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Terraform Your Terrarium Sales

Naturalistic setups are increasingly popular, and customers are looking for inspiration and insight from retailers.


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The herp hobby is growing, and terrarium and vivarium sales are blossoming along with it, with aesthetically pleasing and easy-to-maintain models becoming particularly popular with hobbyists, industry participants reported.

Terrarium sales go hand in hand with live animal sales, according to specialty retailers. 

“We sell quite a few reptiles and amphibians daily,” said Stacy M. Davis, purchasing director for That Fish Place/That Pet Place in Lancaster, Pa. “Most of our customers will select the supplies at the same time they are buying the animals.” 

Terrariums that are marketed specifically for herps are increasingly popular, as customers have moved away from open-top aquariums to setups with front-opening or sliding doors, such as those in the Exo Terra line offered by the Hagen Group.

“The Exo Terras are very nice,” said Fred Boseman, owner of Jurassic Aquatics & Pets in Cleveland. “We also carry normal aquariums like Aqueon reptile cages with the sliding screen tops, which are the simplest ones for people to get into. Exo Terras are probably the most accessible show-style aquariums as far as money is concerned.”

The accessibility of these models make them particularly easy to clean and maintain, an attribute that retailers report is in high demand.

“Consumers want easy-to-clean terrariums,” Davis said. “They’re often opting for terrariums that open in the front with double doors, which makes accessing the habitat for cleaning and animal removal easier.”

Customers are increasingly gravitating to the attractive terrarium setups they’re seeing used in retailers’ display setups, and sales are shifting to highlight this fact.

“We’ve been in business for 25 years, and we used to sell just the standard 10-gallon, 20-gallon reptile tank with a screen lid that slides,” said Aron Morrison, owner of the Reptile Room in Hayward, Calif. “Our sales have dropped in half on those in the past year, and our Exo Terra sales have tripled.”

Zoo Med Laboratories’ products are popular in retail stores, as well.

“Zoo Med is constantly coming out with new terrarium items,” Davis said. “They do a great job at helping to keep reptiles and amphibians as healthy as possible. I like the Zoo Med waterfall kit, which helps make it easier for the average owner to build a water feature inside their enclosure. … Owners find the water feature to be eye appealing and easy to listen to as well.”

New Products

Natural Growth

New product lines continue to make their way onto the market, and products for terrariums are receiving more attention and support right now.

Exo Terra has introduced a large marketing campaign tied to its tiki-themed terrariums and associated décor items, said Steve Sotelo, Exo Terra division manager for the Hagen Group in Mansfield, Mass.

“Last year, we launched an initial program that included large POP pieces that showcased the yearly expeditions we’re known for,” he added. “The tiki-themed pieces will include expedition crates for product and terrariums to be placed in, on, or along with a tiki décor tower, extra-large tropical palm tree and research signage.” 

New themes and styles are popular, as are water features and paludarium setups. Zoo Med Laboratories recently introduced a paludarium line, along with a complementary line of products, said Ashley Rademacher, animal care and education director for the San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based company.

The semiaquatic setup features a single swinging front door, a corrosion-resistant stainless steel screen top, front and top ventilation for natural air flow, and six power-cord exit slots to accommodate cords from filters, heaters and more, Rademacher noted.

Customers increasingly want more options and the ability to make their setups as natural as possible.

“Naturalistic habitats are continuing to build momentum,” said Ryan McVeigh, brand manager for Zilla, a brand of Franklin, Wis.-based Central Garden & Pet Co. “Bioactive substrates, planted vivariums and creating a true natural ecosystem have gained tremendous popularity.”

Live plant sales are growing, and some retailers are taking cues from the aquarium world in terms of style and planted-tank décor.

“We do see customers who are looking for more natural looking décor,” said Stacy M. Davis, purchasing director for That Fish Place/That Pet Place in Lancaster, Pa. “We’ve moved some of our aquarium ornaments to the reptile décor section so that our reptile customers have a wider variety to choose from.”

Several retailers reported recently expanding their live plant offerings to accommodate interest from customers.

“People are looking to put more live plants in their terrariums,” said Bob Scheben, owner of Repxotica in West Islip, N.Y. “We sell a lot of live plants. It keeps building business.”

