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Anyone ever thought about their own store??

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Zack

Enjoy the reef!
Joined
Jul 6, 2003
Messages
188
Location
Bellevue
Hey
I know some of you here own your own fish shop and such. but for the rest you ever thought about it and how nice it may be. I know the overhead cost could get huge and may take a long time to pay off and start making profits and such. So anyone ever thought of it?
 

esmith

AQUAMANIAC
Joined
Oct 9, 2003
Messages
451
Location
Shoreline, WA
Anyone Ever thought about their own store - YES

Are you asking if anyone has ever thought of opening one...if so I have.
I have heard exactly the same things you brought up, really expensive and hard to make a profit, but I would still love to try; nothing like making a living doing something you love!

You thinking about opening a store?

Eliyah
 

Doug1

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 1, 2003
Messages
249
Location
Southern Oregon
I have thought about it alot in the almost 30 yrs I have been into Salt Water, but having hung out in several and worked for a few, I always thought better :). Unfortunatly I have seen to many hobby shops fail, and too many hobbiests burn out under the burden of retail. It's a rare individuial that can balance a love of the hobby with successful business tactics and keep abreast and keep afloat :(
 

kevinpo

Expert
Joined
Jul 1, 2003
Messages
2,287
Location
Spokane Valley, WA
Yikes! I went over the edge and did more than think about it :rolleyes: It's been a wild ride for sure.

Last Friday night the store next to me burnt down. I was lucky as it was an older section that had been built out of cinder blocks rather than the wood frame like my store. It saved me. The fire chief told me I was the luckiest guy he knew. Because my section was added later it had it's own power panel and the fire department didn't shut it off so I never even lost power.

As with most ventures the greater the risk the bigger the reward. Remember it is "better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all" (I can't remember who said this but it's not my quote).

Regards,
Kevin
 

aquariumdebacle

electrolyte addict
Joined
Jul 4, 2003
Messages
613
Location
Seattle
store

The best way to do it is to not borrow money. If you can do that then you have a shot. Smaller markets would be wise to combine freshwater and saltwater. I would personally prefer a coral/fish farm. What do people think about retail sales of trout?
 

mojoreef

Reef Keeper
Joined
Jul 5, 2003
Messages
7,530
Location
Sumner
WOW you are lucky Kev. But then again you were due. The LFS is a tough grind and not as easy as most folks think. I have though about it to but never took the plunge.

Mike
 

G~

Super Gobie
Joined
Jul 25, 2003
Messages
133
always thinking about it. :rolleyes: i have worked in retail seen shops open and close. it is a lot of work, that is why i have not taken the plunge.

G~
 

OneOfDaZZZ

Active member
Joined
Oct 8, 2003
Messages
32
Location
Redmond, WA
Actually that is my wife's dream job!

She would run the little furry stuff and drygoods. I would run the water/saltwater and the reptiles.

Hopefully we would be able to make enought to live nicely without thinking about $$
 

Desolas

Free Jolly Jenkins.
Joined
Sep 1, 2003
Messages
165
Location
Lynnwood, WA
I've thought about it. I've done a little bit of work on looking at retail space (pricing) as well as looking into doing grow-out and just selling aquacultured fish and inverts.

I don't think it's worth it. It makes me appreciate the guys who are doing it a whole lot more. The profit margin is good, on paper, until you factor in utilities, shrink, rental, and unbalanced stock availability. It appears to me it would be hard to get constant quality stock, it seems like it's a crap shoot for retailers on what they are actually going to get and what actually survives.

Also scale of the business would keep me from doing it. In my area anyway there is a lot of corporate business competition. Sure you could have live stock, but anything else you'll get killed on in prices. The north end has room for a niche store like that, but I do not think the market is big enough to justify the risk involved.

Running an aquaculture business would be cool as well but I don't think Washington State is the place to do it, unless you can afford to invest in large green houses you'll just end up paying too much in utilities to keep it running. Which is why the most successful seem to be in places that can utilize the sun, like California and Florida. They require less artificial light to grow frags and to aquaculture live rock.

I don't have the numbers in front of me but I was thinking of what it would take to make money on live FW plants, and it came out to something like 2000 ready-to-ship plants would need to be available per day to make any money off them. That's a lot of facility to grow that volume of plant alone, not to mention the labor involved in packing and shipping -- that's if you can move that volume to begin with.

Overall I don't think it is worth it if your going to do it and barely scrape by. I can do that at any spank-job and I don't have to manage the business on top of it.

...and that doesn't even take into the fact working retail is simply pure evil. Hell is working a retail store during the holidays.
 

Paladin

Active member
Joined
Jul 1, 2003
Messages
26
Retail

I could be totally off base here, but it seems you have to divide any modern business model into three parts: 1) Retail/Wholesale 2) Services and 3) E-bay network model. All three carry their own risk/returns; i.e., margins, hours, overhead, etc..

