Demand Grows for
Livestock brings customers in to pet specialty stores,
but the right equipment keeps them coming back for more.
INTRODUCTIONS FOR BOTH
HERPS AND INVERTEBRATES
Husbandry methods for keeping most popular herp
species in terrariums are relatively well known, and
major technological advances are likely to be far
and few between, industry participants stated. Now,
manufacturers are focusing on providing quality
products and fine-tuning their offerings.
Recently, Zoo Med Laboratories came out with
a terrarium thermometer-hygrometer combo that’s
very reasonably priced and is a good seller, said
Kelly Barth, a customer service representative for
House of Tropicals in Glen Burnie, Md.
“The one thing I’m super excited about is a
thermostat from Exo Terra,” she added. “It’s digital,
it dims, and it has three different models. There’s a
100-, 300- and 600-watt option. It has a daytime
and nighttime temp setting that can be controlled,
and it works with mats, cables and heaters.”
Though nothing game-changing has hit the
scene in recent months, there have been several
updates to make product lines better and more cost
effective, said Ken “The Bug Guy” Middaugh, owner
of An Exotic Reptile Pet Shop in Tucson, Ariz. He has
seen growing interest in invertebrate species, and
Zoo Med is starting to branch into this area.
The company’s new Creatures line fills this role,
said Tom Herron, owner of Fins Feathers Paws &
Claws in Harleysville, Pa. Although he’s just recently
added the line to his shop, he’s seen demand increase for invertebrate species as well and thinks
the introduction is a good idea.
“This line includes a low-profile creature
den tank for keeping ground-dwelling creatures
and a tall creature habitat kit for those pets that
appreciate a little more climbing space,” said Ashley
Rademacher, animal care and education director for
Zoo Med in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
The line is targeted toward those interested
in keeping scorpions, tarantulas, millipedes and
other land invertebrates, and includes an LED
black light for nighttime viewing of fluorescent
pets, Rademacher added. It features a 4-watt
Creaturetherm heater and substrates, hides, light
fixtures, food jelly cups, dishes and thermometers,
as well, she said.
Zoo Med is also introducing a Repti Temp
Digital Thermostat, which is designed to control
terrarium temperatures through managing heating
elements. It includes built-in memory, a remote
temperature sensor, an LCD display and a visual
alarm when temperatures reach extreme high or
New terrarium designs are increasingly popular, retailers reported, and the build quality of many
of these units is high. Zilla, a brand of Franklin,
Wis.-based Central Garden & Pet, has introduced
its front-opening terrarium line, which is designed
for easy access.
“As invertebrates become less creepy [in the
minds of consumers] and more common, caging
that suits tarantulas, insects and other critters is
starting to build in popularity,” said Ryan McVeigh,
brand manager for Zilla.
65 January 2018 Pet Product News International EXOTICS MARKETPLACE
BY ETHAN D. MIZER
Steady, incremental improvements in herptile life-support offerings and terrarium equipment are making it easier to help hobbyists succeed. This
trend coupled with the hobby’s demographic shift toward younger customers makes it a good time for pet
specialty retailers, they reported.
Keeping reptiles and amphibians is increasingly popular with a younger age group, industry participants
reported. That’s good news for the hobby and for the
retailers supporting it.
“My herp department, as a whole, is doing bet-
ter,” said Tom Herron, owner of Fins Feathers Paws &
Claws in Harleysville, Pa. “Younger people are getting
into the hobby.”
The hobby is also seeing fresh interest in inverte-
brates, said Ken “The Bug Guy” Middaugh, owner of
An Exotic Reptile Pet Shop in Tucson, Ariz., which is
leading to rising popularity of “nano” terrariums and
products suited to help keep these species healthy at
“I’m doing a lot with the in-
vertebrates, such as tarantulas
and scorpions,” Middaugh said.
“We deal with a lot of smaller
enclosures [as a result].”
