What do YOU want to see in a pet store? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 91 (permalink) Old 07-28-2011, 02:45 PM Thread Starter
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What do YOU want to see in a pet store?

So, after a long a long time in the business I am thinking about opening up for myself, so my question is:
what do you guys think is wrong with pet stores? Specifically stores specializing in fish and reptiles...


I look forward to some responses.


Thanks
Mike
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post #2 of 91 (permalink) Old 07-28-2011, 02:55 PM
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-Wide variety of products (economy to the really nice stuff).
-Organized, clean tanks with healthy livestock.
-A frequent customer rewards program.
-Knowledgeable staff
-"If we don't have it we can get it for you" attitude.
-Occasional sales are nice.
-Seminars, source of info, etc.

The list goes on...
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post #3 of 91 (permalink) Old 07-28-2011, 02:56 PM
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Wow, good luck with it. It's a tough bizznizz as you know.

The successful stores show that they care in their products and customers. So, your store has to clean and organized that is, no dead animals floating around and don't sell sick animals to people. Dare I say, offer a live guarantee? You got to compete with petsmart.

A few display tanks at the front would be good. I don't see many stores to that. I've seen one with a display tank in the back which doesn't make any sense but it's a good store still.


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post #4 of 91 (permalink) Old 07-28-2011, 02:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gvtv44 View Post
-Wide variety of products (economy to the really nice stuff).
-Organized, clean tanks with healthy livestock.
-A frequent customer rewards program.
-Knowledgeable staff
-"If we don't have it we can get it for you" attitude.
-Occasional sales are nice.
-Seminars, source of info, etc.

The list goes on...
+1
And not ridiculously overpricing dry goods
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post #5 of 91 (permalink) Old 07-28-2011, 03:06 PM
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The prices for some items at my local fish store are rather high compared to what is offered online and on PT.net.

For example, various shrimp are $6.99 (amano, low quality cherries, bamboo). CRS (B grade to maybe a few nominal S grade) were $14.99.

The plants were also in pretty bad shape and covered in algae.
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post #6 of 91 (permalink) Old 07-28-2011, 03:10 PM
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I would say to play to the more experienced aquariast. More of the not common species that every other store has. These are the people that will be spending the money. You've got to have the basic neons, guppies etc., but most of the time you will never see those folks again and they will not be buying $20 and up fish. Corner a certain market. I.E. there's a place near me that has a lot of normal stuff, but specializes in cichlids. If you want the good stuff, you go there.

Employees that know their stuff and are into the hobby is a major plus to me. If I'm asking about animal compatability or hardware, I want the person selling it to know more than I do.
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post #7 of 91 (permalink) Old 07-28-2011, 03:14 PM
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There's no way of getting around the high price for food and equipments. The guy has to make money and pay the bills.


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post #8 of 91 (permalink) Old 07-28-2011, 03:18 PM
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Yup, don't give me orange sunkist shrimp when I ask for cherries and of course in the bag on the way home, shrimp tend to go clear from the stress, so you don't know till a few days later.

Be knowledgeable on what is compatible with what. Don't say, sure, it should work in your current tank.

Ask people their tank parameters. Don't sell someone a bunch of crystal shrimp if they say their pH is 8.2. Don't sell them anything if they give you a cockheaded puppy look when you ask them their parameters.



If I was to do it, I would keep a limited variety of livestock but know each one inside and out, as well as plants instead of trying to have a huge variety that I didn't know the behavior, best water, etc. Its going to be hard to compete with the big stores that have everything but you best bet is to carve a niche in having good quality of a small variety of livestock that you know rather than a bunch of poorly kept species just to have the numbers. Try and breed what you sell instead of importing livestock all the time that could be sick, etc.

Carry products that not everyone carries. You can't get say fluval products the same price at petsmart because they buy 10000x times the amount you will and get a discount as such. Instead carry stuff like the netlea soil for shrimp and other products that the big stores don't carry.

My suggestion, start off from your home and see how well you can do. Get a dedicated phoneline or even cell phone, setup a small website, start breeding stock to sell, advertise online, participate in forums and groups in your area and get to be known, then go from there. Getting a full blown shop going is expensive and you have to figure, honestly to stock a little bit of tank, filters, food, etc, etc you can easily spend 20-30k on stock that is going to sit there until people know you.

I run an electronic repair shop, focusing on fixing pcs, and video game consoles. I went the route of having a full blown shop, stock on the shelves and its hard. You buy CPU's and RAM and stock them and 2 months later they are obsolete and dropped 40% in price. I now run my business from my home, have a business line and regular hours and only order parts when I need them or go buy them from local stores that I have arranged deals with saying I'll come here for all my PC parts, knock off like 10% or something for me. I'm also trying to get some shrimp breeding going just to have some to sell on the side to expand my aquarium addiction and since all my LFS's don't have a huge variety of shrimp and all the breeders are about an hour or so from me, it seems like a market I could get a little extra cash from.

Talk to your LFS, see if you can make a deal, see if you can fill a niche that none of them fill and then tell them, if people ask about this or that, if they can send them to you. Networking helps a lot with small business.

20g platy, , 2 x 10g shrimp, 3 x 20g shrimp, 7.5g shrimp and 1 great dane/mastiff puppy.

