Ethical and effective sales

WORDS: John Courteney-Smith MRSB

I recently spent some time advising UK stores ‘out in the field’ as it were in terms of either including live reptiles into store for the first time or with regard to a re-build or re-brand of an existing or tired in-store system. Firstly, I must state once again just how an exciting period it is in which we trade. Never before has there been such a wealth of accurate and well-designed product available to us. Marry that with a deep passion within keepers that wish to enter the retail sector and the availability of high quality and diverse captive bred animals. As such we have the beginnings of yet another reptile keeping ‘revolution’.


I just love Reptiles, Amphibians and Inverts. I love everything about them and their lives. I am totally fixated with all aspects of their care and propagation, likewise I am obsessed with the recent move towards more natural systems that really do go a long way to providing for the actual needs of a species in a safe and measurable way.  The best news is that I am certainly not the only one!

“Man I wish I had one of those, but I couldn’t build it, I wouldn’t know where to start”.


I smiled, to be fair I know what he means. I couldn’t build a shed or a Kit Car nor could I walk into NASA and advise them on the mechanics of rocket engines. No, a new thing always has a sense of mystery.

The recent worldwide shift towards to Bio-Activity and the doctrine behind ‘Wild Re-creation’ per species is a real godsend for us as traders. Not only does this concept help to greatly increase welfare but it also provides us with more inspirational displays. These displays become our shopfront, the aspirational aspect of the hobby. They become a focal point and a badge of honour within the locality and within the trade. In reality keepers and potential keepers will travel great distances to see a bank of stunning and well thought out displays, word spreads quickly now and you can use this, if you maintain high standards to attract people into store.

Ok, so let’s say that you now have a stunning and well thought out array of vivaria, all of them live planted and with all of the bells and whistles that are needed to sustain an enclosure of this type. Let us assume that people are now visiting you to appreciate the systems that you have created, the one thing that can be guaranteed is that a percentage of them will instantly suffer with the open wallet blocking curse of ‘I can’t do that’.

So, how can we overcome this problem in an effective way that ensures high levels of welfare? The answer is very simple; we have to re-learn the processes to sale.

Firstly, we must always access and ethically encourage a customer. If they say “I just love that system, I really wish I could have one, but there is no way that I could build it”

You can formulate an effective answer with a few basic statements. Firstly, always thank the customer for taking an interest but be realistic. A simple “thanks, I’m glad you like it, it took a lot of time and effort” is a good place to start.

You must then access their ability to care for the system. You should find out if they have kept exotics before and if they would be willing to put the hours in to learning and maintaining the system. Always be honest, you need to weed out those that simply can never or should never have the responsibility of pet ownership. Tell them about the time frame needed to care for the system, the cost of buying and maintaining the system and of course the likely lifespan of the species. If we are always honest our customers will trust us and stay loyal.