As you read this you are most likely at home somewhere in the world. That is the new reality facing many of us today – and like most of us, we have a lot of time to dedicate to our home and we are getting very bored. Consumers, in general, have increased their spending significantly for at-home projects. One of those projects is building a reef tank for their families and investing in the continued success of it. But how has COVID-19 impacted the greater reef aquatics industry as a whole? Let us discuss a few key areas.
Local fish stores have seen a large impact because of the virus. Most local fish stores (retailers) had to quickly adapt to changing dynamics like offering curbside pickup and offering video conferencing to select corals and fish for sale in the store. There are few experiences like picking out fish and corals in person that technology tries to replace. It just isn’t the same. However, we have all tried to duplicate that experience to the best of our ability. Stores have reported lower year over year growth but are surviving due to loyal customers and the greater demand for at-home hobbies and projects.
Online retailers are experiencing one of the greatest booms in the history of keeping saltwater aquariums. One popular online retailer told us sales were up 27% across all categories of products with some of the most popular reef gadgets showing out of stock much to the dismay of would-be future aquariums. “We were disappointed several products were showing sold out” Tim mentioned to us. He is just one of many new consumer hobbyists excited to enter the hobby for the first time. “I have a lot of time on my hands because of the pandemic and a reef tank looks really fun.”
The demand for air travel has fallen off dramatically and global airlines have adjusted their schedules from the new-normal. American Airlines – The world’s largest by volume reduced pacific fleets by at least 80% according to their press briefing and further 60% reduction in Atlantic fleets. Qantas the largest Australian airline reduced its international flights by 90% to the end of May 2020. Lufthansa, British Airways, United, Singapore Airlines, and other large market shareholders have followed suit with most experts predicting the cuts will continue into 2021.
While you might be in the main cabin headed towards a tropical vacation, livestock like fish and corals would be riding in the belly of the plane with your checked luggage. Airlines would sell unused small package space as air-cargo at reasonable prices to companies. With the bulk of the expense being put on travel passengers, airlines could reap large profits putting boxes of fish and corals (among other cargo) into the plane. However, because air flights globally have fallen off a cliff, importing wild fish and corals has become extremely expensive. Any wild livestock coming to Europe, Asia, or the Americas from Indonesia or Australia is carrying with it a massive hike in shipping costs. Additionally, with less direct flights, means your corals might take a ridiculous route to arrive at your favorite livestock retailer. Some popular wholesalers have temporarily closed because of the difficulties with importing fish and corals.
ReefStock Denver is the first big reef event of every year. And our 2020 edition was the largest most attended show ever and a huge success. However, little did we know ReefStock Denver would be the last normal weekend (March 7-8 2020) we all had. Aquarium Shows have changed forever. Interzoo was moved to 2021 and Reef a Palooza Orlando was postponed to September 26 & 27. The idea of large groups of people meeting together in person is sadly been impacted because of COVID-19. We can not wait to see all your smiling faces in person, again.
In conclusion, the virus has impacted the industry but we are very fortunate that building a reef aquarium has become popular and in demand. Other industries have fared much worse (Automotive, Travel, Retail, Service, etc.) Here at Reef Builders we expect the trend of building and keeping saltwater tanks to continue and we will further monitor impacts of the current health environment.