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GraemeK 06-22-2004 02:50 PM

Starting an Aquatic shop
 
Hi,

I'm thinking more and more about starting an aquatic shop in my town. Basically there isnt any specialist store soley for aquatics and so i think theres a gap in the market...
Raising the captial is the biggest worry as is making the business work and not losing a tone of cash!

Has anyone actually started such a business and made it a sucess?

I was thinking about starting a professional site first of all and selling online to get a taste for the trade? But then i have the problem of purchasing stock at an affordable price and selling it on. I doubt i'd have the means to hold stock really...

any info would be welcome!

Momotaro 06-22-2004 03:12 PM

Try contacting Robert Hudson over at Aquabotanic.com. he runs one of the most successful shops on the web.


Mike

GraemeK 06-22-2004 03:45 PM

cheers for the advice!!

Robert H 06-25-2004 09:58 AM

Thanks Mike! I don't have a retail store though, not really. Local people can come in by appoitment, but I don't have a store. I am strictly a WEB based store. I have never done Ebay or Aquabid, except once in a while to get rid of some stuff, but I didn't build my business on online auctions like some of these guys have.


Doing this on the WEB is not easy. You have to either have a lot of money to start out, or start really small and build it up. I started small. I was successfull because I had a public reputation to build from. People knew me from the internet. Word of mouth. I had a reputation of helping newbies. I will say one thing plain and simple and I do not care who reads this: I never sold strictly on price. I never tried to be the cheapest guy on the net. I always tried to have reasonable and competitive prices, but never cutthroat. I always knew there would be someone out there cheaper than me. And you know what, that has never hurt me. It is real easy to sell by saying "I have the lowest price" Everybody wants to be Walmart. It is much more of a challenge to sell based on service, quality, and knowledge. It may be more difficult, but if you become successfull at it you will be around a lot longer than Crazy Eddie with his crazy Eddie deals. When you are selling dirt cheap and your business hits a slump, its all over. You are history. And guys that have that sort of reputation have a real hard time changing that repuation from being a Yugo dealer to a Cadallac dealer. You know what I mean? Which do you want to be?

GraemeK 06-25-2004 10:26 AM

Hi Rob,

Thanks for the reply...

Well i started to look into the whole start your own business thing and i've got sme advice etc and a business plan to fill out but to be honest i cant justify the expense in starting a shop and all the over heads. I spoke to my local aquatic store which gave me an insight and i wont expect to make a profit for 24months! Thats a lot of cash i need to borrow to live on and get the business going. If it was to flop i'd be stuffed. I'm 23 and havent moved out yet, if that happend i'd be living at home unitl i'm 50.

Therefore the web seems slightly more realistic? I could afford to take the risk and get a decent site going but then that leads me to my next worry, stock. I imagine i'd need to keep limited stock so i can turn round orders for next day delivery which means i'd need a premises to work from. Again huge expense! um...i really need to look into it in far greater detail. Can it work or am i more likely to fail giving the industry. Also you say you became well known through good advice etc but how would be best for me to test the water? If your willing to help maybe you can PM me?

Thanks.

Graeme.

glass-gardens.com 06-25-2004 01:28 PM

Actually I was surprised at the cuthroat nature of the competition in this business. So be prepared for some unpleasantry amongst your competition.

The bottom line is people on the web shop for price, so whatever you can do to keep your prices low, do it. But prepared to offer service like you're priced like a brick and mortar store, because the second you offer cut rate service, it's going to come back to haunt you.

If you can find a niche that works, run with it, you don't have to be all to everyone. And don't start out running your business for cash flow, be prepared to reinvest every dime back into your business to grow it. That's probably the worst mistake any small business owner makes. Keep your day job.

GraemeK 06-25-2004 01:36 PM

Thanks for the advice Glass Gardens!

Robert H 06-26-2004 04:14 AM

Some of it I can not help you with because you are in a different country than I am, and I do not know what the laws are in the UK or what is needed to become a business. In this country, some of it varies from state to state. Oregon is one of the most business friendly states, with no sales tax and a simple business registration process.

To buy product for re sale, you need to meet the qualifications set forth by the manufacturer. Some manufacturers are vary lax and will sell to anybody that offers them money and others have much more stringent requirements, or have distributors which you can buy from. You will need a certain amount of monies set aside for inventory to meet the buying requirements of the manufacturer or distributor, or you can search out lesser known brands which are more desperate for sales and will allow you to buy in much smaller numbers or even do drop ships.

Glass gardens and I have different philosophies on business. I do not believe everyone on the internet only wants a good price. There is a lot more to it than that.

glass-gardens.com 06-26-2004 05:01 AM

Don't be afraid to use the online auctions and other sources to market your products either, you can laugh at ebay all you want but you'd be surpised at the number of major corporations using eBay right now. Sears and Olympus are the top two that come to mind. There are other companies using eBay selling through third parties as well. I'd avoid Yahoo though, my experience there is that you'll end up spending a lot of time and money for very little result. Ebay has been very good for me though.

Get business liabilty insurance too, I carry it primarily for the stands I build, but it's nice to have it there for other things as well, especially since you can be sued for someone using your hammer to hit themselves in the head now days.

ming 06-26-2004 05:23 AM

As a buyer, I would say I factor in both price and service. If the service is great and has a good reputation but the price is slightly higher, I dont mind paying a bit more. But so long as thats only a bit. But if the competition is bad service, that bit can be increased a little more. Word of mouth of the quality of the plants and service plays a big role. Also the variety of plants offers also comes into play because I would rather make a larger order to save on shipping. And I usually only buy only because of lack of plants in LFS.

As for my input on the store. I would just start out as a hobbist selling plants part time and gradually grow if its successful. Thank god I only do it as a hobby and not for profit because I view it as very hard earned money.

aychamo 06-28-2004 09:03 PM

Personally, as a shopper my main goal is to find a great price. Service counts to, but price is key for me. If a place is *known* for bad or horrible service, I won't go there even if it's really cheap. But if service is pretty good, but someone has "terrific" service, and the pretty good service place has a much better price, then I'm with the pretty good service.

My money is very tight, and I just want to make sure I'm not going to get screwed over. If there is a $20 difference in an item, and the service differences are marginal, then I'm at the $20 cheaper place.

To me, service that pleases me is a seller who answers questions and sends tracking information quickly via e-mail, ships within a day or so, and makes things painless.

hardwater 06-29-2004 03:53 AM

I dont have any experience with web sales, but I started a business about a year ago, and the major thing I learned was patience. It takes time to get repeat customers, but as previously mentioned, price and customer service matter.

bharada 06-29-2004 04:21 AM

For me price is major factor in commodity type items...light bulbs, fish food, etc...For things that I know will require service (live goods) I'm willing to spend extra. That's where word of mouth can kill a vendor. You do a search through a forum and come up with a lot of negative remarks for service and you're very unlikely to try that vendor out...regardless of price.

GraemeK 06-29-2004 12:18 PM

thanks for your help everyone. I'm probably going to look into this web sales area further...A lot of planning is needed!

Graeme.


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