Supporting your Local Fish Store (LFS)
As we all can appreciate and acknowledge this industry has had a downturn in recent years and the local fish store (LFS) has worn the brunt of this. Just as the local corner store has disappeared so too has many of the LFS. This transition has happened in a quite similar manner to how the big supermarket brands knocked out the local corner stores in the way of the pet store chains aggressively entering the market. However this is not the only reason for the decline LFS are experiencing. There are many other possible reasons for this and it is most likely a combination of reasons why this has happened. I will mention just a few that come to mind:
-Younger generations being drawn to technology at very young ages such as smart phones and computers and not having a chance to be drawn into this addictive hobby. Instead kids and adults alike are mesmerised by their phones to being into an almost zombie-like state almost to the extent that people should be hooked up to the “matrix” instead of really experiencing life and its wonders firsthand!
-Time poor lifestyles which we all seem to becoming accustomed to. Especially when negotiating the rat race lifestyle in city areas. Everyone is working so hard every day just to survive. Luxuries such as the humble aquarium are not a priority anymore even though they provide a genuine source of education, relaxation, self-healing, satisfaction and accomplishment.
-Poor introduction to the hobby in terms of poor education for the basic fundamentals of fish keeping. Newcomers to the hobby will not tolerate continue problems with their fish and if they do you will find their tank out the front of their house waiting for the next council pick up (where someone like myself who has this addictive obsession for rescuing and rehousing discarded tanks). I would have to say that initially when the pet store chains first came on the scene they handled the training of newcomers to the hobby very poorly (but how could a young teenaged worker on minimum wage often with no fish experience at all explain the basics of fish keeping). I hope this has improved since but I still to this day hear some very funny advice that is being dished out by them. Sentiments such as those expressed in the US were not vocalised here in Australia regarding the introduction of the pet store chains (https://reefbuilders.com/2015/02/23/internet-protest-petco-drs-foster-smith-deal/). However the pet store chains still provide positive benefits for the industry and do attract newcomers by promoting the hobby. Often once experienced, hobbyists will then target the LFS who has a bigger range of fish, technical/first-hand experience and more specific equipment to meet their needs.
-Lack of exhibition type functions where the best of our hobby can be shared with the general public and draw newcomers to the hobby. This has the potential to generate huge interest for the hobby and could fuel the fish keeping addiction that many of us have. The price of these expo’s are prohibitively expensive to run here in Australia especially with no funding or assistance like what is provided in other countries such as Singapore where their government is very supportive of their industry.
-Online sales as we all know have damaged sales for LFS, mainly for their dry goods and also for their fish sales. The next big hurdle for the LFS here and probably one of the biggest will be the impending introduction of Amazon here in Australia. See how this affected the US back in 2015 https://reefbuilders.com/2015/01/13/aquatics-retailers-amazon-1-competition/
All these challenges seem so daunting and I suppose that is why I rarely see a new LFS entering the market in recent years. It seems like this wonderful trade is not being passed on to the younger generations and slowly dying out with the old timers who run them. The experienced and successful LFS that are doing really well today have several facets (such as online stores, maintenance services, well stocked diverse stores) to provide their income and are meeting market demands and trends resulting in satisfying their customers desires.
Jake Adams from Reef Builders has written an excellent article summing up some of the points that I have been mentioning over my last few articles (https://reefbuilders.com/2016/05/07/the-demise-and-decline-of-the-local-fish-store-and-some-possible-ideas-on-how-they-can-stay-alive/#). It’s great to see someone on the same wavelength as me and doing his best to support and continue the wonderful past time of fish keeping. For my generation and many before me this was all made possible from our LFS. I still have vivid memories marvelling at the wonders at my LFS and I don’t think I would be where I am now if I didn’t get stung by the fish bug at my LFS.
Julian Wong B.Sc. Hons
JMW International Pty. Ltd. t/as Aquatic Solutions