Merchandising isn't a passive activity anymore, and retailers that stay active are growing their sales base.
Standing out and building sales is increasingly difficult in the aquatics space. Competition is tough, and successful retailers are combining well-known merchandising tactics with new approaches to grab customers’ attention and earn valuable business.
Displays Gain Attention
Keeping beautiful in-store setups is vital for retailers that focus on aquatics.
“Our biggest draw is we have a number of display tanks that show off the products in the store,” said Bruce Kelley, manager for Aquatek Tropical Fish in Austin, Texas. “People have to see products out and working.”
The traditional, large show tank is still popular and generates sales.
“We have three pretty large show tanks,” said Kristen Schmicker, aquarist at Absolutely Fish in Clifton, N.J. “One is a 150-gallon planted tank. We also have a 150-gallon stony coral reef tank and a soft coral reef tank. It’s really popular with people who come in. They often say, ‘I want something that looks like this.’ We can show them we do use all of our products in the [show tanks] that we sell to customers.”
Increasingly, though, a new trend is emerging, where nano display tanks aren’t just driving sales: Retailers are having success selling the whole units already set up.
“Nano tanks are huge,” said Christopher LeRose, aquatic division manager at Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp. in Mansfield, Mass. “You have to set up a nano tank. You definitely increase sales having a live display up for purchase.”
Retailers usually drain most of the water from these setups and let customers take them home with everything still in them.
“We have tanks on our counters that we’ll actually sell … the whole setup, fish and everything,” Schmicker said.
The trend is new, and most retailers have started selling nano tanks this way in just the past year or so.
“We just started doing it about a year and a half to two years ago,” said Travis Cooper, manager at The Wet Spot Tropical Fish in Portland, Ore. “Especially in the new nano tank corner, we have usually four to six tanks set up that are all pre-priced and ready to go.”
Staying creative with signage keeps customers on their toes and looking for more.
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“We like to put up little suction cups with products (attached) that are good to buy along with the fish in that tank,” Schmicker said. “On a guppy tank, we’d have a suction cup with food that’s really good for them.”
Finding the right spot in-store is vital for signage and merchandising success.
“Placement is a big key,” Kelley said. “For new items, I have one endcap that basically rotates new products until they find their final place in the store.”
The idea is to keep repeat customers from falling into a routine.
“I have a different strategy,” Kelley said. “I rotate the store a lot. I’ll take whole shelving units and rotate them left to right, or front to back. It disrupts [customers’] routine a little bit. You have customers who only want one thing in the store, they know where it’s at, and they walk straight to it and walk straight back out. Those are the bread-and-butter customers; you need them, but it’d be nice if they looked around a little bit.”
Shelf talkers work for many retailers, and calling attention to new items helps drive sales.
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“I will place a shelf talker that says ‘new item’ or a ‘new item’ sticker directly on the items to help call attention to new products,” said Thomas Nelson, owner of The Ark Pet Shop in Merrillville, Ind.
Livestock sales also benefit from retailers’ attention.
“With something like fish, if I move them around to a new tank, they sell like crazy,” Cooper said. “We do the same thing with new products. If people aren’t picking up on it, we’ll move it to a different part of the store.”
Social media is letting retailers reach customers before they even come in the store.
“The most inquiries [we get] are from our Facebook posts and our weekly newsletter,” Cooper said. “The biggest thing we use right now is Facebook. That’s the easiest way for us to pass along information.
“Any time a new product comes in, we’ll do a Facebook post,” Cooper added. “We’ll have it on display here in the store, and usually set up if it’s a tank or a new light or filter. We use it here in the store to show why it’s good and why we brought it in.”
The effectiveness of digital outreach is further enhanced with strong in-store displays and promotions. Absolutely Fish uses a unique interactive in-store display to generate interest and drive sales.
“It’s called ‘PAIGE,’” Schmicker said. “It stands for Promotional Active Sales Support Interactive Gaming Educational. We have it on the floor by our dry tanks. Basically, you can take a quiz, and you get a discount if you get all the answers right.
“Kids can actually build their own tank [with the system],” she added. “They can pick fresh- or saltwater, what fish they want to put in it, and then it prints out something that lists all the fish and what sized tank [they picked], and they can come see one of us and we’ll see how they did. If they matched everything up right, we’ll give them a prize.”
Customers need to see and interact with products and livestock to engage and really build interest.
“Get your products out of the box!” The Ark Pet Shop’s Nelson said. “Let the customer touch and feel the item. And any additional informational signage is very helpful to go along with the display.”
Finding the right mix of layout and convenience is necessary to keep customers coming back without getting frustrated.
“I always keep consumables closer to the front,” Nelson said. “It would be an inconvenience to our customers if I put them in the back and a sure way to see my shrinkage increase.”
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Just keeping store shelves tidy and filled with product is important to project the right image.
“Keeping fully stocked is No. 1, because empty spots don’t look good in any store,” Hagen’s LeRose said. “Make sure everything is clean. If [retailers] have a dusty product on the shelf, it often doesn’t sell.”
Also, it doesn’t hurt to ask manufacturers for a hand, either.
“If [retailers] make the dedication to bring in the whole line, most of the time we don’t have a problem sending a display unit so they can have it live in the store,” LeRose said. “It helps them sell products. It helps everybody. If they can sell the product faster, they can reorder faster.”
Interacting with customers, whether via social media or just through an in-store educational approach, is vital to growing business.
“[When you] merchandise an item, get it out of the box, have it on display along with some informational signage, then walk over and show the item, let the consumer touch it, point out the features and benefits, talk about the value of the product and how it will solve some particular problem or make the maintenance easier or keep their aquarium cleaner,” Nelson said. “It breaks down the resistance barrier that consumers sometimes have, and it gives the customer confidence in what they are purchasing, so it’s easier to close the sale.”