Product manufacturers reveal a mix of optimism and concern about the state of
the aquatics industry, the current challenges it faces and where it’s headed.
What is the state of the aquatics industry in 2017? Is it growing
or stagnant? And why?
CHRIS CLEVERS: We feel we are seeing growth, fueling our focus
on new hobbyists and our focus on providing product that does
not rely on marketing hype, but rather, product that offers high
efficacy and that meets the needs of the consumer and their
FRANK KUDLA: Aquatop’s present business model focuses on independent retailers, so I can only speak to that channel. Our sales
data, combined with anecdotal evidence and conversations with
our dealer partners, leads me to believe that the domestic aquatics
industry is experiencing low single-digit year-over growth. Competition for consumers’ discretionary spending is fierce. Phones,
video gaming, home voice-controlled entertainment systems, et
al., seem to have the upper hand in capturing the lion’s share of
that spending. Due to the small size of our industry, the funds to
support a national promotional and educational program are simply not available. We rely instead on word-of-mouth and some social media. This form of promotion limits the size of the audience
we can reach.
While based only on my observation, we may also have a real
estate problem as well. As we all know, the key to most brick-and-mortar stores’ success is location, location, location. I see many of our
aquatic retail partners occupying the same locations that they’ve been
in for 20, 30 or more years. At the same time, community demographics evolve over time while the big-box players grab prime real estate.
The retailers that I know in prime locations are naturally outpacing
the overall industry growth. I’m not sure that there is a simple solution, as margins and profits are being squeezed. But I do think aquatic
retailers should take advantage of any opportunities to gain greater
CHRIS LEROSE: The aquatic industry seems to be on a steady incline
over the past few years. There has been an incline of aquarium kits
in the marketplace to fill beginners’ to experts’ needs. The aquarium
kits are a great starting point for the hobbyist, with a much better
success rate to keep the beginners in the hobby.
PAMELA MORISSE: According to the most recent APPA National Pet
Owners Survey, fish ownership is on the rise. The study attributes
this to the number of products available, as well as the media channels available to communicate to pet consumers. Freshwater is
slightly up, and although saltwater is a smaller segment, its rise has
been more significant in the last year.
Another generalization made by APPA was that fish owners are
more likely to have young children at home. Central Aquatics was
able to support this finding by commissioning a research study conducted by a third party. A key takeaway of that study also showed
that moms and dads often look to fish tanks as family pets.
As younger consumers have families of their own, the expectation
is that fish will continue to be in their consideration set when thinking about family pets. With our Aqueon, Coralife and Kent Marine
brands, the goal is to grow lifelong relationships with these consumers. We want our brands to nurture children into adulthood, and we
want for them to continue keeping fish throughout their lives and to
pass fish knowledge on to their offspring.
Information about how to be a successful fishkeeper is more available than ever before with easy access to the internet. Our goal is to
continue to get the word out about fish being a great choice for families that want a pet. We are committed to supporting educational
information that will help consumers both consider purchasing fish,
and also succeed in the hobby by learning from our digital resources
that contain rich content such as branded websites, and Facebook and
You Tube pages. We also support online promotion of new products
and have contests planned in the year to come that will generate consumer buzz and excitement around aquariums and fish.
What are the biggest challenges facing the aquatics segment
CLEVERS: Bringing new people in to the hobby and finding a way to
energize children to want to connect with nature through aquatics.
This task is somewhat simple because kids are always fascinated
with live animals, and swimming fish, with their bright colors and
activity, are always a crowd-pleaser. Also, kids are on electronic-de-vice overload, so a return to a connection with live animals and nature is something all parents should be focusing on.
Having said that, we still face issues with parents allowing their
children to have fish. They have this typically erroneous notion that
INDUSTRY ROUNDTABLE: MANUFACTURERS
CHRIS CLEVERS, president of Hikari Sales USA in Hayward, Calif.
ANDY HUDSON, R&D technician for Central Garden & Pet Co. in Franklin, Wis.
FRANK KUDLA, vice president of sales and marketing for Aquatop in Brea, Calif.
CHRIS LEROSE, aquatics division manager for The Hagen Group in Mansfield, Mass.
PAMELA MORISSE, digital and media marketing manager for Central Garden & Pet Co. in Franklin, Wis.
Aquascaper Oliver Knott’s work serves
as great inspiration for new and
experienced hobbyists alike.