FROM THE OUTSIDE IN
Tank maintenance and chemistry products aren’t always the most eye-catching on store shelves, retailers reported, and the best way to get customers’
attention when it comes to products in the category is to start merchandising
outside the store’s walls.
“There are always going to be more ways to integrate business when
you’re using the internet … and a lot of social media [to market products],” said
Jim Pedicone, general manager of Beyond the Reef in Schaumburg, Ill.
Pedicone promotes deals on Facebook, he said. He also uses direct mailing
as a means to reach customers from time to time, he noted.
“We actually include distributors’ full brochures in the mailings to [high-
light] products I don’t even carry that we can order,” Pedicone said. “Reaching
out directly is how we’ve been merchandising. That, and [relying on] word-of-
Stilll, using maintenance products in-store remains the No. 1 way to
promote sales in this category, according to some retailers.
“The best way to merchandise is to use the products in the store and to
know what you are using and why,” said Claus Frenken, sales manager for
Sera North America in Montgomeryville, Pa. “It is very helpful if the retailers
know the products they sell in the store, and it makes it easier to explain the
products to the customers.”
Making display tank maintenance something employees carry out during
business hours might be enough to drive sales in the category.
“Do live demonstrations of water changes and gravel vacuum tools, or
even let customers try their hand at it,” said Lenitra Friend, brand manager for
Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Central Garden & Pet Co. “Keep an algae-cleaning
magnet on an aquarium and invite customers to try it out; it’s surprising how
many aquarists don’t know about them.”
Maintenance products still represent a good source of revenue for local fish
stores, retailers reported.
“On the whole, dry goods are still a majority of where [our] revenue comes
from,” said Todd Furmanek, store manager of Absolutely Fish in Clifton, N. J.
Manufacturers continue to innovate in the category, and new offerings
include both tank maintenance items and chemical additives. The Hagen
Group, for example, has released a new AquaVac, designed to clean aquarium
“The filter pad that comes with the unit removes 99 percent of debris
particles,” said Chris LeRose, aquatic division manager at The Hagen Group,
based in Mansfield, Mass. “It also has an LED light to see the dark corners of
The company also recently released its Razor Magnet under the Fluval
brand. It features a magnet with a scrubber and a razor on the other side for
scraping aquarium surfaces, LeRose said.
Chemical removal is another segment of the category in which manufacturers continue to develop new products. Central Garden & Pet Co.’s Aqueon
brand recently unveiled chemical filtration mediums, and its Coralife brand
will launch its Marine Filter with Protein Skimmer combo this year. Included
with the Coralife product is a large carbon cartridge and phosphate-removing
specialty pad, said Pamela Morisse, digital and media marketing manager for
Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Central Garden & Pet Co.
Sera North America also introduced a water chemistry product to the
market, called Sera Chlor-ex.
“It removes toxic substances such as chlorine, chloramines and ammonium from the aquarium,” said Claus Frenken, sales manager for Sera North
America in Montgomeryville, Pa., adding that it is pH-neutral.
How have tank maintenance and water chemistry
innovations helped retailers retain customers?
Schaumburg, Ill.keting manager for Walnut Creek, Calif.-based
Central Garden & Pet Co.
“Nowadays, with a lot of the
advancements and everything
… it’s easier to support customers. It’s a hobby and it shouldn’t
be a second job. Between the
equipment and products … customers have at their fingertips,
it is definitely an easier hobby
to be in.” —TODD FURMANEK,
store manager of Absolutely
Fish in Clifton, N.J.
When it comes to the maintenance and water-chemistry product category,
it’s important to ask questions and start a dialogue with customers. This is
where expertise and customer rapport play large roles, retailers reported.
“Our [sales staff] always tell [customers] what they truly believe rather
than just trying to sell,” said Jim Pedicone, general manager of Beyond the Reef
in Schaumburg, Ill. “You gain that trust with the customer, and that’s huge. It
goes on for years.”
To address common issues and to make staff training easier, manage-
ment at Absolutely Fish in Clifton, N.J., has developed a set of cards that
describe common problems and help sales staff identify customers’ issues.
“We’ve come up with what we call ‘situation cards,’ which are instances
that we’ve encountered over the years,” said Todd Furmanek, store manager
for the retailer. “[These cards describe] a certain way staff should move into a
situation and how to remedy it.”
Sometimes, the optimal way to help customers is to show them the right
way to use products and address issues with prevention. In-store demonstra-
tions are very popular as a means to educate customers.
“We show people how all product lines work in-store,” said Shane Billmyre,
owner of Caye’s Aquarium in Portland, Ore. “We go through maintenance and
chemical [product usage]. Everything gets explained.”
This aspect of customer service is necessary for a local fish store’s longev-
ity, retailers reported.
“Customer service is the main aspect of any kind of survivability in any
shop,” Billmyre said. “If [stores] lack that, [customers are] just another dollar
bill. This is more of a personal business.”
Building and maintaining a store’s status of providing expert information is
a vital competitive edge retailers need to focus on, industry insiders stated.
“Do whatever you can to maintain your expert reputation when it comes
to water care and fish illness treatment,” said Chris Clevers, president of
Hikari Sales USA in Hayward, Calif. “Spend time with consumers asking lots of
questions so you have a clear idea of what they are fighting and can offer the
best prescription for success.” CONTINUED ON PAGE 77