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Avoiding the Summer Doldrums In Aquatic Sales

Bob Fenner  

Are reefs going out of fashion? When will real freshwater (i.e. live plant) systems be a substantial part of the U.S. market? Can tank bred and raised marine livestock hope to supplant wild-caught stocks? You'd be hard pressed to get two dealers to agree on these issues; however all aquatic retailers do come together on the question, "when is your stores lowest sales season"? Summer.

What can be done to offset the warm season slow-down; when folks are on vacation, oudoors, not-as-interested in what's going on it their indoors aquatic microcosms? Plenty, thankfully

After having spent fourteen years "on the floor" myself and been a keen observer and writer about wet-pets retail for more than twice that, I have some solid ideas to offer you on avoiding the Summer doldrums..

The Obvious: Pond Supplies & More

Ah, Spring! When young people's minds turn to'¦ outdoor gardening! Including aquatics. Ponds, fountains and such receive their first notice of the year as their owners are finally able to venture outside post-winter. Who will help them with the tools, materials to clean up and fire over their systems for the new season? You will! Then, all through the warm months your store can and should follow through with foods, water treatments, livestock, and possibly more'¦

Do you now or have you seriously considered offering "outside services"? You may not have the time, staff or expertise to actually design, build or effect repairs and clean-ups yourself, but many stores have benefited from liaisons with landscape architects, contractors and specialty pond service companies. This mutually agreeable association can easily take the form of an informal referral relationship. You put up a sign stating "We do Ponds; Ask Here", and distribute their business cards; they send their customers with completed projects to you for ongoing dry-goods and livestock.

Which raises the question; do you have an effective pond display, or the room to set one up seasonally at your store? Two of the simplest, most reliable and flexible arrangements are the Lincoln-log and liner, tie-rods at the corners, and pre-formed ponds. These really attract and stimulate crowds of potential "ponderers".

For retailers with more space, especially outdoor yardage, or year-round pond business, larger, more permanent displays of mortar and block with centralized filter systems can establish you as the source for pond gear, plants and fish.

Remember to plan and "spring" into ponds as the year warms and your tropical aquarium sales start thinning towards the Summer. (See the February and March Pet Dealer issues for much more on pond service and sales).

Summer Month Promotions:

The sun is up, it's gorgeous outside, and your stores empty. Are your customers thinking about their tanks on such nice days? Out of sight, out of mind. But they are out and about'¦ how to get them to your locale and thinking about aquatics'¦?

Sidewalk Sales : A very popular technique for "BIG" store chains and strip malls in the know are "sidewalk sales" during the weekends of the summer months. Our retail stores used to actually coordinate and promote these events in concert with local "art fairs" and "community service" groups for ourselves and adjacent retailers; to huge success.

Our strongest promotion bar none was a "Truckload Aquarium Sale". Not only did this generate tremendous short-term tank sales (albeit at small gross and net margins) but virtually assured substantial gear and livestock sales well into Summer. Where did we get all the aquariums, tops, stands'¦? From the source! Given proper notice and advertising, both glass and acrylic manufacturers are happy to truck in product, and haul back the unsold. A last note regarding these blowouts, have humongous banners made to hang from the truck's) sides.

Goldfish Dips: Another "hook" for generating new aquarists and system sales is a "goldfish dip"; basically a temporary promotion comprising a kiddie wading pool, large sponge-type filter, aerator and goldfish that customers "go fishing" in. In Japan (yes, I worked in the pet-fish industry there too) we had special "wafer-holding nets" that customers could pay to scoop up as many fish as they could before the wafer melted or was consumed by the goldies!

Think about this. Not only is it all a great deal of fun, but where are the "players" going to get bowls/tanks, water conditioner, foods, nets'¦? More importantly, ask around, or dare I ask; what was your introduction into the hobby of aquatic life keeping? For the majority of us, it was the lowly comet goldfish. Need I write more?

Do your part to develop the new generation of aquarists; put up a goldfish dip promotion at your store; or church, school carnival. It pays!

(Sidebar: Goldfish Care Sheet) Feel free to adapt and distribute this one-pager on the basics of how to keep your new goldfish alive with your companies logo, address and phone number to your new customers.

Strategic Planning & Work:

Customers still not coming in? Go to them! Consider giving in-store or local school, community service (Kiwanis, Business Exchange'¦) and civic groups seminars, pro-presentations on the "how, "what" and benefits of aquatics interests.

Where can you gain the notice of these future customers? Not simply by posting signage in your store. Look to your "database" of present customers from sign-ups, checks, and installations, hobby groups, and use your newly discovered spare time to call, send them a flyer announcing your upcoming presentation.

Still Too Much Time On Your Hands?

Of a certainty, every aquatic retailers business dips during the warm months. With planning and a shift in emphasis in the kinds of services and livestock offered, the Summer doldrums effects can be greatly diminished. If nothing else, hone your skills to develop new promotions and displays, strategies for the more brisk times of the year.


We Be Fish

ABC Strip Mall

Anywhar, New Town





BOWL When choosing a bowl or tank, get one that is as large as possible. Make sure it is clean by rinsing it out with fresh water - if there is any residue on the sides, clean this off with a salt or a cleaner from our store. Never use soap or detergent as they will poison your fish. Position the container away from sunny windows and doors where the temperature will change a lot.

DECORATIONS Plants, rocks, and lighting are nice but not necessary. Avoid putting things in the water which will scratch your fish or poison them, like shells and coral.

FISH First of all, be sure not to put too many fish in the container. We recommend about one fish per half gallon of water. When putting your new fish in the container, it is best to float the fish in the bag they came in for about ten minutes. This equalizes the temperature of the water in the bag to the temperature in the container. Your fish will be less stressed by doing this. After floating, remove the fish from the bag and put only the fish into the container, none of the old water.

FEEDING Just like you, your fish need to eat everyday. It is better to feed them twice a day, but only a little. Goldfish should eat all of their food within one minute of being fed. There should never be any left over food on the bottom. Be careful not to overfeed.

CLEANING It's a good idea to change your water about every week. When cleaning, place your fish in a suitable container with some of the water they were already in. To clean, rinse the bowl out with clean tap water and wipe it out with a paper towel. Refill with fresh tap water. Be sure to add the chemical to remove to remove chlorine and follow the directions on the label. When returning the fish to the bowl, use the same procedure as when receiving a new fish.

OTHER Please call us if you have any questions or run into any problems, we're here to help.


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