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Heat Up Sales

Posted: July 27, 2011, 3:10 p.m., EDT

Climate management products have become precision-tuned and increasingly digitalized, making for greater accuracy and convenience.

By Cheryl Reeves

The setting and maintaining of proper climate conditions in herp enclosures is essential for these animals to live a healthy, active life. Because optimal temperature and humidity levels differ for various reptiles and amphibians, retailers who understand how to educate beginners and cater to advanced herpkeepers have an edge in gaining loyalty. Pet owners will take note of—and reward with repeat purchases—a store owner who sincerely cares about contributing to the quality of life of their customers’ cold-blooded captive companions.

Stock Quality Products

According to industry participants, the demand for devices such as thermostats, hygrometers and rheostats is determined by the product’s features in terms of durability, accuracy, ease of use and affordability.

Andrew Quinn, education coordinator and national sales assistant at Zoo Med Laboratories Inc. in San Luis Obispo, Calif., said the importance of heating for reptiles cannot be understated.
“Controlling and monitoring temperatures will be every reptile customer’s main priority,” he said. “Any customer that purchases a reptile from your store needs to be educated in the importance of these variables to the health of their animal. Heating control and monitoring products can be excellent sellers and considered a mandatory add-on to every animal sale.”

A wide range of thermometers is available on the market, but Quinn noted that some stand out from the rest and that monitoring temperatures on both the warm and cool side of the cage is important.

“This means that any reptile terrarium should include at least two thermometers,” Quinn said, adding that retailers who practice this strategy in the store will help convince the customer of the need for more than one device.

Talk Up Tech Innovations

Zoo Med’s new ReptiTemp Infrared Digital Thermometer allows herpkeepers to get instant, precise temperatures throughout the cage by pointing and clicking the device, Quinn said. Further, he said, several programmable functions attract the interest of the more experienced reptile owner while offering the user-friendly simplicity needed for beginners.

“Definitely, we are seeing more people opting for reptiles and they are putting serious money into creating top-quality habitats,” said Michael Borchord, the reptile room manager at Preuss Pets in Lansing, Mich. “They’re looking for what’s innovative.”

Borchord is setting up a 180-gallon paludarium display in the store to show off products and animals. He believes the set-up will be a great attraction and educational opportunity for customers.

He plans to use Exo-Terra’s Monsoon High-Pressure Rainfall System to maintain optimal humidity by generating precipitation at programmable intervals. And, because the Monsoon features a one-gallon reservoir, it’s perfect for the large display tank, he said.

In-Store Classrooms

Besides the habitat displays in the reptile room, Borchord recently installed the new Exo Terra Reptile Incubator in his in-store classroom.

“This innovative incubator is a big hit with customers,” he said. “It’s digital, has a bright and easy-to-read LED display and has slide-out shelves. Best of all, customers can clearly see through the glass door.”

Teaching customers about proper climate control is a big focus at Aquariums West in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

“Before people buy a pet, we talk to them to find out how much help they need,” said Kreig Leblanc, the store’s reptile manager. “By the time they are ready to go home with their animal, we make sure they have everything they need. We put a huge focus on education here.”

Leblanc said that business is excellent because of his store’s specialization in reptiles, highly trained and caring employees, and the quality products in stock and on displayed.

Extra Benefits Sell

Devices that combine temperature and humidity control are popular with customers who need reliable set-ups while they are away, Leblanc noted.

“In rheostats, Zoo Med is the bestseller because of its affordable price point but also because of availability,” he said.

Paul Demas, the project manager at Penn Plax Inc., a Hauppauge, N.Y., manufacturer, said combination products continue to be his company’s bestsellers.

“Our Reptology Combo Meters include both a thermometer and hygrometer and at a very affordable price,” he commented. “This way, the customer gets both products that they need right from the start.”

What sets his products apart, he said, is that they come in a square shape rather than a circle.
“The square shape allows the consumer to place the meters perfectly into a corner,” Demas said.
He advised retailers to have a section dedicated to temperature-control devices as well as heating and lighting products.

“Make sure your store employees are well educated on the subject,” Demas emphasized. “Many illnesses in herps are the result of poor climate control. And many herps won’t eat if their temps aren’t correct.”

At Jack’s Aquarium & Pets in Harrison, Ohio, combo products fly off the shelves, especially those that feature an added incentive to buy.

“Depending on a type of animal and its climate needs, people want the two-in-one product,” store manager Amanda Westall said. “Because of their bonus point program, we sell mostly Zilla products to customers who want to save money down the road as their points add up.”

Use, Display and Know

Steven Spitz, the founder and CEO of Big Apple Pet Supply in Hauppauge, N.Y., said retailers should remember that thermometers are the top-selling device in the reptile industry and that thermostats are a close second.

“The bottom line is that retailers must use the products themselves and show them in use,” Spitz said. “They must explain the critical nature of these items and that without them they risk the health of their pet.”

Safety is also an issue that must be addressed.

“Hobbyists are increasingly wising up on the safety of temperature set-ups,” said Jeff Washburn, the owner of Helix Control Systems in Vista, Calif. “Usually whatever goes wrong is human error. For example, someone gets a phone call in the middle of inserting a probe and forgets to finish the job. In addition, people are looking for products that offer durability, longevity and nothing that will corrode or wear out quickly.”

Washburn said he offers detailed instructions, including free technical advice, to help customers get set up properly and safely. He said retailers should make sure they emphasize to beginners the maximum potential that their device’s temperature can reach and what ranges of temperatures are safe and best for their pet.

One innovation that Leblanc said he hasn’t seen yet, but that would be welcome, is a probe that hooks up to a computer so customers can monitor the habitat from afar.

“Most people are tech savvy now and would also love an app that ties into their phone,” he said. “So many customers have money to spend on their hobby, so they would definitely go in for more tech advancement in these types of products.”

Borchord said that, traditionally, sales of reptiles and associated products jump during the summer.

“This is the time to really put the focus on eye-catching displays, quality stock, education and talking up what’s innovative and exciting,” he said. “Generate enthusiasm and you’ll generate business.”

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