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JimK 10-06-2004 10:43 AM

LFS Survey
I am considering opening an aquarium store in my area, and would like to know what people look for in an aquarium store.

What do you like about the stores in your area?
What do you dislike?
What type of store would you like to see open in your area?

All feedback is appreciated.

Corty 10-06-2004 11:04 AM

I like it when I can feel free to ask about the quality and health of the animal, and get an honest response. Honesty is one of the most important things, I think. I'm not going to trust some sketchy guy who seems like he would have no problem sending home a little girl with two goldfish and a one gallon bowl.

For some reason it makes me feel better to hear "Yeah, Yellow Tangs are great, I have one myself - you might want to try some Nori, mine just loves it" than "Um.. your total is thirty bucks". I feel better about purchasing from a person or a store that has knowledgable employees with experience, and has a passion for the hobby, rather than just treating the animals like dry goods.

I *LOVE* it when they have one or more display tanks set up, showing how impressive the hobby is when you aquascape and put time and planning into this, rather than just dumping some fish in some water and wandering off. It gives me some ideas for my own tank, and it shows me that they aren't complete morons.

I don't like it when they assume from the get go that you don't know anything because you haven't shopped there before. I don't like to be looked down on with *that look* and have them say something like "You know.. these don't stay the same size". While it's important to know the adult size, and the requirements for the fish, it can be done without the attitude.

Fish snobbery really gets to me. "Saltwater is better than freshwater", "Freshwater is better than saltwater" and the general sneer I seem to get when I buy feeder goldfish.. and respond to the question "What are you feeding them to?" with "Nothing, I like goldfish".

One thing I will suggest is that you make some sort of guarantee. I can't tell how annoying it is to buy a fish or invert which looks perfectly fine, get him home, find a problem in a day or two, come back, discover that THEIR fish or invert has the same problem, but worse, and discover that they don't guarantee SW fish at all - ever.

Guaranteeing your fish builds confidence in your customers, and is a gentle reminder to keep the highest standards for your store and livestock.

Even online fish stores give up to ten day guarantees for their animals. If they can do it, you can do it.

Good relations with customers are also important. I had purchased some macro algae online, and it hadn't shown up. I emailed them. It was a problem beyond their control, but they still apologized, and sent me a double order free of charge. They can rest assured that they're getting lots of my business in the future, and get free advertisment via word of mouth.

Fishkeeping SW or FW is an expensive hobby, and if you build good relations with your customers, it *will* pay off. Fishkeepers will drive for several hours at times, just to get livestock from a good store. If they buy livestock there, there's a good chance they'll also buy dry goods from you.

fishfreek 10-06-2004 11:21 AM

I look for a clean store with dry floors in the fish room. I know the dry floors is a little thing but hey it goes a long way to showing how much one cares for the apperance of the store. Healthy fish as well as good information on the tanks or by the tanks about the specific fish. Its very impressive to walk into a store and see typed single page flyers describing the habatat and care requirments of the fish. Even the basic FW community fish. It shows that the owner not only cares about pushing fish out the door but educating the shopper.

I woudl like to see stores offer seminars from time to time on things related to aquaria. I feel very strong about educating the hobbists and I think it would take a store a long way to establish an aquarists style relationship with frequent customers vs a retail relationship of just i take your money and you buy something.

Toirtis 10-06-2004 11:30 AM

Tanks on seperate filters. Healthy fish, Good selection. Good prices. Knowledgeable staff and properly labelled livestock.

seafan 10-06-2004 11:56 AM

Well it would be nice if they would hold a fish for you. :)

Corty 10-06-2004 12:04 PM

Gotta agree with Seafan there.. My old LFS would tell me they couldn't because they would forget and sell it to someone else - on a regular basis.

rubysoho 10-06-2004 12:17 PM

what about QTing new fish instead of putting them up for sale right away (not sure if this is feesible)?

Going along with fishfreek's suggestion of paper flyers, why not make a couple of binders (two of SW and two of FW) that people can leaf through at their leisure.

Please don't try and sell people your most expensive equipment if they are asking about finding used tanks. My lfs owner tried doing that and now I refuse to go back to that store unless the one guy I trust is there. Also, if people are asking you to set up a tank for them, give them different options and let them CHOOSE if they want to spend more on the high end stuff and that way they won't feel embarassed in chosing the less expensive equipment. (and I guarantee that there are people out there who will buy nothing but the most expensive stuff)

Knowledgable staff is a MUST. I hate going to my local fish store if any of the other helpers are there aside from one guy because he seems to be the only one who knows what he is talking about AND he doesn't try and get people to buy the most expensive stuff.

Keep tanks clean, take any dead fish out ASAP, and any sick/unhealthy fish should be nursed in the back instead of left to die.

Most important: Care about every single customer you have. Just because you have a high spender in the shop don't ignore the high school student or college kid because you think they don't have money. While they may not have money at the time, showing them you care and are interested in their tank(s) will make them enjoy your store more, be more loyal, and when they do have the money they will spend it at your store. A way to avoid this with your help is not having them on commission (you can give other rewards like discounts, etc...)

that is all I can think of. Good luck! I've been thinking about having my store one day. Who knows.

cginflorida 10-06-2004 12:26 PM

JimK, that would be great news for us here in Orlando! Good luck with it.

I like to see a knowledgeable and friendly staff, clean tanks of course, lots of info on the fish being sold, knowing which fish are compatible, willingness to take back fish that are incompatible, and no bettas in cups.

If you did open a store, what part of town would it be in? I'm on the southwest side.

hisc1ay 10-06-2004 12:39 PM

I'll try not to repeat what everyone has said, unless you want it for solidification. :)

Something I like about the different stores here is each one has something that another store doesn't. I found a new (to me) LFS yesterday that had some really awesome fish that I hadn't seen before. They have common stuff too, but they had a cowfish, some kind of $900 scorpionfish, a cool flouder, a barracuda, and some different breeds of Tang that I hadn't seen before. This is why I would go there first (also it's the closest one to me, but that's beside the point). Also, the folks there really take the time to find out what you have, what you want, and they're not afraid to tell a newbie that the kind of fish they want to get will eat the ones they have, and then suggest other fish that will be compatible. Yesterday one guy even told me of a couple species that would go well in my 29 that the store doesn't even have.

Which brings me to my next point...I haven't done this at any of the LFS here, but it would be good if customers could special order stuff that you don't have in stock. Not necessarily a separate shipment from your regularly scheduled stocking, but be willing to make a special order for a customer.

I don't know of any LFS owner that I've dealt with that would do this, but please don't sell a fish to a customer who obviously doesn't know what they're doing just to get the sale.

Oh, and don't advertise "Nemo tanks" or "Nemo fish". Call them what they are. (Ok, that's really just a personal peeve of mine...but if that will bring people into the hobby, I guess it's ok :)).

And I *love* fishfreek's idea about seminars. Kinda like Home Depot! :)

That's all I got.


Cafe Jeff 10-06-2004 12:51 PM

No snobbery... one of the main reasons I don't like Big Als.
Incidentally, they also have wet floors. Jeff

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