Show and Tell

Retailers can attract customers and stimulate sales by creatively building effective displays.


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Building effective displays is paramount to retail performance. As a result of current economic trends, consumers are particularly frugal, and eye-catching presentation of products and services is more important than ever.

General retail rules apply. But when it comes to selling live reptiles and related dry goods required to keep them, specific elements come into play.


Understand the Customer

First and foremost, consumers like to see what they are buying. Many people are cautious (rightfully so) about tearing open manufacturer packaging to peep the product held inside. Rather, they would prefer to see the item displayed in all of its glory, unconfined by cardboard and Styrofoam. In my store, I have made the habit of opening one of nearly every item that comes to us packaged, allowing for full display. Customers can handle the product, see how it works and how it may be incorporated into their pets’ habitat. A product in the hand is worth two on the shelf.

In addition to seeing a product in real-life as opposed to only its’ depiction on a box, people like seeing the products in use. Hides, water bowls, light fixtures, and even misting systems should be utilized somewhere on the sales floor to reflect the products’ full potential.

One of the most effective ways to effectively showcase products is to use them in-store. For retailers, there is no advantage to displaying live animals in elegant environments that cannot be replicated by customers.

Pet shops should make every attempt to utilize products on their shelves in their display enclosures. In our shops, we use the same products we offer for sale. This not only showcases the aesthetic and functional properties of the product, but also reinforces the idea in the mind of the consumer that what we are selling is top-of-the-line, professional-grade equipment.

Everything used in a store display should be offered for sale. From substrates to water bowls to light bulbs, retailers should practice what they preach. Why would someone purchase a light bulb different from the one that has been used on the animal prior to purchase?


Show the Way

Selling herps is a unique business venture. While fish swim around carelessly in an aquarium and hamsters make great use of an exercise wheel, herps are somewhat less “exciting.” Most happy reptiles and amphibians spend their days basking, sleeping and hiding. This produces a unique battle for those wishing to display their live herps “effectively.”

Because of reptiles’ unique behavioral patterns, retailers should pay extra attention to the environment when displaying live reptiles. A properly assembled and attractive enclosure effectively “frames” the animal. And it must be mentioned that while some pet-trade herps may fetch a hefty price, it is the habitat and accessories in which repeat revenue is achieved.

All display enclosures should be kept as clean as possible. Clean water and bedding is not only good for the animals, but allows customers to rest assured that their new pet has been properly looked after prior to taking it home. Additionally, when properly set up, healthy reptiles will perform their normal daily routines, and this can be accentuated by enclosure design and function.

Herps tend to do less in their habitats than some other bread-and-butter pet shop standbys. So retailers need to pay the utmost attention to how and where they are displayed.

A decade ago herps were still considered “fringe” animals, teetering on the edge of what we consider a pet. They were often delegated to a back room or dark corner of a retail space. Today the boom of herpkeeping can be felt throughout the American pet trade, and as a result, these fascinating creatures have earned a place in the retail spotlight.

Herptile enclosures should be well lit, as appropriate for the animal. It is amazing how much difference a low-wattage reptile bulb can make in the appearance of even a basic herp habitat. The bulb eliminates shadows, draws attention to the enclosure and supplies much appreciated heat and wide-spectrum light.

There are few reptile supplies that can be effectively purchased on their own. Exceptions exist, but generally when a customer needs a heat bulb they also need an appropriate fixture.

Retailers should think like their customers. What do they need to get out the door and provide a healthy living environment for their herp? Shops can provide “package” deals that include everything needed to get started or display items that complement each other side by side, perhaps offering a discount incentive to customers that purchase habitat kits including all necessary equipment. This not only boosts sales, but also ensures the wellbeing of the herp and lessens the likelihood of husbandry-related health issues.


Jonathan Rheins is an avid herpeteculturist whose interest in all things reptilian began at an early age. He is a manager at LLLReptile & Supply Co. in Escondido, Calif., and, when not fulfilling that position, spends his time working with and writing about a wide variety of exotic reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates.

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