Advice on opening a supply store?

Hi guys.
Over the past few weeks I have seriously enjoyed being a part of this community, I haven’t found one that is as friendly or as enthusiastic towards new members as here (for many years before here I relied on Reddit mainly… Not so friendly), so firstly I’d like to take the opportunity to thank you for being… well, just you.

Since being around 8 years old I have owned aquariums, from goldfish to cichlids, frogs, crabs, snails, eals and oxolotls, spiders, turtles and pretty much everything in between.
Over the past 5 years though I have brought my interest in reptiles home with me and replaced the aquariums. Starting with Yemen chameleons. Since then I have acquired 2 boa constrictors and care for a 3rd that lives elsewhere with cornsnakes. I’m about to buy my first ball python in the new year and I have my heart set on some garter snakes.

I know my fish and reptiles (obviously not like some of you guys or even to a professional level of any standard) and have spent every moment of free time researching random stuff, even for animals I don’t even own and ones I never plan on owning. Information is sort of my hobby. I’m about to start a herpetology course and wish to make a lifelong career in animal care.

I don’t wish to become a breeder or even a supplier of live animals. My plan is to open a store completely dedicated to husbandry and equipment, food and medicine and eventually in 10 years either train someone within or hire a reptile vet to work along side.

I don’t want a head to head competition with the (surprisingly very, very few) local stores, although it is inevitable. I want my store to be more of a “let’s kit your enclosures out properly and to your individual animal” rather than “buy this, buy that, buy this, you need another ball python” which is all you get from the major store here.

I have my business plan set and all things are in place except finances, but I’m working my butt off on that. I’d just like to hear from you guys that own stores/shops/supply chains about what routes I should avoid, the mistakes you made along the way and how you overcame them, the best decisions you made, just any advice you can give me to help me make this as smooth as possible.

It is still at least a year or two from becoming a reality, but I want to plan out every single thing I can possibly plan out beforehand.

Also anyone with any type of certificates/diploma or professional education on reptiles. What courses/classes did you take, where did you study, what did you need to apply for them?
I have loads more questions but this is getting a bit long as it is, ill take any advice on absolutely anything at all.

Thank you for any help you guys can give me.

And again thank you for making this a amazing place to come and read about everyone’s pets. I like you guys, a lot.

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I’m just bumping this in hopes of some help.

A bit of a update:
I got my ball pythons, 7 up to now :grin:.
Breeding will still never be part of this, any animals I ever sell in the future will be privately and completely separate.
Dedication is pure and simply towards husbandry and enclosures.

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Good luck. You might look into bioactive and other trending “new” (ish?) keeping. The only animals you’ll need to sell would be springtails and isopods. :slight_smile:

There has been a flurry of people opening locations over in the US. Some of these locations don’t sell anything - they only exist as educational programs. That could be another avenue you might enjoy but you’ll definitely need ambassador animals. The crowd pleasers will always be big anacondas, etc, I would think.

One of the voids I see near me is a gap between clickclack and aquarium. Aquariums suck. There are tons of options that are lighter and overall better even if they’re just PVC boxes. Foamed PVC/Cellular PVC/etc is becoming more popular (ex: see TGR) and it might be worthwhile to see what they’re doing so you can make custom enclosures.

If you feel artistic you could probably build custom gecko cages with sculpted epoxy backgrounds, etc.

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Generally speaking when it comes to specialized pet stores your money will be with return customers and that means feeders and food, your animal impulse buys will happen too but the feeders is what keeps them coming back, your supply is often a one time purchase.

So crickets, dubias, worms of all kind, mice, rats (all ages and sizes) etc.

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Specializing in certain things like @stewart_reptiles mentioned maybe a better way to go and definitely look into business classes, if you don’t have business management experience already. i wish you best of luck in this wonderful adventure :slightly_smiling_face:

@asura fixed it

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Is this a reply in the wrong thread? Or are you suggesting that the supply store specialize in feeders?

I would imagine specializing in feeders only goes so far. Large dubia colonies are a pain to maintain (not to mention highly toxic), silk worms crash with mold pretty quickly, and horned worms are just a pain… plus there are a ton of vendors online already selling these for cheap. Maybe it’s different outside of the US? I wouldn’t imagine it is that much different.

Live rodents probably do well depending on the area. That’s definitely something that can be tough to find.

I <3 this typo. I just imagine eagle walking into a classroom head held high in defiance! :slight_smile: Smash those books, @eaglereptiles! :slight_smile:

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I have no business end experience for stores but I agree, I’d love to have a store nearby that had everything for bio active and a store with well built enclosures other than glass would be awesome!

gotta love auto correct sometimes picks the wrong words and i just don’t notice, but hey as long as you got to laugh at me. No i was not suggesting a supply store specialize in feeders, i was saying don’t offer the exact same things as the large box store, offer more different types of reptiles, dart frogs, isopods and of course different feeders that you can’t pick up at the large box stores. The “mom and pop” stores typically have a hard time completing with the larger box stores when it comes to supplies like dog/cat food and fish because they can by at a much larger quantity which gets them a lower price than the typical smaller stores.

It happens to everyone. We can laugh together.

I wasn’t sure if it was a reply to the same thread. I didn’t think eagle wanted to sell live animals but maybe that was specifically meaning reptiles. I didn’t count isopods in that mix since they’re pretty easy and just silly little wood shrimp.

:woman_shrugging:

Was just talking about supplies on all things. Vivsarium/ terrariums type supplies for for dart frog setups which can be very difficult to find and large box stores. Most big box stores only offer a few different supplies even for the most basic reptile set up so more variety on thermostats, and misting equipment, lighting and decor would be something to really think about.

