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Décor Delivers

Retailers can use decorations and ornaments to catch customers’ attention and drive livestock sales.


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Products such as Spectrum’s GloFish Kit help attract young hobbyists.

When it comes to tank decorations, there’s something for everyone, and pet specialty retailers can use décor offerings to help draw in new aquarists and boost repeat sales opportunities. 

“Our big focus at Aquarium Adventure here in Columbus, [Ohio,] is getting new people started in the aquarium hobby,” said Bill Wymard, owner of the aquatics superstore. “Families are really focused on bright colors and unique, contemporary decorations and ornaments.”

Aquarium Adventure dedicates a lot of space to décor items, Wymard added.

“We have 18 feet of endcap space and 36 of gondola space for decorations alone,” he said. “That’s a huge amount. It’s probably 25 percent of our gondola space.”

Several retailers reported dedicating a lot of room on their shelves to decorations. Maintaining a variety and quantity of product in stock helps to drive sales, as well.

“We have two showcases full of ornaments,” said Steve Maletzky, owner of Tropical Lagoon Aquarium in Silver Spring, Md. “It’s one of the best-sellers we have. I just randomly pick stuff. We sell a lot because we have a lot.”

In terms of variety, the two main types of décor items—naturalistic and fantasy or cartoon decorations— both tend to be popular, with a recent resurgence in fantasy items and especially colorful plastic plants.

“In the old days, everyone was doing natural-looking green and brown plants,” Wymard said. “Now, everyone wants bright red, purple, blue, pink and orange plants. Anything that’s bright seems to be selling very well. Anything that will glow under an actinic light also is very popular, and we’re selling lots of them.”

At The Wet Spot Tropical Fish in Portland, Ore., naturalistic décor sells best, said owner Marcie Rivera. She carries locally manufactured ceramic ornaments, which sell well, she noted. Her best-sellers are real driftwood décor and rocks, followed by silk plants. However, more fanciful items also move off the shelves.

“We do carry the licensed Penn Plax lines, and they do pretty well for us, especially around the holidays,” she said. “That’s when they really pick up.”

Specific characters found in the Penn Plax line are perennial favorites, retailers reported.

“There’s still a market for fantasy, cartoon-type stuff,” Maletzky said. “We sell a lot of SpongeBob ornaments.”

It might help to pay attention to popular children’s media to get ideas.

“A lot of the existing lines, such as the Penn Plax ornaments … such as Nemo and SpongeBob products—all of those are very popular,” Wymard said.

Add Some Color 

The introduction of vibrantly colored and novel items are stirring up the waters in the décor category.

“We have just added to our Marina Betta line with new décor for smaller aquariums,” said Chris LeRose, aquatic division manager for The Hagen Group in Mansfield, Mass. “These ornaments are designed to add a unique look in a smaller aquarium ideal for betta fish.”

New colorful and glowing options from Tetra are slated to appear on the market in the coming months.

“This fall, we are expanding our GloFish color-changing décor with new themed items, including a castle, dragon and Gloria [a GloFish character appearing in a companion book],” said Sean Raines, director of aquatic marketing product development for Spectrum Brands’s pet, home and garden division in Blacksburg, Va. 

Some of these new items change color when placed under a black light, Raines noted, and, like other GloFish products, all are designed to emit a brilliant color under blue light. 

Naturalistic offerings are expanding, as well, with new lines appearing from Aquatop.

“In the last six months, we’ve introduced a line of aquarium plants that are made of silicone rather than traditional plastic,” said Francis Kudla, sales and marketing consultant for the Brea, Calif.-based manufacturer. “They’re at the higher price point, which retailers seem to like. If the consumers are interested and they can sell something for a higher price point because it has an additional feature or visual appeal, it’s better for retailers.”

Aquatop also recently introduced AquaRock, resin pieces that mimic live rock, Kudla added. 

Selection Sells

For optimal merchandising, the secret seems to be keeping a wide selection of décor items in stock and rotating through a portion of offerings frequently. 

“You have your core section, but then you have a section—it could be an endcap, and it might not even be merchandised in with the other décor items—that should be aspirational,” said Francis Kudla, sales and marketing consultant for Aquatop in Brea, Calif.

The core items are the bread-and-butter ornaments that sell well most of the time, according to Kudla. For the aspirational items, he recommended shopping distributors’ fliers and rotating through new offerings as they become available. 

“There’s a challenge with that, because you need a liquidation strategy when you rotate through,” he said. “You can simply do markdowns and then bring in something new and fresh.” 

Putting décor items in display aquariums also helps drive sales. 

“It’s always a great idea to have a few ornaments in the aquariums that the customers can see,” said Chris LeRose, aquatic division manager for The Hagen Group in Mansfield, Mass.

With flashier, brightly colored décor, this strategy can be especially effective.

“There is definitely a trend toward brightly colored décor and fish accessories,” said Sean Raines, director of aquatic marketing product development for Spectrum Brands’ pet, home and garden division in Blacksburg, Va. “People are attracted to the brighter colors.”

It’s important to put décor in displays with live fish or dry tanks, said Bill Wymard, owner of Aquarium Adventure in Columbus, Ohio.

“It’s really the only way to drive sales,” he said. “You can put all the decorations you want on a gondola or an endcap, but until the customer sees it in a tank, they don’t get the ideas of what they can do with it. We probably have anywhere from 50 to 100 dry tank displays on the floor, and every one of them is fully decorated to give people ideas of what they can do.”

Mix to Match

Knowing their customer base can help pet specialty retailers figure out what mix of product to carry, and this often includes knowing what customers are willing to spend.

“You have two types of décor: ultra natural or a more artistic design,” said Chris LeRose, aquatic division manager for The Hagen Group in Mansfield, Mass. “The price points for ornaments run from one end of the spectrum to the other based on quality, size and appearance. It is a great idea for a retailer to have all different price points in their inventory to have options for their customers.”

Retailers also have to figure out whether their customers favor freshwater or saltwater setups. 

“Freshwater décor out sells saltwater décor due to most saltwater hobbyists’ tendency to go more the natural way when setting up their tanks,” LeRose said. “It all depends on the customer and the style they are looking for.” 

Marine aquarists might be moving toward artificial coral offerings in greater numbers, as well.

“[Consumers are] flocking to brighter décor for the affordability,” said Sean Raines, director of aquatic marketing product development for Spectrum Brands’ pet, home and garden division in Blacksburg, Va. “The issue is coral and marine fish require saltwater aquariums, where the price point can be too high for consumers. Instead, these consumers seem to be investing in starter aquariums and populating them with bright décor.”

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