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Herp Marketplace: Generate a Surge in Reptile Lighting Sales

Posted: April 18, 2012, 4:55 p.m. EDT

Selling the newest lighting products that reflect technological advances can energize business.
By Cheryl Reeves

Herpkeepers who want to deliver the proper amounts of UVA and UVB rays to their cold-blooded pets often rely on retailer know-how to guide them to the appropriate product for their specific needs. Moreover, according to industry insiders, being the first retailer to introduce consumers to the newest bulbs and lamps on the market sends a powerful message.

“In a sense, these new products represent a wholesale re-education of retailers and consumers on how reptiles work, their individual requirements and limitations,” said John Courteney-Smith, the reptile products manager at Arcadia Reptile, a manufacturer based in Redhill, Surrey, United Kingdom.

Lighting products for reptiles are becoming even more energy-efficient and feature longer and longer life spans, Courteney-Smith stated. In addition, Arcadia’s new D3 and D3+ lamps offer consumers a means to provide higher and safer levels of UV over a larger area, he said.

turtle light
Given the technological advances, he noted, “one word sums up the years ahead in the reptile trade: education.”

Another trend involves multifunctional lamps and bulbs that are easier to install and take up less space in an animal’s habitat, said Ralf Rombach, a biologist on the research and quality management team at JBL GmbH & Co., in Neuhofen, Germany. Equally important, he added, are products that offer precision-tuned levels of light to establish in captivity what an animal would experience in the wild.
JBL’s newest lamps, the ReptilDesert LUW and ReptilJungle LUW, were designed to take lighting to the next level, Rombach reported.

“These full-spectrum metal halide lamps offer a very high color rendering, and the two differ in color temperature: the Jungle has a temperature corresponding to warm white light and the Desert’s temperature corresponds to cold white light,” he said.

High-Tech Devices
Marie Person, a sales associate at The Bird and Reptile Connection in Walpole, Mass., said her customers would welcome longer-lasting UVB bulbs and devices that alert hobbyists when it’s time to replace a lamp—something that JBL’s TempSet unit does.

“When customers come in to buy bulbs, I tell them to remember they need new ones in a year,” Person pointed out. “If they come in on, say Memorial Day weekend, I tell them to remember that holiday next year as your new bulb-buying time.”

A product retailers like Person can recommend to customers who want to measure UVB levels with the click of a button is Solartech Inc.’s Solarmeter 6.2. Steve Mackin, president of the Harrison Township, Mich., manufacturer, said herpkeepers need to monitor the intensity and age of lamps so animals always receive the correct amount of UVB.

“The Solarmeter was designed for convenience and accuracy,” Mackin noted. “It’s a handheld device that users can point at a lamp to get a bright LED readout. It’s an affordable purchase for most consumers.”

At Azo Reptiles, an online store based in Yonkers, N.Y., a new product that’s selling well is the Nature Zone High Noon Compact Hybrid Lamp.

Industry Voices
How do you help retailers increase their sales of reptile lighting products?

“We conduct regular training for staff members in the pet industry and we create tailor-made course materials. We offer displays and promotional information at the point of sale. We also publish comprehensive information on our website.”
Ralf Rombach, a biologist at JBL GmbH & Co. in Neuhofen, Germany

“We offer signage and will shortly have a video on the Web to help demonstrate the value of our lights. We recommend that retailers use our lamps in their cages to help the customer see the actual benefits.”
Paul Benson, president of Nature Zone in Chico, Calif.

“We are always updating our POS and signage so that retailers always have a fresh display. We also make a point of meeting consumers at expos and club meets. The most successful way of promoting a premium brand is to take the time to speak to individuals and small groups as they will then see the brand’s passion and listen to the science that drives it.”
John Courteney-Smith, reptile products manager at Arcadia Reptile in Redhill, Surrey,United Kingdom

“Advanced lighting is best sold by display example. Nothing beats a beautiful vivarium, and when customers see lighting demonstrate a vibrant dawn, followed by a red-yellow dusk, and finally turning to moonlight glow, they realize the capability in these new devices and the value they add both to the display and to the animals’ well-being.”
Tony Escobar, owner of EcoZone Vivarium in San Jose, Calif.

