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Capture Aquatic Food Market Share

Posted: September 20, 2011

 Knowing the ins and outs of marketing these products to hobbyists means retailers can hold sway of this repeat sales staple.
By Maddy Heleine

Fish Flakes
Retailers can help to increase sales and profits on aquatic fish food by training employees, taking advantage of in-store stocking strategies, considering special buying options, and using manufacture- supplied sales items. The difference between financial success and mediocre sales is simply a matter of using available resources to their advantage.

“While working in retail for three years, I heard a lot of customer complaints because someone at another store sold them the wrong fish food,” said Cody Chapin, sales and marketing representative at Ocean Nutrition and San Francisco Bay Brand in Newark, Calif. “Bad customer advice is a huge problem today, and it can result in a loss of profits when consumers migrate to other stores to correct past problems.”

“Many retail employees overlook the importance of marketing their store and staff as a reliable team,” Chapin continued. “Retailers need to set up training programs for their new employees so that they have the tools they need to make sure the right fish food is recommended. Set up feeding charts to remind employees which food is the right choice for each species of fish. Make sure there is Internet available in the store so that difficult questions can be quickly researched.”

Other manufacturers are also noticing this current problem.

“The industry is changing to mass marketing with the continual loss of mom and pop stores, so there is a serious lack of trained hobbyists in retail positions that can help newer employees learn proper sales and feeding methods,” said Mark Lamon, vice president of Ocean Star International in Snowville, Utah. “Specialty fish stores are fading away, and because of the economy larger retailers are trying to cut costs. Cost cutting often results in the loss of training programs for employees.”

“The key to success is for owners to educate themselves by calling manufacturers’ sales reps to get important information about selling and marketing the fish food that they stock,” Lamon added. “Too many owners are relying on the Internet alone to gather information. The problem with surfing the World Wide Web is that you can get both good and bad advice, so you need to have manufacturer support systems to confirm information.”

Mark Roberts, a sales employee at Mark’s Tropical Fish and Pet Supplies in Studio City, Calif., feels that it is important for employees to remain current about what’s new in the aquatic food industry.

“Fish foods are continually changing, so retailers need to make sure they provide the best new food available, instead of stocking tons of outdated products,” he said. “Talk to manufacturers and see what they have.”

Various opinions in the industry exist regarding what to stock, how much to stock and when to update offerings. Chris Clevers, president of Hikari USA in Hayward, Calif., said he believes that retailers tend to stock too many food products, thereby confusing the consumer.

“Streamlining only top quality food products simplifies shelf selection and allows retailers to personally test each fish food that they stock before they make a product recommendation to a customer,” he said. “This will help to ensure that the manufacturer’s sales pitch matches the actual product performance.”

“Frequent food buyer programs make sense for retailers trying to tie consumers to their location,” Clevers added. “And getting them to use frozen foods as a treat or supplemental food will pay big dividends to the retailer’s bottom line and repeat customer counts.”

Relying on manufacturers to supply repeat sales opportunities isn’t the only route available. Some retail stores have begun manufacturing their own fish food products.

“We have done the research to make and sell our own fish food,” said Gloria Jones, owner of The Pond Professional in Atlanta, Ga. “This food can be purchased online, and allows other retailers to buy a quality product in bulk that they can label and market themselves. Bulk food cuts down on the amount of stock that retailers need to carry and provides them with a great way to save money through sales by avoiding packaging costs.”

Pracilla Shirley, sales operator at Zeigler Bros. in Gardners, Pa., agreed. “When retailers buy fish food in bulk, it allows them to save a large amount of money. It also allows them to test the product and sell what they know works because they are not burdened down with a large amount of excess stock. They can make their own attractive labeling to draw attention to the fish food and increase sales.”

Still, it may be hard to completely separate a retail location from manufactured fish foods, and with the various marketing tools available through different companies, retailers have a strong incentive to offer such items.

 ““When manufactures take the time to provide great POP [point of purchase] products to retailers, that can also make selling and choosing the correct fish food for each species a whole lot easier for store owners and customers,” said Michael Hresko, owner of House of Tropicals in Glen Durie, Maryland.

As retailers become proactive, take time to consult with manufactures, stock a good line of fish food products, and train their employees, their customers become the ultimate winners by successful purchasing the correct feeding products for the species they keep. Only through a meeting of the minds between retailers and manufactures can this important goal be accomplished. 

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