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The LFS Scene: Is It Fair?

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Hey guys,

So i have seen and heard a lot from people and users from this forum, and most will go by the general consensus that all LFS are overpriced.

As the number of Local Fish Stores is on the gradual decline in south east queensland, its is becoming more and more of a concern.

Larger chain stores are constantly opening up and driving the little guys further and further into the possibility of shutting down.

What could this mean for the hobby? im really not sure, but i have a pretty good idea.

Some of the big wholesalers and not forgetting those smaller ones sometimes stock rarer and harder to get species (more so on the side of tropical fish)

but what happens when the number of local fish stores is too small for a wholesaler to justify stocking and importing those rarer species? needless to say i feel that the importation of some of the rarer apistogrammas for sale will drop to nothing.

have you ever seen wild caught borelli, wild caught Tefe at a petbarn? of course not, and thats something we could loose.

I went for a look around some stores recently, and its good to see some doing so well..

Living Reef aquarium in burleigh is looking great, although its not a massive shop, and if you dont like discus you'll probably try to find the nearest exit it is still worth the visit.

The revamped aquarium warehouse is looking ok, fish prices are what i would expect them to be, just seems to be lacking in dry goods. I tried to ask myself why was there a lack of dry goods... It seems that the online giants of underpricing and moving dry goods in bulk have driven the expected price of dry goods down so low, that a local fish store cannot justify price matching.

Gold Coast Pet Centre has seen better days, and i fear for the future of the aquarium section.

EFC is always a good one to have a squizz at, and if you fancy speaking to kevin and raymond for a good couple of hours its well worth the visit. i personally wouldn't go anywhere else for Americans.

Smiths is good, i love the shop and the overall presentation of the shop, fish might be a little pricey but you will always get what you pay for (classic example of shop vs ol' mates fish from gumtree)

Nielsens marine mates is good for marine (its in the name) but not a whole lot in store for the freshies (which makes me sad, but you cant have everything)

I have not been to many LFS lately but all of them seem to be struggling (even though it may not seem that way).

Local fish stores have near enough always aimed towards the hobbyist, selling only aquarium goods which is a pretty select market if targeting the general public. I feel now the gap between the LFS and the hobbyist is becoming larger and larger, as a LFS targets the public in order to keep its doors open.

I Would be interested to see what most of you think of this, your experience with many LFS and what you think this dying (sorry) industry has in stall for all of us fish mongers.

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As a trade supplier, wholesaler and retailer yes the industry has changed however the entire global economy has changed not just the Aquarium Industry. There will always be a place for good, independent aquarium shops providing they play to their strengths and do not attempt to compete on their weaknesses. The "cross bred" live fish market fueled by social media and the internet has played a very detrimental role in creating artificial price points; and in destroying good quality blood lines in this country. Several species have completely dis-appeared and many are close to and/or are severely genetically damaged. This is a big issue with restrictive import laws.

Retail shops will only survive if they have good, loyal custom and a spreading 'word of mouth'. Certain retail shops 'following the crowd' and sourcing from one or two large suppliers is damaging their bottom line and cutting them out of the loop of carrying 'specialty lines'. The same large wholesalers that may offer a 10% discount to shop "A"; can be the same wholesaler offering 30% to shop "B". Shop "A" keeps blind loyalty - WHY?

In summary there will always be a market for excellent aquarium shops however in some many cases retail stores need to lift their game. The public needs to support good stores; understand the difference between $3 junk fish on social media - and what quality is worth.

Adapt, move with the times and operate in the modern economy.

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I would think that there won't be physical shops in the future. All will be done online - livestock and dry goods - keeping a warehouse (or just trading at residences) and website to lodge and process orders. Technology is playing a big part and people will always will want convenience. Only the big chain stores will survive but may even reduce their physical branches/stores. The hobby will still be there but as a "different form" as what we used to have them.

Edited by litigator666

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I have a friend who works in the aquarium section in one of the big chain store outlets. He has been there for 8-10 years when it was a family owned and run business prior to its "takeover" in more recent times by one of the big chain store operations.

I had a chat to him recently about how he is finding his job nowadays and found his insights interesting.

I had presumed that once this big chain store operation took over a shop, they then dictated to them which fish they could stock, thereby cutting out many cichlids. However, this is apparently not quite true. They did cut back the size of the aquarium section in this store quite a bit and restricted his purchasing options to predominantly one of the larger wholesalers.

