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Old 01-07-2014, 11:51 PM   #11
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I would hate to try running a business off of the best bang for the buck crowd. You know why so many LFS fail?
Unfortunately the economy isnt the greatest. Im lucky I can still pursue this hobby with all the cutbacks we've gone through and the economy. Each year things get more expensive but our income isn't increasing enough to keep up with it. Each year we cut back. If I was smart id save the little money I do spend on this hobby but then whats the point in life? You gotta have some things to enjoy depsite barely scraping by. I used to work a lot of overtime but due to inceasing costs of health insurance we couldn't afford childcare any more if we wanted to keep the health insurance so my husband and I work alternating days (12 hour shifts) so one of us is home for the kids.

Point is.... id love to spend a little more for better service and I actually used to... but I still have to shop at walmart.

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Old 01-08-2014, 02:40 AM   #12
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I think that many LFS have failed because they never learned to adapt. Some of the struggling business owners I've spoken to often cite the bad economy or big box stores as the reason for their woes but personally I think it comes down to how the business is run.

The stores that are still thriving are the ones who figured out how to adapt and overcome changes over the last few decades.
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Old 01-08-2014, 03:41 AM   #13
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Have to go out shprtly but i would approach them with the information that they need to set it up. Like a plan for stock tanks, quarantine, a central filtration sytem that allows them to cater for tropical and coldwater, plus reef if they stock that as well. Give them an idea of set up cost and have an estimate of how many fish they will sell. Maybe see the closing LFS and they might do a deal to sell their tank set up and give an idea of the income they were on. This would be a supplement to the reptile store while for the LFS it was the entire income. Point this out in your approach to them. If their is an aquarium club near you then speak to them as well they may want to help with your approach
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Old 01-08-2014, 04:11 PM   #14
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Have to go out shprtly but i would approach them with the information that they need to set it up. Like a plan for stock tanks, quarantine, a central filtration sytem that allows them to cater for tropical and coldwater, plus reef if they stock that as well. Give them an idea of set up cost and have an estimate of how many fish they will sell. Maybe see the closing LFS and they might do a deal to sell their tank set up and give an idea of the income they were on. This would be a supplement to the reptile store while for the LFS it was the entire income. Point this out in your approach to them. If their is an aquarium club near you then speak to them as well they may want to help with your approach

Unfortunately the lfs has already sold just about all their tanks. I'm not sure how much he wants to jump into it at first so would it be better to set up a couple tanks with individual equipment to start instead of getting a central filtration system and then graduate to that as business expands?
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Old 01-08-2014, 07:11 PM   #15
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Unfortunately the lfs has already sold just about all their tanks. I'm not sure how much he wants to jump into it at first so would it be better to set up a couple tanks with individual equipment to start instead of getting a central filtration system and then graduate to that as business expands?
I would get a central system... at least a small one because I think they are less maintenance.

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Old 01-08-2014, 07:43 PM   #16
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I would get a central system... at least a small one because I think they are less maintenance.

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There's a plus and minus to having a centralized system. Way back when, I was very much against centralized systems but have been involved with many since then so I know the pitfalls.
The biggest plus to individual tanks is that IF a tank of fish goes bad ( and they do sometimes by no fault of the store's), you just shut down that tank from sales. In a central system, a bad fish in any section takes out the whole system unless you are using UV or Ozone sterilization, both costly endeavors. Then you have the issue of needing to medicate the entire system that also can get costly. The plus side of having that much water is that you have a bigger amount of water which would take the fish a lot to contaminate or turn sour. Plus ease of maintanence. Minus: all fish shouldn't be kept in the same type water. It will be harder to get your customer to understand that your African Cichlids would be better off in high PH water and your Wild S.A. fish will do better in low PH water when you have them in the same system. It may bring up the question in the customer's mind: " Does this guy know what he is talking about? If he can do it, why can't I?" Both these questions can kill a store.
The common denominator of all the stores that I know that have been around for more than 20 years is "customer service." It's what the box stores lack. I'm not talking about replacing a dead fish or exchanging a filter part either. I'm talking having a good knowledge of what they sell and making sure the customer understands it too. I'm talking about staying open 5 extra minutes when a customer calls and says "My fish are sick and I need medications." I'm talking about getting to know the customer as more than just a Dollar sign. These services are the ones that make customers become the customers that keep a store alive and pay the few extra pennies for an item because they know they are being steered in the right direction. These customers become your best advertising dollar.
We had an expression in the store when mail order pet supplies first started opening up: "A filter is a filter but a fish is not a fish." What that meant was that all, for example, aquaclear 210 filters are the same no matter where you get them but not all red Platies are the same. While the box store's red platies might be cheaper, they would usually also be of a lesser quality and need replacing more frequently. What stopped people in the beginning from buying the fish from us and the filters from Mail Order was that when they received the item and couldn't figure out how to use them, they had noone to call for help. When they asked us for the help, we would give it but we eventually had to stop giving it away as it took away our time from customers that bough their items from us and supported our store and salaries. So was it really the "best bang for the buck?"

