How a Herp Destination in California is Staying Competitive in the E-commerce Era
Aron Morrison, owner of Reptile Room in Hayward, Calif., explains how online sales of pet products are impacting his store and what he’s doing to overcome that challenge.
Pet Product News: What are the top-selling products and/or livestock in your store right now?
Aron Morrison: The top-selling items are bearded dragons, ball pythons and all chameleons. Also, Exo Terra cages are selling well.
PPN: What are your favorite products and livestock right now?
Morrison: My favorite animals are high-end super red bearded dragons. My favorite products right now are Biopod cages.
PPN: What trend have you been keeping your eye on most closely?
Morrison: I have been keeping my eye on internet sales and their impact on brick-and-mortar stores. I worry that the internet will eventually overtake brick-and-mortar stores, which will put an end to customers being able to pick out their animals.
PPN: What is your best tip for turning first-time herpkeepers into repeat customers?
Morrison: Food sales and good customer service.
PPN: What business challenge are you currently in the process of tackling?
Morrison: The internet. It is so devastating to give customers all of your knowledge and expertise and have them go on their smartphone and place the order while they are in your store so they don’t forget the details you gave them.
PPN: What business goal are you hoping to achieve in 2018?
Morrison: I have big plans for 2018. After 21 years of business, I have decided to join with other independents to buy in larger quantities to get lower prices. Also, I’m looking at brands that are not on the internet. I’m actually thinking of bringing out my own brand, which I plan on selling to other independents. And I will guarantee it will never be online.
I feel that the main companies treat independents poorly. They think that Amazon is so great because they see this single large order. But in truth, the independents, as a whole, are larger. But they don’t see it that way. We are the ones that give the personal attention to show off the product. Customers can see it and touch it. But then they go online for the lower price. I guarantee you so many independents will go out of business and sales will go down. Not to mention that large pet companies should give independents lower prices than anyone else. We supply the animals. I sold 200 bearded dragons this year—two hundred! How many light bulbs and other supplies will be purchased over the next 10 years for those animals? Amazon sold zero bearded dragons. If this keeps up, there will be no stores selling livestock. So who will be buying the supplies for animals that don’t exist?
Reptile Room At a Glance
Years in business: 21.5
Type of business: brick-and-mortar
Special services: reptile boarding, kids’ parties, school assemblies and events