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How to grow your aquatics business

Shoppers’ habits are continuing to change with the introduction of technology increasingly influencing how and where they shop and so it’s important for retailers to form solid relationships with their customers in order to drive their business forward and ensure repeat purchase.

What’s more, aquatic retailers have a huge advantage over other industries as they are able to provide a really interactive experience with livestock and operate in an industry where knowledge and advice is key for the shopper.

Kevin Rose, chairman of OATA and on the board of directors for the Aqua Show, owns Lynchford Aquatics, a well known aquatics store in Farnborough which caters for tropical, freshwater and marine shoppers at all levels, in addition to offering pond and aquarium maintenance services. With over 33 years of experience and an active interest in the success of the industry, we’ve been catching up on some of the trends and insights he’s been noting in his store.

S: Getting an aquarium can be daunting for a lot of consumers, but what questions do you tend to get asked the most?

K: We find that a lot of customers are usually loaded with questions, especially if they’ve been researching online and have come across conflicting ideas and opinions on the best way to keep fish. Overall, the most common questions we get asked are whether it’s hard or complicated to keep fish, what maintenance is involved and whether it’s expensive in the long term. There’s also quite a misconception around cold water fish being easier to keep than tropical freshwater. However, it’s important to remember that cold water and traditional goldfish can create more waste than tropical and temperate species which may not be as well suited to a beginner who is getting to grips with maintenance as this may put them off the hobby if they feel there is too much work involved.

S: Are there any challenges you face when it comes to engaging consumers with fishkeeping?

K: To a new fishkeeper, maintenance can seem daunting and so it’s definitely a challenge finding the right balance between making sure they have everything they need in terms of the knowledge of what is required to keep their aquarium and fish healthy, and not overwhelming them or positioning fishkeeping as a chore. We want them to engage with their new hobby and the upkeep of their aquarium should be part of the enjoyment. As a retailer it is our job to help newcomers to fishkeeping by being supportive and informative as this in turn helps to ensure they continue with their aquarium in the future, creating loyal customers and ensuring long term growth of the industry.

S: How successful do you find consumers are once they become fishkeepers?

K: We find the majority of our customers have a successful experience and stay in the hobby for many years. We always try to discourage them from using the internet for information as it tends to confuse them. There are many websites with contradicting views on how things should be done and often this can confuse customers with misleading or inaccurate information. Our advice is to find a good aquatic retailer and stick with them. It is better to build a relationship with that retailer and use them for a successful experience.

S: What do you think the opportunities are for your store when it comes to driving interest in fishkeeping?

K: The use of social media has become much more important to us over recent years as a means of communicating and engaging with our customers on an informal but regular basis. Becoming more ‘savvy’ with these trends has definitely had a positive impact on our business and should not be neglected.

We also look at companies that are collaborative with each other. Companies like Yell tend to have agreements with Apple and Google which means they now are compatible with voice assistants. There is a big rise in consumers using voice recognition devices to search for products and businesses. We think it is worth staying abreast of these developments and use that to target our message through advertising and marketing.

S: How do manufacturers tend to work with you and is there anything they could do to support you more?

K: Manufacturers and suppliers are pretty good by and large. We have generally stuck to the same suppliers across the industry who work in a similar way to ourselves. After over 30 years in the trade you get to know most of the people in it and have built strong relationships – not too dissimilar to our customers and how we are with them.

How manufacturers can support retailers to boost the industry

Lynchford Aquatics is a great example of how successful fishkeeping can be. Although the importance of shops selling livestock has often been misplaced over the years, in particular with the growth of online, Tetra is fully committed to supporting the aquatics trade by investing in its sales force. Territory managers are there to offer advice and support to retailers with things such as instore POS, and digital marketing.

On top of this day to day support Tetra is able to offer, with its world leading research and development, a steady flow of innovation designed to improve the lives of fish with high quality food and care products while helping to improve fishkeeping in general, making it easier for hobbyists to spend more time enjoying their aquarium and less time doing the less popular tasks associated such as maintenance and cleaning.

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