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Herp Marketplace: Function Trumps Form

Posted: September 3, 2013, 10:15 a.m. EDT

But the herp sector trend toward naturalistic décor and habitats meld the two perfectly.

By Don Jergler

Function over form is key when considering herp décor, but having a little bit of both never hurts, according to experts on the subject.

"One big and important trend is décor and accessories designed with the needs and requirements of herps in mind, not just a product that appeals to the reptile owner,” said Paul Demas, project manager of Penn-Plax Inc. in Hauppauge, N.Y. "A balance between the two is critical, and hitting that perfect balance is critical to both sales and the best interest of the animals involved.”

Ashley Rademacher, an animal care and education coordinator for Zoo Med Labs Inc. in San Luis Obispo, Calif., places a great deal of importance on the look of a herp’s home within the home of its owner.

Herp Decor
Natural-looking terrarium décor is what herp owners seek. Zoo Med Laboratories Inc.

"While a terrarium serves to provide a habitat for a pet, it is also commonly a fixture or piece of furniture in a home,” Rademacher said. "This makes it important for décor to not only serve a purpose for the pet but also to look nice and be part of the décor in a home.”

Au Naturel
Natural is a trend that might be here to stay when it comes to herps, Rademacher said.

"Building a terrarium that has a naturalistic look can serve to provide a healthy environment for the pet that promotes natural behaviors but also to be an attractive focal point in a room,” Rademacher said.

"Our Naturalistic Terrariums and accessories, such as the Waterfall Kit, Mopani Wood and Naturalistic Flora, work together well to help bring a little piece of nature indoors to create an attractive enclosure that is convenient for the keeper, a healthy environment for the animal and an attractive piece in a home.

"With the proper products, convenience does not have to be sacrificed in order to have a naturalistic looking herp habitat,” she added.

"Natural looking will always be a best seller and a hot trend in the herp marketplace,” Demas said.

"Keeping animals in natural settings provides a less stressful captive environment for them.”

David Hanono, president of T-Rex Products in Chula Vista, Calif., said customer interest in natural-looking items continues to be on the uptick.

"We feel a big trend is naturalistic décor items for terrariums,” Hanono said. "We get many calls from retailers and consumers asking about our natural décor items. We have recently introduced Terra Accents, a new series of natural décor items under our Terra Scape Series.”

However, it’s the phrase "natural looking” that Randy Aaronsen, owner of Reptiles Unlimited in Long Beach, Calif., likes to home in on when talking about décor.

Aaronsen prefers to offer products that enable herp owners to get terrariums as naturalistic as possible without having to go out and try to locate and purchase plants that can be hard to find and expensive to buy.

"My personal experience over the last 20 years is I try to make the tank fauna as close to the animals’ natural fauna as possible, whether it’s desert rainforest, with artificial stuff,” he said, adding that some hobbyists are adorning tanks with frog moss, tropical plants, orchids and exotic flowers and plants, but most of his clients do not have the time or resources for such endeavors.

"A lot of guys are trying to go all natural, but it’s a lot of work,” he said. "It’s a full-time job to keep up with that.”

Artificial adornments are aesthetically pleasing and more in the ballpark for your typical reptile owner, he said.

"My average sale is usually the adults buying for their children, and the adults end up taking care of the animal,” he added.

Aaronsen buys from sellers such as Zoo Med and Zilla; however, in the down economy he saw a number of his suppliers go by the wayside.

"A lot of people I got this stuff from are gone,” he said. "The economy took them out, and now it’s getting harder to find some of this stuff.”

Marketing Tips
Beside the importance of functionality of products, seeing them in use is a great way to get customers to buy them, Demas said.

"I am a firm believer that the consumer needs to see these items in use by the store’s herps,” Demas said. "Creative setups will help the products to fly off the shelves. It can be hard for some consumers to imagine what an item would look like in a setup if they just see the item sitting on a boring shelf. Several store displays are the best way to go.”

"It is best [for retailers] to set up the terrariums in their store with décor and substrate items they sell,” Hanono said. "This gives ideas to their customers on how to set up a terrarium.”

According to Rademacher, instilling a bit of "inspiration” is key to marketing herp products well.

"One of the best ways to market these kinds of products is to have an inspirational tank set up in the store or examples on the website,” she said.

"Showing the product in use is a great way to inspire customers to try building their own custom habitat. Allowing customers to watch store employees work with the product or having a tank-building workshop to encourage customers to attempt something new are other creative methods to promote these décor products.”

DIY Décor
Do-it-yourself is another big trend in herp décor, Rademacher said.

"Many of our décor products are intended to allow herp keepers to create their own tank designs,” she said. "The Waterfall Kit, for example, can be combined with almost any piece of wood, rock or other décor to create a custom, natural-looking waterfall.”

Another do-it-yourself décor item is Zoo Med Laboratories’ Excavator Clay Burrowing Substrate, which can be mixed with water to create a claylike substrate that can be used to create hills, tunnels and caves.

"It is also great for holding other décor items, such as wood and rocks, in place,” Rademacher said.

The do-it-yourself items enable keepers to be creative and create their vision of a perfect environment for their pets, she added. <HOME>


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