If I was building a pro-forma model of a Aquarium trade business today, I would ask a couple questions: 1) Do I have a product/service that is different from my competitors? 2) What is the expected margin in each product line (retail/wholesale/services/ebay or online services) as well as total breakeven point? 3) Can I serve a specific market niche, PSAS members or something like that as a base to operations?

Just some thoughts, but I think if you widened your business model parameters, especially on the services side, you might be able to make a go of it.

Another idea is to combine your company's operation with an add-on company, ie., (taco Bell/ Pizza Hut). You would have to think outside the box, but there most likely is a retail operation that might fit indirectly with an aquarium operation. Maybe a science supply store or even a Petco next door. You'd at least get a large number of people comparing.

Just some thoughts
 

OnTheReef

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 1, 2003
Messages
72
Location
Santa Cruz, CA
Re: Ever thought of opening an Aquarium shop?

Yes, I have, though the madness was only temporary. :) I have started hanging out with the crew at my favoite store every so often and I am not so sure I could maintain my enthusiasm for the hobby, at least if I had to be in the shop day in and day out. The biggest complaint the staff have? Dealing with customers. Answering the same questions 20 times a day. Saying "I am sorry, I am sorry, I am sorry..." to irate customers who have lost expensive saltwater organisms and explaining *again* the store's no refund policy on saltwater livestock. Giving out painstaking advice on equipment and care, only to have it ignored as the customer buys something cheaper but inadequate for their needs, knowing in advance the likely outcome. :(

Now, I have given serious thought to suggesting a PSAS monthly wholesale order. It would have to be stuff that enough people want to make an order that a wholesaler would fulfill, but it could still be a huge savings. Here's how I envision it might work:

1) Pick a wholesaler who will provide us with their catalog.
2) Folks submit their orders.
3) If there is enough quantity for a particular product, those who requested it are asked to pay.
4) The order is made and members pick up the goods at the monthly meeting.
5) I am not volunteering to do this in my "spare" time. :evil:

Eric
 

aquariumdebacle

electrolyte addict
Joined
Jul 4, 2003
Messages
613
Location
Seattle
retail

I totally dsagree with the previous statement. The club has talked alot about supporting the "local fish store." Quite frankly, members do not support anything but the bottom line. I have worked extensively with "a" local fish store; providing time, effort, and direct cash(in the form of purchasing rotifers and helping them establish cultures.) None of this has been rewarded with increased sales or patronage. This is including a 10% discount. There is alot of talk about "if only" well the opportunity has been there. To quote "For hobbyist from the hobbyist." When you buy online or mail order, whatever source you buy from you are eliminating a local source of income. When you complain about price and not even look at the value, you take income away from a local source. I have spent many hours talking to many people (possibly some of you) and I have never asked a penny from the owner. If they were to charge for advice you couldn't afford them. Think about a professionals going rate $150-$300 per hour. What is their time worth? From my outside pespective I don't see the value in offering a discount to the club when they are seeking to undermine the businesses they purport to support. Put your money where your mouth is!
 

jazznreef

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 30, 2003
Messages
219
Location
Seattle/Magnolia
lfs

I agree with Dan and often wonder how long the LFS community will support us. We, at times, completely undermine their ability to stay open. When setting up something like a group order remember the impacts on the local retailers. If we don't support them with our $$ then we won't have anywhere to go on Sunday afternoons :=(

The prices are a bit higher but the return is there too... spend SOME money locally !
 

sharks

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 31, 2003
Messages
80
Location
NJ
Aquariumdebacle,
Well said!
I have managed a LFS for 8 years now and I know when I retire form my real job (or get burned out) I will someday open my own place. I’m only there on the weekends now. Not because you can make a killing in the hobby but because I love the hobby and helping people. And yes I answer the same questions time and time again. So long as it’s coming from someone new I don’t mind. If someone asks me the same question every time they come in that would be a different story. I know full well about the overhead and expenses involved. If you set up the store correctly from the beginning you will do well. Plus the old adage location, location, location. To me the bottom line is to own the building. I will never want to worrie again about the landlord doubling the rent and driving us out of business. We recently moved to our own place :) With a full basement to expand to in the future.
I know how you feel trying to help the LFS. I am into SPS’s and after IMAC I talked the boss into getting ORA frags. I priced them at 30-35 each. No one bought them. I see them online for the same price + shipping. Only the boss and I now have them in our tanks. I too like to save money if the LFS is outrageously priced I would go online. Then again if they are only a few bucks higher I pay it. It keeps them open to help me when I need them. I get to see the livestock before purchase, and I know I’m helping the Mom & Pop places. I still pay $4 to rent a movie for 1 night. I could go to blockbuster and get it $1 dollar cheaper. Then again Bob and his 2 kids may not do so well.
OK I’ll end the rant now. I’m just tired of seeing all the people order all their goods and animals online and then want to pick my brain all day. Or test their water for them.
The LFS owner is a dieing breed if you ask me
S
 

Achilles

Member
Joined
Jul 24, 2003
Messages
17
The club has talked alot about supporting the "local fish store." Quite frankly, members do not support anything but the bottom line.
I am not a member of the club yet, I will probably join soon. I think it is great that the club is trying to work to support local stores. I obviously can't speak to members buying habits, but members also should expect to get fair prices and good service at the LFSs. Since moving here 3 years ago, I've been very discouraged with the LFSs prices and even more importantly with their service.

