When we first wrote about Reef Supplies in 2016 they were operating out of a 1500 sqft shop where they catered to online and walk-in retail customers. They have since moved to a much larger 4000 sqft warehouse, ceased retailing livestock, and are now catering to online and e-commerce.
Once COVID hit in 2020, Reef Supplies like many other LFSs were forced to close their walk-in retail, but they were still able to operate online. They decided to accommodate their clients with curbside pickup, and that style of click-and-collect is still in effect today. All their local clients still have the option to order online, but also to choose local pick-up.
Reef Supplies has also made some changes to its wholesale division. Wholesale clients now have access to their main website, reefsupplies.ca, but all accounts have now been transferred over from ReefDealer.ca. They chose this method to be more transparent and allow retailers access to most of their lines.
Reef Supplies have grown to become the largest retailer of reef dry goods in Canada. Ray Franchi and Giovanni Lombardi are still the sole owners, with Ray running the retail side and Giovanni taking care of wholesale.
Reef Supplies offer many of the popular brands that reefers know and love. They work very closely with brands such as Aqua UV, Boston Aqua Farms, Bubble Magus, ESV, Ecotech, Fauna Marin, Hanna, Kessil, Korallin, Neptune, Polyp Lab, Reef Octopus, Spectrapure, TLF, and many more.
We took the time to ask Giovanni and Ray a few questions. Here is what they had to say:
When did you move into your new shop?:
We moved in June of 2018. It was one of the toughest periods we’ve ever had. The website was still operational and growing. Ads were shut down to ease the load, but orders still had to get shipped out in the middle of a move.
As tough as it was, it was way overdue! The extra space allowed us to stock everything we sell on the website.
How was COVID for you?:
The personal side of things with COVID was tough, but financially, not so much. Like most retailers that were able to stay open, we saw dramatic increases in sales. 2020 was like Black Friday every day! We decided we had to step up our game big time and when we saw a 40% increase in orders, those orders still had to get out in a reasonable time frame.
We pride ourselves in getting orders out as fast as humanly possible as that is our main task, after all. If orders don’t get out, our clients are not happy, and if our clients are not happy, we will not have a sustainable business. We have reinvested those COVID dollars back into the business to better serve our clients on things like a faster, more secure, and mobile-friendly website.
What was the biggest hurdle?
There are always hurdles. Some are easy to overcome, others not so much. We have had a couple of run-ins with Health Canada in the past couple of months. Nothing major but a PIA nonetheless.
The one “hurdle” that comes to mind that really threw us a curve ball was our server hard drive crashing on day TWO of Black Friday 2021. Our website was down for the better part of the day. We have hourly backups but it still takes time to restore. That screw-up cost us thousands! We’d like to believe that most clients were patient and came back once the site was up. We have since moved host and went with a completely new web platform as well.
The new platform was a game changer for us and our clients. Not only is it user-friendly and fast, but it also has great features. It’s mobile-friendly, the rewards system is super easy to use and order tracking is now also available in the back end when logging in. It also looks amazing, at least we think so!
What are your future plans for Reef Supplies? Are the rumors true that you want to sell?
Our plans are simple. We will be growing and expanding operations. We are looking at a second fulfillment center to get closer to western Canada. We want to make sure we acquire new clients and keep our existing clients at the same time. Our business revolves around our clients. PERIOD. If they are happy, they not only remain loyal, but they also recommend their friends.
With respect to rumors about selling the company, we are here to stay! The end goal for most business owners is a lucrative exit strategy. If the right offer ever makes its way here, we would be stupid not to entertain it.
We’d love to take a minute to thank all our super-loyal clients for trusting us with their reef supply goods. We would not be here without them! We’d also love to thank our suppliers. They also play a large role. Michael, Tom, Paul, Richard, Darren, Phil, Gary, Joel, Dave, Ines, Brendan, Josh, Daniel, Stephen, and Brandi (hope we didn’t miss anyone), we love you all. Thanks for the support!