Merchandising

Showcasing Sells

Customers increasingly want to see attractive natural terrarium setups in store that trigger the imagination, industry insiders report. 

“The best way to sell terrariums is to show what they can become,” said Ryan McVeigh, brand manager for Zilla, a brand of Franklin, Wis.-based Central Garden & Pet Co. “Having one set up is a great way to get people excited about the possibilities that can be made inside that glass box.”

Focusing on visual appeal can pay dividends, and spending the time to lay out a nice setup and change it up periodically can help drive sales.

“If you want to sell a lot of product you want to display them, but you can’t display every aquarium,” said Fred Boseman, owner of Jurassic Aquatics & Pets in Cleveland. “In my estimation, you just set up one that’s nice, and then with the rest, you have to make them easy to clean and easy to get in and get out of because most people want to see how clean the tanks are.”

It’s important to consider spacing and keep terrarium products close to livestock, as well, to ensure customers can make the appropriate association between setups and animals that will be housed in them.

“Our for-sale terrariums are displayed on shelving directly outside our live animal room,” said Stacy M. Davis, purchasing director for That Fish Place/That Pet Place in Lancaster, Pa. “This allows our staff to point out the proper size enclosure for the customers who are buying a new pet and for those looking to upgrade what they already have at home.”

In some cases, keeping display setups without animals in them might help sell the overall visual appeal of the terrarium.

“Retailers should strongly consider setting up live displays that have no reptiles housed within,” said Steve Sotelo, Exo Terra division manager for the Hagen Group in Mansfield, Mass. “This might seem counterproductive, but maintenance is greatly reduced or eliminated, and they can truly showcase how décor and lighting can be used properly in a reptile or amphibian terrarium. They also must be creative in finding ways to stock terrariums. As retail space shrinks, consider backstock areas or special-order offers.”

Terrariums with water features also make for attractive in-store displays, and can spark customers’ imaginations and get them to consider new herp-keeping possibilities.

“Paludariums serve as inspiration,” said Ashley Rademacher, animal care and education director for Zoo Med Laboratories in San Luis Obispo, Calif. “These unique habitats can be home to a wide variety of aquatic, terrestrial and arboreal pets, so show these animals in the enclosure and provide a wide variety of animals in-store too if possible. Keep all of these products together, and make sure that customers have chosen the right variety of products to set up their new enclosure.” 

DIY Versus Kit Sales

Though kits are common in the hobby, do-it-yourself (DIY) setups and custom arrangements are increasingly catching on with hobbyists. 

“The DIY mentality has really come into its own,” said Steve Sotelo, Exo Terra division manager for the Hagen Group in Mansfield, Mass. “Consumers are modifying lighting, draining, fake waterfalls and false bottoms to create incredibly detailed displays that would make some zoos jealous. Access to information is key, where customers are spending more time researching display products and methods more than they ever have.”

Décor is changing somewhat to suit these types of setups, and the push toward naturalistic setups is accompanied by a growing interest in wood and rock additions to terrariums.

“Everybody wants to be more realistic,” said Fred Boseman, owner of Jurassic Aquatics & Pets in Cleveland. “We see a lot of driftwood and [materials] like that going into these aquariums. To be honest, they just look better. It’s a very good look.”

Retailers often provide both prepackaged kits and their own kit offerings in-store.

“We do sell some Zoo Med kits, and we also assemble our own kits for the most popular animals such as corn snakes, ball pythons, bearded dragons, crested geckos, leopard geckos and amphibians,” said Stacy M. Davis, purchasing director for That Fish Place/That Pet Place in Lancaster, Pa. “These kits contain all of the necessary supplies, right down to screen clips and two thermometers. Since we house all of our animals in natural habitats, the customers see that and want to provide the same natural habitat for the animal that they are purchasing.”

Some retailers prefer not to offer prepackaged terrarium kits.

“We sell them individually,” said Aron Morrison, owner of Reptile Room in Hayward, Calif. “We don’t do the kits. If you’re stuck with it, you’re stuck with it. We do our own sales, and then we offer people a 10 percent discount on the entire package, no matter how they put it together as long as they get the right stuff.”

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