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Aquatic Marketplace: Show Off Success with Display Aquariums

Posted: Nov. 14, 2012, 4:30 p.m. EDT


Executing attention-getting display aquariums can be a challenge, but it’s a must for retailers looking to boost sales.
By Danielle Godshall

Consumers are inherently drawn toward product displays that are well-maintained. And prominent, creative displays help put merchandise front and center, capturing customers’ attention and potentially increasing cash flow.

However, when it comes to retailing aquatic products, stores need to go beyond keeping shelves clean and full of products. Successful retailers go several steps further to make items stand out, creating a feeling of “want” and “must have” in their customers. And it isn’t just about equipment and supplies: Living displays featuring plants, corals, fish and other aquatic animals draw interest and build buzz.

Clean, well-lit livestock tanks
Having clean, well-lit livestock tanks goes hand-in-hand with successful fish sales. Sherri L. Collins/BowTie Inc. at Nature Pet Centre
“Customers love our 180 gallon show tank with African cichlids,” said Sean Cormican, owner of Red Fish Blue Fish in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. “They always want to buy the showy males from the tank, even though they are just display.”

Location, Location, Location
Whether it’s tanks or food, retailers said finding the right real estate in the store to display items is just as important as how items are presented. A popular spot is near the entrance, as customers see items as they enter.

“We carry a large variety of aquariums in regular and oddball sizes,” commented Jayd Joslyn, owner of Aquarium World in Lafayette, Ind. “When people walk in, they walk right through those.”

Another key area is by the register. Consumers are likely to pick things up, especially small items, and add to the sale if they are just looking at an item long enough.

“Customers buy a lot of fish food because the display is built into the front counter,” remarked David Hale, owner of Something Fishy in Cleveland. “It catches the most attention because it’s right up front.”

Having advertisements on the tanks for items that are placed prominently in the store is another good way to boost sales.

“We have signs on our livestock displays that say ‘We are eating Dimachi food,’” said Lisa Kamp, co-owner of A World of Fish in Minneapolis. “This lets people know what to buy when they go over to our food section.”

The best location of all is near show tanks and livestock displays where the items are in use, retailers reported. Consumers see an item and can pick it up right away without having to search the store, a daunting task in large stores. They don’t have time to forget how much they liked it or get distracted by something else.

Certain stores go so far as to integrate product displays directly into the base of their show aquariums. This makes it easy for customers to see the product in use and then just reach out and pick up the item for purchase.

“We display a lot of products that we use in our big reef aquarium right under the tank,” Kamp said. “I have to refill those shelves daily.”

Wow Them With Displays
The first thing that comes to retailers’ minds when they hear “display” is their show aquariums. It’s a vital marketing strategies that allows aquatic-focused pet stores to show new customers how an established aquarium can look and give experienced hobbyists new ideas for their next setup.

“Display tanks are a must,” said Marcie Rivera, manager of The Wet Spot Tropical Fish in Portland, Ore. “Customers see what you have and want to recreate it at home.”

Display aquarium
Marine show aquariums can encourage hobbyists to add to their existing setups. Sherri L. Collins/BowTie Inc.
Stores are finding it helpful to have a variety of show aquariums of various sizes and layouts to present the diversity of aquatic environments and products available for consumers.

“We have over 15 show aquariums varying from 5 to 500 gallons,” Rivera said.

Not only can show aquariums boost product sales but also livestock sales. Customers see just how nice a well-cared for animal looks, and won’t hesitate to buy the smaller, younger version.

“Customers are visual people; they cannot see the end results without a display,” stated Tony Walker, owner of Fish Unlimited Pet Store in Lynn Haven, Fla. “A show tank allows the customer to see the end results, furthering sales.”

With the store’s advice and expertise, customers will get to watch their specimens grow and thrive.

The show aquarium can drive sales for specific products for two specific reasons, retailers reported. Customers get to see the product in action, and they trust that if it’s good for daily use in the store then it will be good for them at home.

“We use it so customers want it,” Kamp said.

Instead of hiding sumps and filtration pieces, retailers are finding it helpful to show it off in display tanks.

“I removed all the facades from my stands and cabinets,” said Lee Nguyen, owner of Corals and Fins in Tampa, Fla. “Customers can see how we have filtration set up, and we can either sell them the parts or do it for them.”

Show aquariums engage buyers and facilitate excitement about the hobby. In some cases, stores are even making displays interactive for customers.

“We have the Sunbrite F-series LED lights with wi-fi integration on our clam and coral sale tank,” Nguyen said. “You can control the lighting option from your smart phone, so we encourage customers to download the app and play with the lights on that tank.”

Retailers are finding it helpful to label items in use—especially lights—with the make, model, and price, so customers know exactly what they are looking for when they go to pick it off the shelf.

“All of our special lighting have price tags on them,” A World of Fish’s Kamp said. “It lets customers know these items are available for purchase.”

Where’s the Fish?
Livestock displays vary from store to store. Stores may use commercial retail systems, custom-made racks for standard aquariums, or entirely custom-made setups. However, it’s how these systems are maintained that makes the difference in fish sales. Stores must keep maintenance in mind when setting up show aquariums and livestock displays.

“Routine water changes have to be considered for general maintenance,” said Hale. “Scrubbing tanks are a daily ritual.”

This keeps fish tanks looking their best and maintains customer interest in perusing the selections.

Retailers also vary on the type of filtration provided to their tanks. Having one or two main systems is popular. Other store owners said they prefer each tank be run individually to reduce the possibility of disease. Many stores fall somewhere in between, having many small groupings of tanks on several different filtration systems. No matter what the preference, all stores agree that the best way to sell livestock is to keep displays clean and well-lit.

Light the Way
All retailers reported having some kind of special lighting on their show aquariums and coral display, whether it’s metal halides, LEDs, or high-output T-5s. However, a few have gone a step farther and expanded specialty lighting to fish displays.

“We even use Current LEDs over our freshwater displays,” Aquarium World’s Joslyn said. “They really brighten things up and add that ripple effect in the water.”

Stores find that special lighting throughout the entire store makes everything look more attractive.

“I like using actinic bulbs in our store fixtures,” Something Fishy’s Hale said. “It’s much better than drab, yellow fluorescents.”

A consideration for lighting displays throughout the store is the efficiency of the lights. Metal halides are being phased out in favor of LEDs.

“LEDs are easier on the electric bill as the lights themselves take less power,” Nguyen said. “The air conditioner isn’t working overtime to combat the heat that is common from metal halides, so the store stays cool.”

The LED fixtures are just as pricey as their less efficient counterparts, but the choice is clear.

“We use LEDs on our show aquarium,” said Marc Pieproforte, owner of The Ultimate Aquarium in Visalia, Calif. “The Kessil 8350 LED light pendants are well-priced for a much better spectrum.”

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