Meanwhile, popular herp
species are helping to support
sales of all-in-one kits from
“The manufacturer kits we
sell are the most popular,” said Nicole Porter, owner
of Jurassic Pets in Salinas, Calif. “These come with anywhere from a 10-gallon for the small [species], up to a
20-gallon or a 40-gallon.”
The kits are especially successful because customers
get all of the basics they need to support their herp, and
she’s able to make suggestions regarding extra equip-
ment purchases, Porter said.
Recent improvements in the quality of manufacturer offerings has meant fewer retailers are building
their own custom starter setups for customers, retailers
“We do have [manufacturer] kits, but we don’t have
SOCIAL MEDIA AND MORE
[starter setups] we’ve put together ourselves,” said Kel-
ly Barth, a customer service representative for House
of Tropicals in Glen Burnie, Md. “The kits have come a
long way in the last few years, where you’re getting ap-
propriate lighting and heating. We’re pretty happy with
the brands of kits that we carry, and they are popular
sellers because people like one-stop shopping.”
House of Tropicals chooses not to offer its own kits
in part because they take up a lot of shelf space, Barth
added, and also to avoid competing with the manufac-
turer kits it carries.
Reaching existing customers and bringing in new people is
a constant consideration for pet specialty store owners, retailers reported. To that end, a mix of traditional advertising
and copious use of social media platforms are helping build
buzz and bring customers into stores.
“We are using social media more and more, mainly
Facebook,” said Tom Herron, owner of Fins Feathers Paws
& Claws in Harleysville, Pa. He’s in the midst of putting together a marketing plan that focuses more on social media
platforms in general.
This can be a very effective strategy, retailers reported,
but the trick seems to be to highlight new herp arrivals rather than constantly push sales or new equipment shipments.
“Any time you post new animals, that gets people
into the shop quite a bit more,” said Ken “The Bug Guy”
Middaugh, owner of An Exotic Reptile Pet Shop in Tucson,
Ariz. “Of course, if you have something that you do that’s
different from [other shops], such as the tarantulas with us,
that helps to bring people in.”
Middaugh also uses traditional ad campaigns, he add-
ed, and has his truck wrapped in vinyl to promote his shop.
“I’ve talked to quite a few people on the street just
because they noticed my truck,” he said. “Any time I get the
chance to, I’m talking to people about [herps].”
It’s extremely important to stay engaged with the com-
munity, retailers reported, and putting on special events and
holiday sales helps drive equipment purchases.
“We do our pet extravaganza, which is our birthday,
once a year,” said Nicole Porter, owner of Jurassic Pets in Salinas, Calif. “We do all the holidays … a few different charity
events, school events and birthday parties.”
BE A RESOURCE
For many pet specialty retailers, the most important aspect
of running a herptile store is building the hobby and keeping customers interested. That means helping them achieve
success, and when it comes to equipment, many keepers
will need help and education.
“Education’s always been a huge part of what we do,”
said Tom Herron, owner of Fins Feathers Paws & Claws in
Harleysville, Pa. “One of the cornerstones of my business is
teaching people how to properly care for their pets.”
This requires a focus on educating employees so that
they can pass that information on to customers, Herron
This emphasis on education helps build a sense of community, and many customers will become regulars as their
interest grows and when customer service is strong.
“Customers come in and chat with us all the time,” said
Kelly Barth, a customer service representative for House
of Tropicals in Glen Burnie, Md. “We have some customers
that are daily regulars.”
Ultimately, retailers have to get to know their custom-
ers so that they can offer individuals the species that are
right for them. Ken “The Bug Guy” Middaugh, owner of An
Exotic Reptile Pet Shop in Tucson, Ariz., said that his goal is
to give customers a very broad knowledge of what they can
keep, and what kind of setup they’ll need, without focusing
on price points.
“I was a retail manager for quite a few years in California, and one thing you really don’t want to do with anybody
is manage their wallet,” he said. “[Customers] are going
to spend what they want to spend regardless of what you
recommend. Give them all the options.”
Keeping reptiles and amphibians is increasingly popular with a younger age group.