The appeal of reptiles as pets has been rising in the United States, but we often forget about the global appeal that reptiles have. Numerous countries have begun to indulge in the reptile trade, with China and other Far East countries leading the charge in reptiles as pets. Within an emerging economy, Chinese reptile lovers have come to the surface to acquire new species and morphs as pets.
This change in the global market has a drastic effect on a topic that we’ve touched on in our earlier articles: reptile seasonality. Because of additional demand in the reptile market from the Far East, certain reptiles may become somewhat more difficult to get depending on the season.
However, due to numerous advances in captive breeding science, we don’t believe this will have a broad effect on the sales of individual stores. Prices should remain fairly stable, though certain breeds or morphs may be more difficult to find due to demand overseas. The prices of ball pythons, for instance, have not fluctuated much despite this increase in market size.
An astute store owner can plan for these fluctuations by anticipating what each season brings in terms of sales, reptile supply, demand and more. By establishing a yearly seasonal plan, it becomes easier to anticipate what your store needs in any given season.
Summer, as we addressed in one of our earlier articles, tends to be a slower time for sales. Many people are on vacation, which leaves less time to care for a pet that spends most of its life behind glass. However, because many reptiles are hatching in the summer, this can provide a fantastic opportunity to promote animals that have a higher availability than at other times of the year via sales and promotions.
Late summer and early fall represent a fantastic target period for reptile store owners, as that time frame brings together an ideal recipe for sales: While store owners can reap the benefits of the end-of-breeding-season supply, many people look to the early fall to acquire new pets, as children are returning to a daily routine and life “stabilizes” before the holiday rush of winter. Consider providing aggressive promotions during this time, too, which will help bolster your sales numbers after any summer slump you may have experienced.
Another period to target specifically, of course, is the holiday season. While you’ll have to rely on the supplies of year-round reptile breeders, parents often will look for a package deal on aquariums and terrariums to provide a centerpiece present for a new reptile owner. With aggressive pricing, you should anticipate a sizable sales bump here. One way to achieve that pricing is to include an “everything you need” package for your most common animals, including lighting, substrate, housing, heating, food and the animal itself. Offer a discount (perhaps even offer the animal for free) and you’ll see your reptile supplies fly off the shelves.
The key theme throughout your seasonal plan, however, remains the central core of our arguments throughout this article series: Aggressive pricing leads to more sales. And it’s typically not a matter of making a profit from the reptile itself, but rather the subsidiary sales that come with that reptile from food, substrate and other necessities not available in local big-box stores.
The best advice we can give is to establish and maintain positive, open relationships with your reptile suppliers. A solid working relationship with your reptile breeders can keep you abreast of new trends in breeding, and overstocked or over bred reptiles that may be available at discount, or offer advice on animal care and keeping. The relationship between your store and your suppliers should be second only to the relationships your store builds with your customers.
With a worthy seasonal plan and a good deal of flexibility, any quality store can take advantage of the seasonality in the reptile trade. Just be ready to roll with the punches as you go, and increased profits will be in sight.