“This is the most innovative product we’ve seen in awhile,” reported the store’s owner, Tom Barone. “It’s nice and bright but doesn’t seem to bother the reptiles’ eyes. The product is also really easy to mount inside cages.”

The lamp is composed of three “U” tubes mounted in a self-ballasted base, said Paul Benson, president of Chico, Calif.-based Nature Zone.

“What makes our lamp unique is that two of these “U” tubes output a bright daylight 6500 K spectrum light,” he noted. “The third light outputs a 10 percent UVB light. The brightness helps stimulate a more normal behavior in the reptile, resulting in increased breeding and better appetite.”

Affordable innovation continues to be a big concern for consumers, retailers reported.

For this reason, Fluker’s Sun Spot Mercury Vapor Bulbs and Sun Dome lighting fixtures are strong sellers at Azo Reptiles, Barone said.
“We use both the 100- and 160-watt bulbs,” he pointed out. “They are inexpensive and provide both UV and heat. The Sun Dome’s shape allows both heat and light to be concentrated expertly where you want it to be.”

Lighting the Way Forward
The lighting sector is moving toward the sleek, low-profile, timer-outfitted, multifunctional side, reported Thomas White, president and general manager of Conceptual Creations Pet Products in Phoenix.

“It’s only natural that as technology progresses, it will reach across every application,” White noted.

His company’s newest lighting product is the Deluxe Arizona Hot Clamp Lamp with Dimmer. The lamp delivers adjustable light and heat output and a dimmer function.

Retailers would do best also selling both advanced lighting products and durable, affordable mainstays such as standard base units, White recommended.

Case in point: Garrett Hoeflich, manager at Pet Supply, a store in Irvine, Calif., generates repeat business by helping parents put together first-time reptile habitats for their kids.

“We guide them through a basic setup, and then what usually happens is the customer comes back after a short period to modernize the habitat with more advanced products,” Hoeflich said. “They’re hooked on the hobby, have gained some confidence and are ready for the next level.”

Another advancement involves LED lighting, according to manufacturers.

“It’s finally becoming more reliable and affordable,” said Tony Escobar, owner of EcoZone Vivarium, a San Jose, Calif., manufacturer. “This opens up many opportunities for the reptile industry to follow in the footsteps of the aquarium lighting industry.”

In addition to more LED products, consumer demand will rise for attractive, decorative lighting products that eliminate the “cables everywhere” approach, said Arcadia Reptile’s Courteney-Smith.

Another mainstay, fluorescent lighting, has come a long way, Escobar reported.

“Now we have better specific spectrum bulbs for desert and tropical habitats,” he commented.  “We see lighting move from T12 to T8, and finally to T5/HO for its bright output and efficiency.”

Referring to his company’s new dimmable fluorescent fixtures, he said that the bulbs are still considered specialty items but that retailers can promote these advanced products to hobbyists willing to invest in sophisticated, naturalistic environments.

The Future Is Now
Dave Yao, owner of Dave’s Dragons in Manchester, N.H., said he and his employees avidly keep up with trends in the reptile industry by reading trade magazines, online forums and manufacturer websites. Educating consumers is a big focus at his store.

“We’re very conscientious about being informed and sharing information with our customers, especially on lighting principles,” said Yao, adding that his best-selling bulbs are from Exo Terra because of what he called the brand’s reliability and reasonable price.

“While consumers are very price-conscious, they also want the best and longest-lasting bulbs they can afford,” he noted. “Creating a highly naturalistic environment for their pets is also an important and increasingly popular priority. Many of our customers have multiple reptiles and want to show off their animals in the best light.”

The natural vivarium environment is the next big phase of the hobby, Escobar predicted.

“When the consumer needs something in the future,” White added, “they will always look to the retailer who has the best selection and the best customer service.” 


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