I have found one LFS, that happens to be a sponsor of this club, that I like very much, and he gets most of my business, but he just doesn't have the broad array of products that I can get online. So I still have to go online for certain things.

Nearly all the other LFSs I've been to aren't even on the same level. And one, well I can't even understand how he's still in business. The worst service of just about any store I've ever been to.


I have worked extensively with "a" local fish store; providing time, effort, and direct cash(in the form of purchasing rotifers and helping them establish cultures.) None of this has been rewarded with increased sales or patronage.
So no one who used buy rotifers online are now buying them at the LFS? Clubs like this often have a bit of a catch 22 also. Assuming you guys partake in frag swaps and the like, which is a huge benefit of being in a club, that can take away from the need to purchase new stuff.


When you buy online or mail order, whatever source you buy from you are eliminating a local source of income. When you complain about price and not even look at the value, you take income away from a local source.
I don't think you can make the assumption that our LFSs add some value that purchasing elsewhere does not. Also, an argument can be made that when you take your business elsewhere you force the LFS to be more competitive. I drive by several LFSs, that have given me poor service in the past, on the way to the one that I like. If they want my business back they just need to perform better.

Is it always about price? I mean buying livestock online, in particular, is almost always more expensive than at an LFS simply because of shipping costs. Unless you are buying in mass. And it is also more risky because you can't inspect the specimen you are purchasing, yet many many people still do it. Why? Seriously, I'm asking.


If they were to charge for advice you couldn't afford them. Think about a professionals going rate $150-$300 per hour.
That's just silly. You aren't paying them for advice, and if they want me to buy their product they better be able to explain it to me and answer my questions. Every retailer of every type of product will offer advice to a customer. BTW, those numbers are absurdly high for most industries. Not to mention LFS employees are hardly professional aquarists that are accountable for the advice they give.

One last thing worth pointing out...A quick look at the sponsor page shows several online retailers.
 

sharks

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 31, 2003
Messages
80
Location
NJ
Achilles,
I too am new here and I have to say that you must keep in mind that the people we speak to online are mainly the serious aquarists. That is they know and understand the issues the LFS needs to keep up on. My issue is with the people…and unfortunately it’s the majority… that buy all their goods online and do not want to settle for email or phone support for their questions on said goods. Instead they come in and say I bought this XYZ and I need your help! Knowing that we don’t sell or would remember selling that item. I shop online for goods that our distributor can’t get or charges way to much for. That doesn’t mean I don’t pay a few extra bucks here and there, knowing that I am keeping that local resource in business.
If the shop is a rip off then screw them but when you have reasonable prices and knowledgeable people you should help them like they help you. They give you knowledge and first hand experience and you keep them afloat.
JMO
S
 

aquariumdebacle

electrolyte addict
Joined
Jul 4, 2003
Messages
613
Location
Seattle
How much is your time worth?

When a major aquarium contracts for a system to be built I am positive that they bill at more than $300/hour. They will then build it to your specifications. Any changes made after the contract is sighned will be billed time and material. I will bet you good money that it won't be that unreasonable $300 rate.

The fact that you are not paying for the advice of a local retailer is exactly my point. If you did pay for it like any other proffessional you would balk at the price and walk out the door. To say that they are not worth it, speaks volumes about your respect for others time and effort. This is not a simple case of verifing the quality of a product or getting basic instruction about them. The people at this end of the hobby are asking incredibly detailed and time consuming questions. They pay the same amount as a neophyte entering the hobby(nothing!)

One of the best stores I have ever been to caters to this end of the hobby exclusively. They have great service, the best prices in town (excluding PETCO) and they are always willing to talk in depth to anyone willing to listen. I have tried to encourage them to offer deeper discounts to the club but they don't see the returns even though they're willing to make compromises.

It is personaly frustrating to see thread after thread about where to get the best deals when they are offering the products for a small amount more. I don't mean to say that you shouldn't order online or that you should take your business to one place. The owners have been in the hobby for a long time and know the routine. I'm just saying that if you're going to say you support the locals, then do it! They don't have to give discounts, they do it to support your involvement in the club. They just want the first crack at your money in return.
 
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