But he is allowed to bring in any fish he wants that are on the wholesalers list. However, the chain store operation tells him how much he has to charge for any fish he brings in. As an example, he is required to sell electric yellows and hongi for around $30.00 each at the size they come in from the wholesalers, around 4cm. As you can imagine, he doesn't sell very many at that price and is then asked to justify why he is stocking them and taking up valuable and now limited tank space with fish that aren't selling well. After a while, he just gave up and stopped stocking them and now just stocks common fish like goldfish, guppies etc that are more reasonably priced and do sell.

And as a long term fish hobbyist himself, he no longer enjoys or finds his job interesting.

If this scenario is common to the growing number of new and rebadged chain store type shops, it appears there is definitely a place in the market for specialist lfs, but as mentioned above, they need to avoid trying to compete on price alone and target the more discerning end of the market, and do it well. Value for money means different things to different people, and not everybody is just looking for a cheap fish.

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I would think that there won't be physical shops in the future. All will be done online - livestock and dry goods - keeping a warehouse (or just trading at residences) and website to lodge and process orders. Technology is playing a big part and people will always will want convenience. Only the big chain stores will survive but may even reduce their physical branches/stores. The hobby will still be there but as a "different form" as what we used to have them.

It's proportionate and will reflect the market - if all purchases are done online then stores will be just online - shop fronts will reflect foot traffic. You guys are the driving force - you are the market. Stores will be as big as they are viable.

So I do not know if it is fair but it is reflective of the market.

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If I could purchase the items i want from my LFS, I would - most of the time - do so. Even if paying a 10 to 20% premium.

Nothing beats a local friendly fish shop that is on hand to chat about fish things, pick-up urgent bits n pieces, and browse some fish. Sadly, the amount of us willing to spend that extra 10 or so percent are few, most people look at the short term only and save themselves that $10.

Big ticket items are different, i need to save the $40.

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I called it probably 10 years ago, when seeing what the big chain stores did in USA... When dry goods only stores started here. They put the screws in a bit. The little LFS had to move with the times then. & people had digs at me lol

With the introduction of Petbarn, OMG... Nails in the coffin... Here am I back into wanting to look at LFS etc. Most are gone, stocking of fish in this stores around, is meh etc.

In saying that, Bernie's Petbarn has a neat little range. But they can't even sell Neolamprologus similis at $10ea.

For those that say move with the times... Well, they be better off running from a warehouse, marketing online & shipping. But then, the thrill of the customer going to the shop is gone.

Look at other "small business" that struggle now days in other industries.Try & find a decent Nursery now days on the Gold Coast.

Frenchy :)

Edited by HereFishieFishie

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I don't think lfs are over priced, you just need to hunt for the bargains.

We have plenty of days here where the shop sells more than the online store.

Having both though, lets us make the best of both worlds.

The hobby is much bigger these days.

Its not just about the LFS.

That said though, LFS culture lives on.

We love it here.

Its not just about the selling, its about having fun in the hobby.

Fish keeping is a luxury.

People get too serious about it all.

Explore the hobby, find what you like in it!

Its a big place, what with all the forums, shops, clubs, books and websites.

I treat a trip to the LFS as a day out with the kid.

I would much rather look through a shops stock and select whats awesome..... than trust someone else to pick out my fish.

Call me fussy, but they are MY fish.

:)

Don

btw ~ you should check out Pet City on a weekend! Will give you confidence in the power of lfs to draw in customers.

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I only buy dry goods online because you can compare 5 vendors prices pretty quickly.

OP is sort of right in that as demand from lfs more exotic orders come in. They'll stop stocking those species. However... I've never once seen a checkerboard cichlid anywhere and they've been on wholesale lists for the last 4 or 5 years so maybe I'm wrong

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Looking for something different?

This is my solution

The larger wholesalers publish their stock list on their websites

It takes 5 minutes to check out their lists each week

If you find a species you want....find a LFS that deals with that wholesaler and then ask them to get that fish in for you in their next delivery

but you may have to order 6 or more to get a pair....so it's not cheap

The days of LFS getting in rarer more expensive fish on spec are gone.....

LFS used to be run by Hobbyists.....now the majority are controlled by accountants

I can understand.....what if a LFS gets in a dozen "wild caught" Apisto's......chances are they won't get in 6 pair

more chance it will be 2/3 females and the rest males.....so 2/3 pair go quickly and the rest sit there for ages

so they can make more money selling platies....Accountants win!

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Come on Don, surely you are pulling our tits. Calling AOA a lfs. By old school definition & how it all orginated, far from.

Pet City is pretty cool. Hardly a lfs either, good for them. Cater for a wide range of pets, massive store, established for years.

Frenchy :)

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Come on Don, surely you are pulling our tits. Calling AOA a lfs. By old school definition & how it all orginated, far from.

Pet City is pretty cool. Hardly a lfs either, good for them. Cater for a wide range of pets, massive store, established for years.