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Since keeping and breeding certain feeder insects can be hard why not just buy them wholesale and just resell for a higher but still reasonable price? That’s basically what petco and petsmart do

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In my experience at least here in the states people dont really want to go to multiple shops to get what they need if it can be helped. Most will spend a few dollars extra or take lesser quality service and product to avoid trekking however far to a whole other shop just to get supplies. I also believe that as you get further into this you’ll realize that great husbandry often leads to animals reproducing and babies to sell. Once you have s few babies you’ll see how addictive it becomes lol. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea behind this and wish you all the best with it, but I think in order to run a successful shop you’ll have to produce and sell at least some animals. Of course… there is another option. If you focus heavily on online sales of supplies and you’re good with marketing and have competitive pricing you could keep your shop open primarily as a showroom of sorts. Obviously anyone who is in the area can pickup their things in person. You can set up your personal collection in elaborate display cages and hold workshops on setting up vivariums, general and/or specialized husbandry, have guest speakers, etc. And if you like, have vet with an office in the same building who specializes in herps and shares the building rent or something to that affect.
Just my thoughts on it. Again, I’m not very familiar with what the average shopper is like in the UK.

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That’s even what most small shops do!

The two not-department-store shops near me also do not breed and raise any of their insects or even rats. They have live rats and if they breed while housing it’s a bonus with the overall operation only lightly supplemented with in-house breeding.

I like eagle’s original idea of focusing on housing and husbandry rather than specialty feeders but I’m obviously not eagle. :slight_smile:

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Thank you for all the replies.

This is something I have thought about. I’m rather green-fingered and this will definitely be part of my plans.

This is my goal, sort of. I want to open a place where reptile keepers don’t just come to buy stuff… Obviously I need to sell stuff to keep the place afloat, but I want it to be somewhere people come for more than the sales.

A new youth club is opening in a few weeks right across the road from me, I want to try and incorporate that into it. Educational shows, picture taking, over coming fear, learning hygiene and routine and empathy.

This will be a huge part of my future. Basically custom anything. Big treated branches, hides, ledges… Anything I can make.

This is definitely going to be my main source of income, unfortunately in the UK we can’t sell live prey to snakes so everything rodent wise will have to be flash frozen. I know someone that breeds ASF and rats close by to me, so I have access to them without having to breed them myself in the beginning. Eventually I will have too to cut out costs, but at least until I get a customer base and space, it seems like my best option.

This is what I’m doing at the minute. Luckily Google has a lot of free courses in business that you can take online, nothing official but it’s fantastic prep.
My sister in law is qualified to high heaven in business management and laws, she owns several franchise restaurants and is going to be my Brienne is shining armour during this.

This is the beautiful thing about morphmarket. I have plans for a table with tablets attached that shows the marketplace. A lot of first time buyers are sceptical when it comes to buying animals online and end up just going to a pet shop. If your local store went through it with you and helped arrange it, it makes online purchases a little less worrying.

By live animals I meant I don’t want to sell “pets”… food and bio-bugs I’m up for.

For thing like that I will be using wholessalers to begin with, It’s just a matter of finding a reliable one.

I will be breeding and selling animals through morph market, I will advertise my MM store inside of the shop and all the sales will go directly into the shop, but I want to be known as more than a pet shop where animals are sold.

This is the sort of place I am talking about. Educational and working around the customers individual needs.

Housing and husbandry will be my number one priority, but I understand that to keep people coming back I will need to sell feeders and perishables.

Thank you for all of your help guys, you really are a amazing bunch. :blush::blush: If there is absolutely anything else you can think of, throw it out there.
This is no longer a dream anymore… This is reality and it’s happening :blush:.

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On a personal rambling note: where are the adult programs? There are several generations of Jack Hannah, Steve Irwin, SnakeBytesTV, etc that are all grown up. I’d be really interested in seeing demographics for things like Snake Discovery on YouTube today.

It doesn’t just have to be already established keepers. Maybe have some fun with it with programs like “So your partner hates snakes…”, “Proper handling”, etc.

There is a massive fall off in actual education. Tons of programs with the goal of education just have cursory coverage of common topics that often repeat just wrong information (hint: Hognose don’t “pop toads” and are technically not rear fanged venomous snakes as recently discovered as … the 19th century :scream:).

Craft supplies are consumables, too! I wonder if you could do well selling animal safe epoxy, glue, substrates, plants, sand (for building your own decorations and not as a substrate), paint… Teach courses on terrarium design! I’d pay for it. Maybe even a subscription service for “design-a-hide” or other additions like natural leaves, in-terrarium short lived plant seeds (catnip makes for great isopod food as it dies), etc.

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Wait so you’re actually doing this?! Congrats! You need to give us a tour of the store once you get it set up!

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Just wanted to pop in and say, this is awesome! I love locally owned stores, especially ones that go full out on care rather than just animals. Love the education aspect you’re considering as well, I wish I had that around here.
Good luck with all of this and I hope it really takes off!

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That is a good point, and I could even push it one step further… What about the old folk? There is quite a few elderly care homes around here. It would be good to see how interested they would be in handling sessions aswel.

This is a amazing idea I had completely missed. :grin: I like the idea of doing terrarium building classes a lot. I spend a lot of my time and money making bottled terrariums aswel so I’m sure I can find a way to throw that in the mix.

100%, this is what I’ve been saving and planning for. You are going to see more than a tour during this :joy: I’ll probably be running every single thing through you guys :blush: thank you.

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I’d recommend doing some travel. I’m sure there are many excellent stores to see and from which to get ideas. Here in Detroit we have a small local chain called Premier Pet Supply. (Can I mention specific stores?) While they do have a VERY SMALL selection of live pets, their money is in supplies. And they do a killer job w them. I’m sure many cities have similar shops to see…

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