Pet Business: What is the state of the aquarium category today, and what is driving this performance?
Paul Stevenson: There will always be those who do well, no matter what the economy is doing. The aquarium industry, like all industries, needs to innovate and bring in new ideas. Car manufacturers do this all the time, so does the phone industry. None of us drive the same technology we did 10 years ago, and would any of us put up with a 10-year-old cell phone? These days, standing still is the same as going backwards. Innovation pushes us forward.
In store, the success of the aquatic section is impacted by the quality of store displays. A good display can make tanks really inspirational and this, in turn, helps drive interest and generate the repeat spends.
PB: How can independent pet specialty retailers successfully compete with bigger players in the aquarium market?
Stevenson: It’s about the simple things, really—which probably sound quite obvious. Expert advice. Better product knowledge. Customer care. Sometimes being the biggest means you lose some of the personal touches that customers like. In short, they should celebrate what’s good about being independent. In our experience, good independent retailers are usually the ones who go the extra mile for their customers.
PB: How does Reef One’s approach to the aquarium business differ from other manufacturers, and what sets you apart from the rest?
Stevenson: We’re enthusiasts, innovators and perfectionists. The biOrb was born out of not being willing to accept what was already on offer. Before biOrb, aquariums were just sheets of glass stuck together with silicone sealer. They were about as inspiring as a shower cubicle. There was no reason why an aquarium couldn’t be engineered in the same way any other quality household product is engineered. It’s just that nobody had. So we did. We set out to make the best quality products we could. We wanted them to be so good that you’d want to tell your friends about them.
PB: What are Reef One’s newest product introductions, and how do they improve upon what was already available in the market?
Stevenson: We recently launched our Intelligent Heater. For years, aquariums have been heated with coil heaters in glass tubes. These are adequate, but what if the glass cracks or the rubber seal perishes? Then you have a mains voltage cable in a tank of water.
By contrast, the Intelligent Heater runs on only 12 volts and uses solid-state heating. It checks the water temperature 50 times a second and only uses just enough power to maintain the water’s temperature. We believe it’s the safest way to heat your aquarium.
PB: What does the future hold for Reef One and the aquarium category as a whole?
Stevenson: To tell the truth, we’ve only just scratched the surface of what’s possible. We’re working on new innovative designs all the time. There are some really exciting products coming up soon. The best thing to do is sign up to receive our newsletters at reef-one.com. Then you’ll get a preview of our new products before they hit the high street.
Fish keeping is as popular as ever, and we hope that our products continue to bring customers into the market. I see no reason why the aquarium category shouldn’t continue to grow—it just needs new ideas and innovative products.