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post #9 of 91 (permalink) Old 07-28-2011, 03:18 PM
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Well maintained tanks are a must. Healthy plants that are easy keepers for those justing into plants. A newbies guide to starting a new tank would be great, like a free handout. Another one water testing for those that are buying and maybe a disease guide for them also.

In reptiles I perfer to see animals that do not get huge for sale. Like snakes that get no more then 6 or 7 feet. Healthy well fed feeder rodents. A clean and smell free store. All animal to have water and clean cages with proper substarte for them.
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post #10 of 91 (permalink) Old 07-28-2011, 03:20 PM
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Find part of the market that is untouched. Don't do it if you aren't doing it well. And clean. So many of the lfs are dirty, gross, nasty places. If I could go to an lfs that was as clean as petsmart, I'd love it. If you can buy or lease a new building, this is a good start in this. KEEP IT WELL LIT, and please, no carpet....

Teach your employees to say "I don't know, but I'll find out" instead of making crap up. No single person knows everything off hand about aquariums, fish, herps, etc. And no startup can afford to hire a specialist(and actually pay them) for every section and have them working all the time.

Have decent hours too. We have an lfs that closes at 7 m-f and 6 on sat. Dumb.


Also, don't sell iguanas. Don't even get me started on that. Or Pacus. Or RES.

I would highly recommend offering aquarium maint services as well as consider "bird" setups. Get in good with a local vet for referrals, too.

We too are in the planning stages of a possible lfs in combination with a local vets office. Grooming would be included in the building as well, but all "separate" businesses.
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post #11 of 91 (permalink) Old 07-28-2011, 03:28 PM
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I have an idea for you guys starting up a lfs.
Print up brochures on how to take care of fish/herps/plants. People can grab it or you can give people just getting into the hobby. It's good branding too. Every time they think of fish/herps/plants, they think of you. Repeat customers are always good.


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post #12 of 91 (permalink) Old 07-28-2011, 03:31 PM
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Also, don't even sell anyone an aquarium and fish the same day. Explain cycling to them. Keep a stock tank going with sponge filters and cheap fish and sell people a cycled filter at the very least.

20g platy, , 2 x 10g shrimp, 3 x 20g shrimp, 7.5g shrimp and 1 great dane/mastiff puppy.

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post #13 of 91 (permalink) Old 07-28-2011, 03:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 5BodyBlade View Post
I would say to play to the more experienced aquariast. More of the not common species that every other store has. These are the people that will be spending the money. You've got to have the basic neons, guppies etc., but most of the time you will never see those folks again and they will not be buying $20 and up fish. Corner a certain market. I.E. there's a place near me that has a lot of normal stuff, but specializes in cichlids. If you want the good stuff, you go there.

Employees that know their stuff and are into the hobby is a major plus to me. If I'm asking about animal compatability or hardware, I want the person selling it to know more than I do.

Absolutely!

We have all the majors (petsmart, etc.) and several mom-n-pop places in the area. I go way out of my way to buy at one of them.

He is only two years in business and still the only employee...and has a full-time factory job to boot. Clearly there is not much profit for him.

He has an amazing selection of less-popular species, mostly African Cichlids and salt water, but is also the ONLY place in the area that carries true SAE and FW shrimp, etc..

He has several nice display tanks to show off and maintains his stock tanks meticulously. One of the centerpieces is a saltwater tidal pool that is about 10 foot by 15 foot.

He not only takes special order requests, but actively hunts for species that are more difficult to find. Many places just look at the distributor's stocking list and if they don't have it you're out of luck.

His prices are a bit higher, but still quite fair.

his stocking tanks are laid out in a logical way so that complementary species are together and nothing is way over-stocked.

The lighting and racks are plain-jane. painted 2x4 racks and shop lights, but I don't care since the tanks look great.
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post #14 of 91 (permalink) Old 07-28-2011, 03:38 PM
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Create "starter packages" for new folks to buy so that they have a higher amount of success.
An example planted package would be:
-29g tank
-Choice of HOB or Canister filter
-T5NO/PC light
-Heater,Thermometer, etc.
-Substrate choice (Gravel, sand, planted substrate, etc)
-Simple plant package (have 3 or 4 options to choose from) (maybe some ludwigia repens, a melon sword, etc)*
-A handful of fish packages to choose from*

* to be picked up when the tank is ready for them


The nice thing about this package is that new folks have a list of everything that they need, and they get to see a few good options that they can use. Heck, even set up one of the packages in a display tank, and it would be like having a model home or something.

You get a commitment from people buying the package to buy everything from you, and the newbies get a no hassle, guided journey to their first planted tank. This also keeps them from coming back in 2 months with 3 oscars crammed in a 10g tank.
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post #15 of 91 (permalink) Old 07-28-2011, 03:45 PM
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Stick with livestock and simple hardgoods The only stores that have survived the petsmart/petco/petsupplyplus era around me are the ones that had specialized and they don't try to carry much hardgoods they focus on fish plants and coral along with specialty tanks, rimless etc. If you try to compete on hardgoods you will spend too much of your capital on it and all your capital should go into display tanks and livestock. Oh yea display tanks are a must you need to inspire people to buy your livestock. Dont fret about losing the hardgood business either for you to compete with the chains you will lose money and experienced people are going to buy online or from sales for big expensive products, focus on smaller emergency or day to day products like specialty food, fertz and Chems if you are going to stock hardgoods. Other things would be rocks, driftwood and gravel people like to see that in person before buying..

Just my 2 cents

Len


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