Aquatics retailers can stay ahead of the competition by mastering and marketing tank setup and maintenance services.
There are many services a retailer can offer customers within its own four walls. Some, however, require some mobility on the retailer’s part. While tank delivery and set-up may not be great money-makers, they are services retailers need to offer if they hope to sell a fair quantity of large tank setups. Tank maintenance, on the other hand, is not a necessity, but it can make a great deal of money for a standard retail operation.
It is not always simple to schedule and perform jobs outside the confines of your business. A perfect example is the delivery of a tank setup. First, you must coordinate your availability with that of the client. Let’s assume the question of having a suitable vehicle is not an issue. The odds are that you would only be transporting a large (55 gallons or more) aquarium since customers can probably handle anything smaller. It will require two people to move equipment of this size. Perhaps the client can only be home after 5:00 PM–often the busiest time for a store–so it may be difficult to spare two people.
Once a time is set, it is up to you to show up with some reasonable degree of accuracy, taking into account the distance you have to travel and potential traffic. You should promise nothing more than to arrive within a window of time, just to be on the safe side. Unexpected surprises may include having to hoist the tank up a flight of stairs, dogs that try to bite you, or a customer who is not really certain where the aquarium should go.
Maybe, in order to make this sale, you offered free delivery and/or free set-up? If this is the case, be prepared to make a thousand and one decisions that the owner didn’t make. Also, if this is your first visit to the location there may be many logistical surprises you never took into consideration. For example, how close can you park to the entrance door? Where is the nearest electrical outlet, water source, bathroom or utility sink? Is the tank and stand being set up on carpet, wood or tile?
If the tank set-up includes selecting and positioning the décor, be prepared for an extended visit depending on the sensibilities of the client. Anything having to do with internal décor should have been settled well before you arrive. With an initial set-up there is always a good chance that a second refining visit will be necessary; in fact, you can almost count on it being a necessity if the client has no experience with aquariums. The cost of this should not come as a surprise to the customer.
I have found that it almost never pays to offer free set-up, but free delivery is a really excellent perk that customers appreciate. The cost of delivery will depend primarily on the number of people needed, the distance of the site from the store and the amount of traffic that might be encountered.
Along with offering tank delivery and set-up, providing a maintenance service will add a professional nuance that is missing in most retail pet shops. It extends the reach and widens the breadth of a retailer’s brand. Providing a quality maintenance service can go a long way to increase consumer confidence in a retailer’s expertise when it comes to all matters aquatic.
Retailers should promote their services with brochures and business cards that are available on endcap displays or by the register. The material should detail all the functions the company can perform. Photos of service personnel and jobs completed will personalize the advertisement and give potential customers something to think about.
Every maintenance account is a regularly scheduled visit that will bring in money retailers can count on week after week. While you can never be certain how much you will make on retail sales in a month, maintenance fees can provide a stable flow of money.
Edward C. Taylor has been in the pet industry for over 30 years as a retailer, live fish importer and wholesaler, and fish-hatchery manager.