Frenchy :)

Most of our customers today have been walk ins for 2 foot setups, frozen bloodworms and guppies.

Certainly feels like a LFS to me.

And to the locals I think we are.

Don.

:)

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If it feels like a LFS, and people think of it as an LFS, then what is it?

Once apon a time a petrol station with more than four pumps was Big. An LFS with four staff at any one time was big. Things changed...

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If it feels like a LFS, and people think of it as an LFS, then what is it?

Once apon a time a petrol station with more than four pumps was Big. An LFS with four staff at any one time was big. Things changed...

It's a dry goods store... That has a nice tank set up for plants. & a couple tanks set up for display, for sale purposes with guppies & bristenose. So I hope the modern LFS definition, or to qualify means. You sell 2-3 species of fish.

I showed this post to LFS employees & a former owner, they enjoyed the laugh. Thanks all.

The other issue against LFS, is that even though the chain stores are expense with Cichlids. It is easier & a lot cheaper, for punters to buy off breeders, fb, forums...

Frenchy :)

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I am concerned by a number of threats to storefronts (a term no-one can contest?). There have again been some big closures and reductions in stores.

The rise of the backyard seller of goods is a concern. I am not talking the breeder but the dealer, who import goods and then onsell. These guys can compete very well as they typically pay no business costs (insurances, super etc), pay no taxes, pay no costs for certification to Australian regulations of the imported goods, and do not employ young Australians. I think this is a big issue for the LFS survival.

Most of us come into this hobby on a chance visit to a LFS and most of us got our first fish from them. The best of them give great advice, will refuse to sell you a fish and remember you. I have noticed many stores that get blasted for being expensive are amongst those I consider best for quality of there stock.

The changes to the importation rule actually encourage mediocrity. The specialist fish are those hit hardest. This in conjunction with 5 minute experts selling mediocre fish online is educating people to expect less than can be.

As a society we have became to much about price. Service and Quality seem to be not talked about. I would like to see us support the storefronts selling quality and talk value rather than price. I would also like to see more praise and support for the quality breeders and stores who give real advice.

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Meh.

There is no longer a line.

Shops have specialties.

We are equipment specialists.

Smiths is a cichlid specialist.

But..... a day still revolves around explaining the nitrate cycle to people and choosing the right heater for their tank.

Theres not enough shops left to make the distinction. If a aquarium hobby shop has a store front these days its a lfs imho.

Gone are the days of shops blaming mail order companies for their woes. Now the vogue excuse is the franchises..... but even most of those are now lfs.

The future is weird.

And yet most water tests still result in the same "stop cleaning your filter in tap water" advice.

Oh.... and 4 fish varieties btw :)

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I am concerned by a number of threats to storefronts (a term no-one can contest?). There have again been some big closures and reductions in stores.

The rise of the backyard seller of goods is a concern. I am not talking the breeder but the dealer, who import goods and then onsell. These guys can compete very well as they typically pay no business costs (insurances, super etc), pay no taxes, pay no costs for certification to Australian regulations of the imported goods, and do not employ young Australians. I think this is a big issue for the LFS survival.

Most of us come into this hobby on a chance visit to a LFS and most of us got our first fish from them. The best of them give great advice, will refuse to sell you a fish and remember you. I have noticed many stores that get blasted for being expensive are amongst those I consider best for quality of there stock.

The changes to the importation rule actually encourage mediocrity. The specialist fish are those hit hardest. This in conjunction with 5 minute experts selling mediocre fish online is educating people to expect less than can be.

As a society we have became to much about price. Service and Quality seem to be not talked about. I would like to see us support the storefronts selling quality and talk value rather than price. I would also like to see more praise and support for the quality breeders and stores who give real advice.

i like the way you think ginger, i agree with you exactly, its the back yard dry goods traders who are doing damage, look at what it costs to set up a tank,

lets say the tank is 3ft, whats that cost, tank, stand, hood, light, filter, gravel, chemicals to treat your water, heater, a few nice bits to put in the tank, we are looking at what, lets say $200/$300 for a cheap set up, now they buy a fish, so we look at say 10/15 fish, they go to a breeder to buy fish and pay $5 a fish, so fish cost $50 min, shop has sold a couple hundred $$$$$, then we have food and stuff to keep the fish happy, now to me a online seller or a LFS are the same thing, as long as they are the real deal, they are still investing in the hobby, and not many online shops sell tanks, and big tanks at that,

a lot know i help run a facebook group, and we put in place a rule that we don't allow back yard sellers or the ones who just buy and sell fish to advertise on our group, we still get abused and told we are trying to stop people from making money, we also encourage LFS and online shops to advertise on our group, and we have a few who do,

