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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

November 3, 2010

What’s In Your Tanks?

By Patrick Donston


When I was young and keeping my first aquarium, I loved when my mom would take me to the pet store to buy fish. I really got excited when the shop had new specimens I'd never seen before. I almost always wanted to try them.

Today's pet stores are larger, more sophisticated and carry a nicer variety of fish. Although "grander" today, shops can still be mundane or complacent in their fish selection. Hobbyists have become more demanding, wanting better fish that live longer, great service and good prices. Hardcore aquarists and advanced hobbyists especially want versatile selections. When I hear a shop tell me; “Our selection is simple, because we want to appeal to beginners.” I wonder why?

Are they saying they want to be really good at getting people started in the hobby and when they're successful just say “goodbye”? I believe in order to stay in business a shop must grow as its clients grow. Clients can't grow if the shop doesn't grow. It's a two-way street.

Last fall I was invited to speak at the A-Fish convention on Long Island. It's a hobbyist show put on by all of the New York City metro fish clubs. There were speakers from all over the country doing presentations on just about every type of freshwater fish, from catfish to rainbows to cichlids. I didn't see all of the presentations, but I remember one by David Boruchowitz, the editor in chief for TFH. Among other topics, he talked about a shop's fish selection and the "ordinary" variety a lot of shops have to offer. He explained that pet shops are businesses and having staple items, such as tiger barbs, are a necessity for revenue flow.  What he couldn't understand is why more shops were not trying to appeal to advanced aquarists--especially now when the availability and variety of fish is much greater than 20 years ago. 
As I met and chatted with the attendees that weekend, I was struck by the number of complaints regarding fish shop selection. They didn't complain about prices, they were disappointed in not being able to drive around and see interesting fish. I was amazed to learn how much commerce was exchanged among themselves and the Internet-- it seems that's the only way to get some items they desired.

In my next couple blogs, I'd like to talk about some different fish you may want to try. By making your shop "hip and happening,” you'll appeal to all aquarists. By advancing your shop, your clients will grow with you. It's a win-win for all.

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