Aquarium Life Support Systems, a distributor of aquarium and pond products to independent fish stores and pond supply retailers, has formed a new industry trade group, AquaLife Dealers Lounge. The group will cater exclusively to independent brick-and-mortar stores that are generally owner-operated, said executive director John Tullock, a 25-year veteran of the aquarium industry. He hopes that at least 600 stores will join by year’s end.
Dealers Lounge was founded with several long-term goals:
- Increase the number of lifelong hobbyists keeping aquariums or water gardens.
- Boost the number of aquarium or pond businesses that can offer their owners a good living.
- Provide business tools to create a level of service that generates successful hobbyists.
AquaLife Dealers Lounge’s primary goal is to help independents be competitive with big-box and online retailers. “Nobody gets excited about aquariums from surfing the Internet,” Tullock said. “People get interested in aquariums when they see that beautiful display tank in the store window.”
The Knoxville, Tenn., group’s website,www.aqualifedealers.com, has been operating since August. Sales tools and digital products such as phone apps will be among the offerings available only to Dealers Lounge members.
“We have been working on this project for three years and building grass-roots support and determining what resources might be most useful to our members,” Tullock said.
Membership is free and open to independent retailers regardless of their store size or number of employees.
“This might be a full-line pet store with an aquarium department, a nursery with a pond division or an aquarium-only shop,” Tullock said. “The idea is to provide a way for independent business owners to come together to learn, to share experience and to tackle issues that affect us all.”
One area of focus for the fledgling organization will be to boost members’ collective buying power. Dealers Lounge also wants to foster professionalism by sharing its members’ aquarium wisdom and post product reviews that go beyond just the performance.
“We intend to look at factors such as margin protection by the manufacturer when developing reviews,” Tullock said.
Members are encouraged to post comments, rate products and submit reviews via the “Feedback” link on the home page.
“I see no reason why every eligible business in the country should not be a member one day,” Tullock said.