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10:56 PM   April 20, 2015
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Bagging New Customers With Starter Kits

Retailers can start their customers off right with complete aquarium setups.
By David Lass

To successfully market any product, it may be wise to make the product purchase decision to purchase as easy as possible for customers. In the aquatics industry, aquarium starter kits can make it very easy for customers to decide to buy an aquarium.

Retailers can help new aquarists start off right in the hobby with specially designed starter kits.
Courtesy of Ben Weiner/BowTie Inc.
“Aquarium kits take the guesswork out of aquarium set up,” said Curt Nuenighoff, marketing director of aquatic environments for United Pet Group in Blacksburg, Va. “First time hobbyists have difficulty knowing w hat components they need, and how to match them up for fit and function.”

Aquarium starter kits are reportedly popular with customers as well as store owners and managers. Today’s starter kits all have quality components and are packaged in attractive boxes that increase the chances of making the sale.

“Not only do starter kits cut down on confusion, but they give the busy consumer a one-stop buying option,” said Sean Raines, product manager for aquatic equipment for United Pet Group.

“They get the consumer to the best part of aquarium keeping faster: the fish,” he added. “[With various bacterial starter cultures], the consumer can buy a starter kit and have a healthy, happy aquarium with fish in 24 hours.”

All of the boxed starter kits come with directions on setting up the aquarium, and informative booklets on the general principles of keeping fish. In addition, most manufacturers have extensive websites where hobbyists can continue to learn about the hobby.

What’s in Most Starter Kits?

Starter kits usually include the following:

  • Glass aquarium (sometimes acrylic)
  • Hood with light
  • Filter and filter cartridge
  • Heater
  • Thermometer
  • Net
  • Water conditioner
  • Fish food 
  • Set up and maintenance guide
In addition to making the buying decision easy for customers, starter kits can also help retailers keep their inventory neat and prominently displayed in an attractive manner.

“I have very limited floor space in my store,” said Jim Gentile, owner of The Pet Shop in Allston, Mass. “Being able to keep boxed aquarium sets allows me to display as much inventory as possible in a small space.”

Gentile and other retailers also note that having everything—including the glass aquarium—in a sturdy box really cuts down on breakage problems. Besides the space-saving aspects of starter kits on the retail floor, and the ease of having it all in one box, customers can frequently save money when compared to buying the components separately.

“There is a value proposition with a starter kit,” said Kevin Magana, brand manager for Central Aquatics in Franklin, Wis. “Boxed starter aquariums are available in all of the most popular sizes, with the best selling sizes being 10-, 20-, 29- and 55-gallon boxed sets. Each size is usually priced better than buying all the components separately, and there are many stand options for the consumer to choose from.”

Industry Voices
Why should retailers recommend starter kits to new customers?

“Starter kits are great options for a first aquarium because it takes the guesswork out of making the purchase…Not only do starter kits cut down on confusion, but they give the busy consumer a one-stop buying option.”
Sean Raines, product manager for aquatic equipment for United Pet Group in Blacksburg, Va.


“The greatest aspect of a starter kit is that it positions a consumer to succeed. A properly outfitted starter kit provides consumers with everything they will need to be successful and enjoy fish keeping…We as manufacturers and retailers need to understand that this is also the foundation we are building for future sales on with consumers.”
Damian Hall, marketing and events manager for Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp in Mansfield, Mass.


“I believe a starter kit is a great option for a beginning hobbyist because it provides the necessary components in a single, cost-efficient package. Oftentimes, a hobbyist may postpone the purchase of test-kits or supplements in an attempt to minimize the initial investment. Starter kits help introduce a new hobbyist to discretionary, yet vital accessories, in more affordable trial sizes and/or ’bundled’ prices.”
Scott Kohler, vice president of sales and marketing for Red Sea North America in Houston


“A basic starter kit offers everything that needs to be purchased to set up a functioning tank. They also generally come at a discounted price as opposed to buying the parts individually. The better ones offer above-average performance in a very streamlined package.”
Adam Walter, fish room manager for Little Critters in Exeter, N.H.


“For the entry-level hobbyist, everything has been assembled for them by the manufacturer for them to be successful with their first fish tank. From 10-gallon starter kits up to 29-gallon marine setups with HID, there is a wide variety to choose from.”
Kevin Magana, brand manager for Central Aquatics in Franklin, Wis.

Starter kits also extend to packaged aquarium kits, which come in many different layouts and are available with various options. Though they may not be geared directly toward beginners, these packaged aquarium setups can often represent good choices for first-time fishkeepers.

These more elaborate setups differ from starter kits in that they generally contain more advanced equipment, feature larger aquariums and are available in a variety of designer looks to match the décor of a home, office, child’s room or kitchen. In some cases, these setups really are meant for new hobbyists, but are designed to house more advanced aquarium environments, such as a reef setup.

These packaged units range in size from the 6-gallon Fluval Edge to the 8-, 14- and 29-gallon Oceanic BioCubes and the 34-gallon Red Sea Max.

“The Red Sea Max is designed with hobbyists of all experience levels in mind,” said Scott Kohler, vice president of sales and marketing for Red Sea North America in Houston. “It provides the necessary lighting, flow and filtration, yet is forgiving enough to help ensure the success of a first-time marine hobbyist.”

Manufacturers are also giving more thought and effort to the packaging of aquarium starter kits than in the past. Most starter kits now come in sturdy boxes, with excellent color photos of fish, tanks and other aquatic scenes.

“Boxed aquarium kits lend themselves to being displayed as stack-outs, and especially as end caps,” said Magana.

If there is enough room on the retail floor, it can make a very effective merchandising display to stack different sizes right next to each other, starting with the 10-gallon boxed setup and going all the way up to the 55-gallon, according to several retailers. It is also important to have displays of live tanks, filled with beautiful fish and plants, or with the larger packaged kits set up as marine tanks, to display for customers, many retailers reported.

“Seeing a fully functional aquarium utilizing a kit is a good way to demonstrate what can be accomplished,” said Adam Walter, fish room manager for Little Critters in Exeter, N.H. “This works very well with some of the more visually stunning kits like the Fluval Edge or Oceanic’s Biocubes.”

Whether it is a 10- or 20-gallon starter kit for a first time hobbyist or a more elaborate packaged aquarium setup for a small coral reef tank, boxed aquarium kits can offer it all. They make excellent store displays, are easy to sell and can be easy for customers to set up and maintain. <HOME>

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