Heating up Winter Sales

Retailers should take the opportunity to generate excitement and sales in the fish department this holiday selling season.


Now that the recession has been officially declared over, I wish someone would tell my customers. Business seems to be lagging behind the projected good news, but, hopefully, this is nothing more than a delayed reaction. The holiday season is upon us, and it is time to gear up for what should be the best winter for pet sales in several years. Here are some ideas that pet specialty retailers can employ to do just that.

The “Double Decker” deal is hard to beat because it instantaneously makes anyone a multiple-tank owner. A retailer’s first job is to find a source for metal stands that can hold two tanks—one above and one below. A perfect example would be a split-level stand with a 55-gallon on top and a 30-gallon (long) underneath. These “Two for One” setups will work magic for selling extra equipment. Retailers should concentrate setup hardware on the  upper tank. Both tanks shouldn’t be started at once; the upper aquarium should always be first. All the peripheral items for the smaller tank can be purchased at a later date, guaranteeing return sales.

For a more “upscale” special, retailers can offer a “Reef-Ready System” deal with everything needed to set up a reef tank including salt, RO-water, a coupon for live rock and another coupon for live fish and/or corals and other invertebrates. This will obviously be an expensive package, but it is a great way to immerse someone in the reef hobby in one giant step. A class for novices or even personal instruction will add to the package’s value.

Upgrade Specials
Not every holiday special can focus on major items; small items can work wonders too. Over-flow power filters are my idea of a perfect item for special sales. Most of them are boxed “complete,” meaning they come with everything you need to set up the filter. In other words, no muss, no fuss. Virtually every tank can use a filter upgrade, so it’s an easy item to sell.

A twist on upgrades would be to offer a power filter at or just below the regular price, but throw in an appropriate heater for free. This could be called the “Double Whammy Upgrade” deal, and it should appeal to many customers who already have a fish tank.

Retailers looking to generate some in-store excitement can post a large sign inviting customers to hunt for the various unadvertised specials in the aquatics department. The specials can rotate daily during the holiday season. Customers will have to visit the store in person to find out what the day’s deals are. Also, retailers can appoint an employee to be “Secret Santa” for the day. The Secret Santa’s identity is revealed only if a customer asks the appointed employee if he or she is the “Secret Santa.” Customers who ask the right employee will receive  a special discount on designated items. Retailers can even give trusted employees leeway to accommodate customers who are looking for specific products or livestock. It’s all about making the customer feel special.

Retailers may also want to try a twist on the “12 Days of Christmas.” During the “Five Days of Pre-Christmas,” December 20 to 24, retailers can offer sequentially increasing discounts on all items in the aquatics department. The sale kicks off on Monday, December 20, with 10-percent discounts. It bumps up to 15 percent on Tuesday, 20 percent on Wednesday, 25 percent on Thursday and, finally, on Friday (Christmas Eve), a full 30 percent. In previous years, I have discouraged giving such large discounts during the busy season, since people are usually willing to spend money at this time of year no matter what. This year, however, many retailers are standing in a hole they need to dig out of. This is one way to jumpstart their recovery.

Marine Sales

In the marine department there are numerous holiday sale opportunities, each having to do with a specific type of product: metal halide lighting, T-5 lighting, LED lighting, protein skimmers, wet/dry sumps, sump pumps, UV-sterilizers, etc. These are the larger, more expensive items, but there are also plenty of lower-priced choices as well: calcium reactors, phosphate (removal) reactors, light bulbs, dosing chemicals, coral foods, marine salt, tank substrates, etc.  Consumables are a really good choice, since customers may buy extra just so they have some in reserve at all times. Don’t forget the small items that make good “stocking stuffers,” such as test kits, refractometers, marine epoxy, algae sheets, aquarium magnets and books.

In the marine livestock category, I would concentrate specials on the common items before Christmas and the expensive items afterwards. For example, a retailer can run quantity discounts on shrimp, hermit crabs, turbo snails, sea hares, damsels, gobies, blennies and any schooling fish such as cardinals, anthias, firefish, etc. Later, a store can concentrate on the larger individual fish such as groupers, tangs, butterflies, pomacanthid angels, wrasses and lionfish. Give people a chance to buy corals as well. Although there are many high-priced specimens on today’s market, it would be best to avoid these and place the cheaper varieties on special. Retailers should always be able to get and give a deal on these.

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.

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