stafford pets, the tech den, aquaholics, caramels fishy friends, just to name a few, we support these guys 100%, and we would welcome any of the other LFS to join in, AOA also while they don't advertise there do get promoted on our group all the time as we allow members to give good feedback to any reg aquarium business,

yes we do allow back yard breeders to sell as we believe they are also part of the hobby, without them where would the LFS get most of their fish from, they can't import most cichlids, so they have to be bred here, but we don't allow the ones who only buy there fish in to make a quick $$$$,

personally i try to support a few different online shops and LFS, this is by buying from them and selling to them, i hardly even try to sell anything i breed any more as 95% of the few fish i do breed go to a few LFS and to a couple of our sponsors, this is my way of giving back,

facebook groups get a lot of bad things said about them here, and granted, some are that bad, but one thing we have done to try and do the right thing by our LFS and online shops is to promote them and stop the back yard traders from using our group to sell there dry goods,

we also don't allow any bad mouthing of LFS or QLDAF, its a shame this didn't happen everywhere,

and lastly, the breeders also need to buy food and dry goods, so the more fish that are locally bred, the more dry goods that are needed, think about that the next time you think the breeders are causing that much damage to the hobby,

Edited by steveandjules

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If you are not a breeder, you likely need to to do more frequent water changes.

I am constantly amazed how quickly some one can go from having a betta in a bowl, to posting up a fs thread to sell off a tank full of some sort of fry.

Things have a way of escalating rapidly in this hobby :)

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Smith's has Cichlids....Good ones, but they have natives, tropicals, tanks,pumps,dry food,Live food

Etc....an Old School "LFS" in every sense....it can be done, but it takes commitment...;)

Hobby's ok....just moving with the times...;)

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If you are not a breeder, you likely need to to do more frequent water changes.

I am constantly amazed how quickly some one can go from having a betta in a bowl, to posting up a fs thread to sell off a tank full of some sort of fry.

Things have a way of escalating rapidly in this hobby :)

lol, agree, and the ones who have display tanks of africans and next minute they are stripping females and calling them what ever the female was, lets forget that the father could be any one of 15 different types, but no, if mum was a yellow then the fry are also yellows, these are the ones who are damaging our pure lines of africans, and most times are the ones selling fry for $2

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The changes to the importation rule actually encourage mediocrity.

Ample notification was given of the impending changes. Fish can still be imported provided regulations are met. Shipments are still arriving despite claims it would not happen.

Actually the rule change does the exact opposite of the above: it encourages Australian breeders of species which may no longer be viable to import due to their low marketability (e.g: some Tangs) to breed them and maintain supplies. The importation of no species has been changed - the knowledge imports are still available - but at a price - encourages quality breeding of these fish.

Rule changes have also made it viable for the first time to sell Malawi species to the wholesale level that were not viable before due to the price point. New regs have raised that price point and Australian bred fish and now replacing imports. Far from "encouraging mediocrity" it is encouraging the production of quality fish in Australia.

Edited by none

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The rise of the backyard seller of goods is a concern. I am not talking the breeder but the dealer, who import goods and then onsell. These guys can compete very well as they typically pay no business costs (insurances, super etc), pay no taxes, pay no costs for certification to Australian regulations of the imported goods, and do not employ young Australians. I think this is a big issue for the LFS survival. .

The irony, it is how one sponsor started. & upset the whole LFS apple cart.

Don't get me wrong Donny, you have guys there that know their **** & great for advice & a chat etc.... You can say there is "no longer a line" & "you're equipment specialists" Whatever makes ya feel better.

Frenchy :)

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The irony, it is how one sponsor started. & upset the whole LFS apple cart.

Don't get me wrong Donny, you have guys there that know their **** & great for advice & a chat etc.... You can say there is "no longer a line" & "you're equipment specialists" Whatever makes ya feel better.

Frenchy :)

We appear to be the only people that even care if the acronym fits lol. People forget I have worked at a few different lfs in my time. Most of which held very negative views on the "mail order" scurge.

The golden age of lfs is over.

What we have now, is what we have.

If AOA isnt a lfs..... what is it?

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Hey guys.

I know in tearms of time in the hobby im relatively new.

But here is the thing, the consumer has changed and if any business is to survive it needs to adapt to its consumer base. Now there will always be a market for quality and a market for cheap. And given that alot of people are time poor now online shopping or mail order for the older gen allows people to save time to spend on the hobby.

This doesn't mean the death of brick and mortar stors. Techden and aoa are like 90% drygood its a business model that workes for them and they support us.

If lfs dont want to diversify out to online thats fine but they need to make themselves appealing to the public to actually spent the time effort and money to go to them.

'

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