Over the past five years we have seen the closings of several old and very good Mom & Pop fish stores. PhD Pets in Galveston closed after Hurricane Rita. Amazonia in Austin closed after many years of being Austin’s best source for cichlids. Boutique in the Dallas area closed after 35 years in business. Now, Paul Kotarides, a fellow hobbyist who produces some very interesting guppy/molly hybrids, emailed me a link to an article about the closing of yet another impressive fish store, Animal Jungle.
I fear the eventual demise of all Mom & Pop fish stores as the big-box and internet stores starve them by siphoning sales away. One of our retail store customers told us that for the first time they failed to sell a single aquarium setup for Christmas last year. In fact, he said it’s nearly impossible to sell any item retailing for more than $50. Potential buyers browse the store, scan any item they might buy with their smart phones, and leave to buy the item online. He has ceased stocking inventory over $50.
Another customer who had previously sold his shop was considering buying it back at a much reduced price from the new owner. If he does, he plans to go livestock only, reasoning that he’ll have advantages in that niche over online retailers. I’m not so sure of this. Aquabid and eBay are potent competitors for livestock sales.
Even Goliad Farms has reentered the online livestock business. After several years of not selling online, we have begun to do so again. We can take a fish bringing $1 at wholesale and sell the same fish for $4 retail and still under-price brick and mortar retailers. Some of the hassles of online sales that caused us to exit the business years ago aren’t as significant today. We have a contract with FedEx that allows us to better control shipping expense. This has allowed us to go to standard shipping charges. We no longer have to quote individual shipping charges. The advent of reasonably priced breathing bags has reduced shipping costs. Since shippers charge for volume as well as weight, oxygen filled bags greatly increased shipping costs. We’ve found that retail orders are easier to schedule. Instead of packing fish in the morning for delivery to Texas cities and to airports for retailers out of Texas and wasting prime fish working morning hours, we now pack retail orders in the afternoon and deliver them to FedEx at day’s end.
So, I find us in the ironic position of aiding the demise of Mom & Pop stores while bemoaning their loss…