51 February 2019 Pet Product News International AQUATIC MARKETPLACE
SERVING SAVVY CONSUMERS
Product recommendations from knowledgeable sales staff
are extremely effective in helping pet specialty retailers drive
sales of marine foods, industry participants report.
“The customer is going to rely on our information for their
purchases, especially on food,” said Erin Powers, owner of All
Things Aquariums in Wilsonville, Ore. “They’re going to buy
whatever we recommend, basically. Unless they’re really on
a budget and they are looking for the cheapest option.”
The marine hobby is pricier by nature, so retailers can
often count on customers being willing to spend a little
more for their fish food. In addition, nonspecialist retailers
and big-box competition generally can’t compete with local
fish store expertise.
“When customers realize what’s really going on—that
they’re getting bad advice—it’s a deterrent for them to visit
[another retailer],” said Sean Crerar, co-owner of Lil’ Shop of
Reefs in Woodland, Calif.
By establishing a rapport early, retailers can build a
repeat customer base.
“It’s all about education,” said Juliane Chambers,
assistant manager of the Aquarium Center in Clementon, N.J.
“It’s best to catch somebody in the beginning and let them
know about the work involved.
“Sales are a part of it, but for me, not so much. It’s nice
to sell customers [pricier] food, but that’s not why I’m giving
it to them,” she added. “I’m promoting it because it’s better,
Hobbyists are increasingly aware of the value of quality
foods and are rewarding stores that offer the best product
assortment and customer service with their patronage.
“I attribute our success to the consumer becoming
more educated and aware of the benefits of high-quality
ingredients in fish food,” said Kelly J. Randall, marketing
director of Omega Sea in Painesville, Ohio. “As long as you
have a loyal customer coming back for your excellent service
and education, then I think it makes sense to encourage
more-frequent purchases of smaller-sized containers in a
variety of types. This just gives you more opportunities to
educate, serve and interact with the customers.”
Do in-store freezers provide a competi-
tive advantage for pet specialty retailers?
“My customers are still coming in-store for foods. I think
they choose other dry goods online and buy food from
me. Having a freezer is an advantage because customers would have to pay for at least one- or two-day
shipping [if they buy online]. They don’t want to pay for
that. There isn’t a lot of margin in foods, so I don’t think
the companies are going to want to pick up the tab for
shipping costs.”—ERINPOWERS, ownerof All Things
Aquariums in Wilsonville, Ore.
“It’s too expensive for customers to order frozen foods online. Some
of the better frozen foods, you can’t really buy online. LRS, you can’t
buy it online. For the most, part I carry and support brands that support brick-and-mortars. I don’t push a lot of stuff that’s easily bought
on Amazon that undercuts me. I match a lot of Amazon pricing now.
Don’t get me wrong, I try to keep up with it, because I’d rather make
50-cents on something than lose the sale to online [vendors], but
to the people that actually support the brick-and-mortars, they get
pushed a whole lot more.”—JAMESE. MINIGH, ownerof Bluewater
Reef Aquatics in Holy Hill, Fla.
“Frozen has always sold well. Marine food is not something customers want to buy online. They want to physically see it before they buy. They also want to buy food
with the fish. We use a normal utility freezer with double
glass doors. It’s a show freezer. People always come in for
food. It’s one of the things you sell the most of in a store
like this.”—JULIANE CHAMBERS, assistantmanagerofthe
Aquarium Center in Clementon, N.J.
equipment sales are increasingly under pressure from online
competition, but creative retailers are adjusting to find returns.
BY E THAN D. MIZER
When it comes to aquarium maintenance equip- ment, many retailers can benefit from offering hands-on service. This is especially true because
many customers are leaving maintenance equipment selection to retailers when they set up their systems.
“We have clients that literally don’t want to do any-
thing other than make the tank look pretty,” said Jeff
Picklesimer, co-owner of Fintastic Aquariums of Wake
County in Cary, N.C. “They give us a livestock budget.
They’ve seen what our display looks like and they want to
go that route. … They’re basically giving us carte blanche
on the tank.”
Customers increasingly want complete systems, and
retailers find they can drive sales of equipment through
“Customers are looking for a turnkey system,” said
Joe Genero, owner of Fish World in Richmond, Va. “As
far as tank maintenance goes, we’ve gone to a lot of auto-
This is part of an overall trend many retailers noted
involving customers seeking easy-to-use equipment.
“Customers might be stepping back a little bit from
more complicated equipment,” said Mark Schneider,
co-owner of Fish n’ Chirps Pet Center in Denton, Texas.
“They’re simplifying a little more.”
Some retailers have had success selling maintenance
equipment in the course of providing maintenance ser-
vices to customers.
“Offering maintenance services is an avenue for
equipment sales,” said Anthony Johnson, owner of Reef
Life Aquatic of Palatka, Fla. “A lot of times what I’ll do is,
in the price of a complete setup—let’s say, for example, a
saltwater tank—I’ll go ahead and wrap in the first three
months of in-home service along with that. … That usually tends to be a pretty good selling point [for equipment].”
There is a divide in the aquarium industry between
freshwater and saltwater products when it comes to sales
of maintenance equipment, retailers reported. Freshwater
retailers find that equipment sales generally happen as
part of kit sales.
“We’re probably 75 percent freshwater,” said Kelley
Parsons, manager of Denny’s Pet World in Kirkland,
Wash. “So many more people have little nano tanks now.
The barrier to entry financially is easy, and people think
that [they] are easier tanks to take care of. A lot of those
systems come with the filter already.”
In contrast, tank sizes are trending larger for saltwater
“We specialize in saltwater only and have for almost
31 years,” said Joe Genero, owner of Fish World in Richmond, Va. “When I say we do big tanks, we do big tanks.
We’re not a nano store. This week, we have a 950 gallon that we’re installing, and we’ve got two 750 [gallon
tanks] we’re putting in in Myrtle Beach. … Our trend has
always been bigger, not smaller. Who the heck is doing
nanos? I can’t give them away. At Christmas, we’ll sell
three or four.”