Sorry for going off tangent, I was replaying to a number of previous posts
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Old 01-08-2014, 09:18 PM   #17
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My LFS has been around for 35 years in the Denver area. They have been wildly successful and they specialize in coustomer service. They also are extremely knowledgeable about the fish they sell and will not sell a fish to you until they ask what size tank you have and if it is cycled. They even explain cycling as well as the people on this site to beginners who don't have clue what it means. They also sell rare frags and fish for saltwater and will occasionally stock some rare fw fish. They use a large air compressor to run under gravel filers on their tanks and that seems like the best way to go. they also put some fun ornaments in their tanks to appeal to new fish keepers and show how the ornaments they sell look in tanks. When a tank is sick the turn the light off on the tank and don't let anyone buy from that tank to prevent new fish keepers from being scared away by buying diseased fish that dies shortly. Coustomer service is the best way to sell, and carrying a healthy stock is the way to run a fish section. Also under gravel filters being run by a central compressor in individual tanks are the best way to prevent the speed of disease and is pretty cost effective. Hope this helps!
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Old 01-09-2014, 01:39 PM   #18
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All this seems like good information. Is have to sit down with they guy and talk about it and show him the feedback that you all have given. The biggest issue I see at the moment is having someone at the store who really knows their stuff about fish. I know quite a bit but am in no way an expert plus I have a full time job.
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Old 01-10-2014, 04:51 AM   #19
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All this seems like good information. Is have to sit down with they guy and talk about it and show him the feedback that you all have given. The biggest issue I see at the moment is having someone at the store who really knows their stuff about fish. I know quite a bit but am in no way an expert plus I have a full time job.
They could work their way around having someone very knowledgable by having cheat sheets available for every fish they stock. They should encourage the customer to read first before buying any fish. They should read up on frequently asked questions so they have a good foundation of knowledge and if they are keen they could advertise for a fish expert within local aquarium clubs. Many aquarists would jump at the opportunity to work for a responsible LFS as a fish expert.

As per your question above, it might make sense for them to start small and judge the response before going larger with their tank setup. The centralized systems would have the two advantages of being able to support tanks that are slightly overstocked and they would reduce the amount of power outlets to run the tanks which can be an issue when you have a lot of tanks in a small space. Either option would be ok so maybe give them a small write up on both ideas. Go prepared. You will forget things so take 3 folders with copies of the plans you make so if you lose your track you have it to refer to so things don't stall much. The extra folders are so they have them to read while you talk.

Take in a big list of accesories to sell alongside tanks and fish. Filters & renewable parts (Carbon etc), stones airtones, pumps, lighting, filters, ornaments both natural (Driftwoods & nice scaping stones) and the skeleton in a boat type, foods, meds, plants, air tube, API test kits, heaters, thermometers, specialist substrates ferts for plants, PH up & down algae treatments, plant ferts. The list of accessories is stupidly long and alone could be where they make money. Don't forget to mark each of the things that will run out eventually like water conditioners, foods, test kits and ferts for plants. Things like light bulbs and fixtures could bring in good money for single sales and tanks filters and heaters could also get reasonable mark ups. Not everyone buys their gear online. Most first tanks are impulse buys and if they can get good bulk deals on things and sell at a competitive price filters and things will sell whenever a tank does (no local competition is a bonus).
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Old 01-10-2014, 12:35 PM   #20
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I don't think "starting small" will be a good option here from a marketing standpoint.

Think of it this way, when you see a store advertising that they are selling something new which makes you come in. But when you come in you see a small selection what is going to make you want to come back? It will have immediately adopted a reputation for a poorly stocked store and you will lose out on all the true hobbyists which really make the privately owned stores successful.

I would try to get a beginning fish section started out with the common community fish, mbunas, peacocks, high quality bettas, loaches, German Blue Rams, and maybe even a small number of discus.

The thing that drew me back to my LFS when I seriously entered the hobby were some of the odd fish that he managed to bring in from time to time. Shell dwelling cichlids, some of the more colorful killifish, hard to find synodontis cats. A LFS really needs to distinguish itself from the big box stores to get business.
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