It’s early August; the 4th of July was a month ago and Labor Day is still a month away which means that the aquarium industry is experiencing the full onset of the summer doldrums. Whether you are a brick n’ mortar LFS, mail order, maintenance company or anywhere in the supply chain of live stock or goods, this time fo the year is historically the slowest month for business in the aquarium trade. This is especially felt on the front lines of the Local Fish Store, where the pulse of the aquarium hobby is easiest to gauge, and this time of year is so slow, and has been so slow for a while, that it may seem like business may never pick back up.
As a ten year veteran of the trenches of the retail LFS, I personally remember how desperate the summer can get, and it’s always such a relief when the business comes back right after school starts. But you’re not out of the doldrums yet and in the meantime, you might as well get the ‘quarium shop in top shape with new products, new fish, spiffy displays and a great attitude for when the business comes back. Captive Aquatics might “detest pet and local fish stores” but here at RB, we got nothin’ but love for ya because we consider the LFS and aquarium businesses to be the back bone of this awesome hobby we call reefing. Follow the break for some suggestions on how you can make good use of the free time you have left so you can wow your aquarium customers when they come back in the fall.
Sometimes it gets so slow in the summer time, you might be feeding the fish 8 times a day, making pyramids out of the 10 gallons and AIO nano tanks or maybe you’re just holding a contest to see who can make the coolest smoking tool from the myriad of aquarium plumbing parts. Some of those things may be productive ways to pass the time, but here’s a few more ideas.
SHOW TANKS!!! Clean up the aquarium displays yo! I know you have some extra algae round the hard to reaches places of the tank so why don’t you spiff it up? How long has it been since your pumps were taken apart and cleaned and how long since you rinsed the sludge out of the calcium reactor? You could wait until it’s a problem but now’s as good a time as ever to do the sort of bi-annual maintenance that makes the LFS display tank truly shine.
FRAGS: I know you have some extra corals lying around that haven’t been selling as large colonies so why don’t you take the time and “propagate your inventory”? Take a catalog of the zoanthid rocks, soft coral colonies and even the branchy LPS to see how you could increase your coral stock while simultaneously lowering the cost of each piece to stimulate business? If you have the tools then go ahead and take the moon corals, lords and acans to the tile saw. Any coral that hasn’t sold in the last couple of months should be considered for the knife and by the time business picks up in a few weeks you’ll have all these pretty little frags that are healed, healthy and even more affordable.
CLEARANCE: I know you have a whole host of products and even product lines which are not moving like you hoped. Coralife Bristle Worm Traps? Taam grounding probe? Thiel Aquarium Products? Puh-lease! Go ahead and grab a big tupperware and just throw in everything that doesnt sell in there, and mark it down as low as you’ll allow yourself. If you’re not re-upping on a product at least every 4-6 weeks just go ahead and dump it, free up your capitol to buy other things like cool corals and fish. Send a memo to your local aqua-community or club that you have stuff on clearance and you’ll be surprised how many of the cheapskates will come of the woodwork for a deal, not to mention the other things they’ll invariably buy when they come in the shop.
BUY NOW: So you know how you’re sitting around mostly looking at the same hundred or so corals? If you think you’re slow what do you think the wholesalers are doing? Why they’re sitting around looking at the same 1000 or so corals and I bet they’d be happy to make some deals to move inventory. Furthermore, since they have so much corals and fish, they probably have a lot more nice corals and fish. If you buy some of your stock in advance of the rush, you’re more likely to get a higher proportion of cherry picked corals and fish and after visiting a few rounds of wholesalers a few weeks ago, I can tell you that some reef wholesalers are pretty well stocked with great quality animals.
NANOS: If you are not rockin nano tanks in 2010 then you have no right to call yourself a fish store. Nanos are hot, they are profitable, and you can stock so many AIO (all in one) nano tanks in a small space that you can actually sell a tank to new customers on the spot. For a while Nanos were hindered by teh availability of small fish and inverts but it is easier than ever to get you some trimma or eviota gobies. Furthermore, you can take the fragging idea above and make a ton of nano corals so that you have a wide variety of corals for the nano crowd, without having to buy any new stock.
The final suggestion I have for LFS round the world is to bring excitement to the store. There’s no bigger downer for a newbie aquarist than to walk into an LFS with a flat atmosphere. Reefing is a hobby of passion and wonder and amazement that keeps us stimulated. It is so much more than looking at purdy fish and “plants” and nothing makes me enjoy reefing more than to share my observations with you all, or with the fish store, and to vicariously learn from the experiences of others. As long as I can remember the LFS has been the nucleating point for new reefers, for reef clubs and the biggest node on the reef aquarium grapevine. The best thing you can do to boost sales is to boost morale, of the staff and of the customers.
One day this week, after closing duties are over, take a minute to crack a beer and relax at the fish store for a few minutes. Take a look around the shop and take full inventory of why you like working in a fish store, and what it is that got you in the biz in the first place. For most of you it was about hosting the kind of aquarium interaction that likely got you in the hobby. Try to find that feeling that you know can happen in the fish store, and hold on to it. I know I am getting kind of sappy here so I’ll bring this to a close but if you can’t be excited about what you do, how do you expect customers to be excited about your business? Shout out to all the foot soldiers of the retail LFS, my reefing blood is as salty as yours.