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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Will the Fish Industry Have a Next Generation?

By Melissa Kauffman

Editorial Director, BowTie Incorporated

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Star Trek has it – in fact, it has had several. Wrestling has it – from the ancient Greeks to today’s UFC fighters. Even leg warmers have it, albeit I hope they don’t have it for much longer. What all of these have is a next generation, picking up the mantle so the product or the hobby enjoys longevity.

When it comes to the pet industry, manufacturers and retailers are pretty comfortable about future generations continuing to enjoy their pet dogs and cats. However, when it comes to the more exotic pets, such as birds, critters, reptiles and fish, the future is more uncertain.

The fish industry, in particular, has concerns about reaching the next generation. Fishkeeping has both a visual and mental allure, but the lack of a bond and the chore of tank maintenance may make it less attractive to the next generation (the Millennials, born in 1980 and onward), let alone the one after that (I’ve heard them called the Screenagers, due to their fierce devotion to visual cell phones and laptops above anything else).

As fish retailers, you can take steps to get the next generation and beyond involved in fishkeeping. You can do it by getting kids involved at your store or working with schools to create a school program. It will take a little more effort on your behalf and on the behalf of the entire fish industry. Nevertheless, if leg warmers can make a comeback, why can’t fishkeeping?

Here are some tips for on how to get kids involved at your store:

  1. Get them in the store. Create a place in the store that is set apart. The area should have benches a table, folding chairs, etc. You can:
    a. Use this space to hold monthly fishkeeping classes where you cover tank setups, problem solving or introduce new plants or fish.
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    b. Use this space for children’s parties. Parents are always looking for affordable, fun and different ways to throw a child’s birthday party. Choose a price and then create a program. Decorate the area with fish-themed decorations, provide a fish-themed cake from a local bakery and create a fun fish-keeping program where you introduce kids to a lot of cool types of plants and fish. You can even send the partygoers home with a fish that is good for kids. If you select a betta, you can also add a betta book, a big betta bowl and betta food. Have the kids “decorate” the bowl with different gravel, plants and a fun tank element (all included in the party price).
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  2. Celebrate the kids. Kids and parents love when the kids are recognized. Aquarium Fish magazine had a popular kids section in the magazine. Kids love to draw pictures of fish and Aquarium Fish magazine publishes those pictures and puts them online at its website, FisChannel.com. You can create coloring pages and your own art gallery inside the store. Not only will your customers enjoy the fish art, the kids will love to keep coming back to the store to look at their pictures in the art gallery. You can have a new coloring page or art theme each month, so the kids will enter a new picture every month.
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  3. Take time to work with your younger customers. You can even choose an employee that is good with kids and make him/her the point person for kid customer service. This person would also be responsible for creating a kids program in your store. The person can also be available by e-mail to answer questions if kids or their parents are having problems with their newly purchased pet. The Millennials and younger are used to attentive parents, structured lives (even their friends are scheduled as playdates) and interacting with new people via the Internet or through all the activities their parents put them in. They like to do things in teams. By giving them an in-store point person who they can go to with questions, have an enthusiastic conversation with, or even someone who runs a little fish club for them, you will encourage them to form a bond with the hobby. (Click here to check out how retail store Aquatic Village works with is younger customers.)

I spoke to Clay Jackson, Editor of FAMA magazine (Freshwater and Marine Aquarium). The father of two children and a fish society member, Clay understands the challenges that fishkeeping community has in engaging the interests of the next generations. Click on his interview to hear his thoughts on the subject.

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