Throughout most of the continental United States, the pond department in many pet shops is like a neglected stepchild. It only gets to shine when Prince Charming finally comes along to breathe life into it. In this case, Prince Charming is the weather—otherwise known as spring and summer.
Geographically blessed retailers may have up to six months a year during which they can sell a good deal of pond equipment and livestock. For the rest of the year, however, this dormant area can become an eyesore. It is extremely important that you do not allow this to happen.
The end of the pond season is the time for a big blowout sale of equipment. Retailers might be tempted to add livestock to this sale, but it is probably not in customers’ best interest. Most of them will be getting ready to winterize their ponds, and new fish are the last thing they need. There are two categories of products I would emphasize for the winter: back-up pumps and filters, in case something breaks down, and items that will actually help preserve the pond during the cold weather. Items in this category would include: pond covers, in-line and/or mid-water heaters, pond-cleaning equipment and test kits to help keep a close eye on water quality. Thermometers are critical at all times, but especially during the winter. Beyond having those products on hand, it is time to scale back the department.
First, stores that are heavily invested in pond sales are going to have a lot of products that need to be stored during the off-season. Unless a retailer is fortunate enough to have a lot of empty space to spare, storing off-season product on-site is probably not possible. Since most stores can’t afford this luxury, it makes sense to rent a secure storage area nearby and transfer pond items there during the winter.
Still, the two-ton elephant in the room for most retailers is what to do with the unused retail space during the pond off-season. To start, identify sections of your store that pick up during the winter when ponds are in hibernation. Obviously, winter is the strongest time of year for selling aquarium-related items. These slack off during the summer and come back strong as the weather gets colder. Since it is virtually impossible to add livestock facilities to an area that must be transmogrified in a matter of months, the best option is aquarium equipment.
Fill the pond space with aquarium kits—both commercial and in-house creations. If there are any of these left when pond season rolls back around, simply switch them for pond equipment. Aquarium setups take up a lot of room, and you will have that extra room if you just make the pond items disappear for a while.
Still, don’t make the mistake of storing everything pond-related during the winter. Leave the small stuff or anything that might help to protect a pond when it is cold. This should only be a fraction of your pond equipment. In the meantime, you can always access any pond items you moved to storage, if the need arise.
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.