Problems in the aquatics sector
It's the same story across Europe: one aquatics business after another is shutting up shop. At the same time, however, the big players in the sector are conjuring up new stores and so-called newcomers are entering the field. How does that work?
Take aquascaping as an example. It has been described as the driving force of aquatics since Interzoo 2014, but is it getting the proper attention? Many specialist dealers thought it would be sufficient to represent the aquascaping segment in their product range, but it isn't enough. The more committed retailers orga-nised workshops, mostly in cooperation with the industry, but there was a shortage of experienced speakers. Due to a lack of time and money, inexperienced speakers were often engaged and store employees were involved far too little, with the result that long-term success did not ensue.
Das Garnelenhaus in Barsbüttel near Hamburg, for example, has moved with the times and has interpreted the trends correctly. Here aquascaping has not only been included in the range of goods on sale but is also practised. A string of stores across Europe resembling chic boutiques in pedestrian zones tempt window shoppers to step inside for a while. They are designed to make customers feel at home, inducing them to spend as much time as possible inside. The numerous beautifully maintained aquariums offer inspiration and back up every recommendation made by the staff. The knowledge required is communicated to the customers at regular events, and they are even offered an opportunity to get involved in the design of the show tanks in annual "rescaping" events. Green Aqua in Hungary, for example, stages an annual competition in which customers may produce aquarium designs within a set time.
Aquascaping, shrimp and moreNow we come to the newcomers in the sector, specialising mainly in aquascaping, shrimp and nano-aquariums. They are opening stores with retail areas of up to 1 000 m2 in some cases. Customer loyalty to these retailers is so strong that the customers are prepared to travel long distances to reach them. This is where the full-blooded aquarium enthusiasts, aquascapers and shrimp addicts are to be found; they have turned their hobby into a vocation and are competent and always ready to help with expert knowledge.
However, aquascaping isn't simply a genre - it is modern aquatics. It's a movement that has been around for over 20 years and will be there for many years to come. Aquascaping might even be described as a sport, because there are regular competitions. The entire world is watching when the annual aquascaping championships are held and the results are announced. These are the events at which trends and standards are established for the coming year - which stones and roots are in, which plants are out. The EAPLC competition is the European championship of aquascapers and brings the European scene together.
The product rangeMany years ago, the ADA brand from Japan laid the foundation for modern aquatics. A basic range from this manufacturer is just as much of a must as the latest iPhone for the big players in the mobile market. Substrates are an example of this: a well organised business will always offer its customers a number of variants in different price categories.
The customer must be offered a choice between discount and premium brands. It is imperative to have a wide range of suitable stones and types of wood; while the technical specifications of a filter are clear from the outset, it couldn't be more different with regard to a stone or a root.
The biggest advantages of retail stores, however, are that the customer, inspired by the show aquariums, can choose and assemble his individual hardscape there and then. And the same goes for plants as for buying food - fresh is best! In vitro plants, for example, retain their quality for weeks in the sterile containers.
Plea to the industry We need more retailers with an eye for detail, who transform their stores into a feel-good oasis, with engaged, motivated staff whose love of aquariums is heartfelt and goes beyond the product shelf. Inspire your customers to take part in the next aquascaping competition. Offer them support, for example in the form of a discount on plants or hardscape. Or issue a small voucher if the customer has proof of their participation in a competition. Give your employees training in the field and you'll see that this investment will soon pay off.
Source: Pet Worldwide