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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Becoming ‘The Best’

By Patrick Donston

Store Owner, Absolutely Fish


All of us should be striving to have the best fish department or store in our areas. The question is how to truly market your shop and build it as the best. Always debatable, the best fish shop is probably the one that most hobbyists visit, therefore selling the most fish.

There are three general shop characteristics consumers will seek out when looking for a good place to purchase fish:

  1. Ambiance: a really cool-looking interior. One with a great atmosphere, such as erupting volcanoes, rivers flowing, shark and ray pools, elaborate koi ponds--you get the picture. This is fun and exciting, and gives the customer a real "aquatic experience."
  2. Selection: an absolute awesome range of livestock. You know, the one where you can always find weird fish, rare African
    cichlids or plecos, or newly discovered fish entering the hobby. This is usually the type hardcore hobbyists visit the most.
  3. Bargain: really low prices. A store with the cheapest prices around; will beat anybody or anything in town.

No matter what type of store you have, you need to develop some sort of a plan when trying to make your shop "the best." If you aim to market your shop after one or more of these strategies (note: it is very difficult to be all three), it is important to remember, "You have to spend money to make money." But how to allocate it?

It should be a mixture of ambiance and fish selection, with fish selection--and health--coming first. It takes fewer funds to become “the best” at this and as your reputation grows, you can then allocate revenue toward ambiance.

A clean, plain shop with great fish will survive longer than a large, over-budget, elaborately decorated store with bad fish. Bargain, #3, is difficult to mix into the pot, since revenue is key for success in #s 1 and 2.

Brick-and-mortar bargain shops usually do not work out because their margin per sale versus operating expense and livestock inventory falls out of balance. They'll last for some time, but bills catch up with them sooner or later. Remember, no matter how cheap you are someone else will always be cheaper.

Hey, notice I didn’t mention service as one of the characteristics retailers focus. That's because it's a no-brainer. We all want service in today's retailing world. Service with a smile--and knowledge--that's what customer's value most.

This doesn't come cheap and operating revenue must be allocated to multiple sources, such as employee payroll, staff training and communications, customer promotions and animal husbandry (oh yes, that is service, too).

When I travel, I always want to see great fish shops. I can tell you I've seen a bunch and of all of the great shops I've seen, none were bargain shops. They all have flavor. Some are small and intimate, some are large and beautiful, and some are dingy and dark.

So what makes them great? They all have good fish, a great selection, knowledgeable staff and owners/managers that understand the value of service when it comes to marketing themselves as “the best.”

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Becoming ‘The Best’

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Reader Comments
Right on the money (literally)!
Ron, Tyler, TX
Posted: 7/14/2009 10:20:46 AM
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