serve you. A positive relationship with a breeder may result in lower wholesale prices or specials on upcoming animals coming out of a breeding cycle.

In the end, the key to coping with seasonality in the reptile industry lies in maintaining a balance between pre-planning and flexibility. By following a year-long seasonal plan, you provide yourself a quality baseline procedure to structure your year’s promotions and sales.

Next month: Popularity: Why reptiles are the fastest growing live animal category.

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