A retailer of aquatic products supplies aquarium and fish stock and maintenance items to hobbyists. They offer sales advice on salt water, freshwater and pond fish, and supply a range of products to enable the fish keeper to keep their home stock healthy.
Keeping fish is a popular hobby around the world. In order to maintain a healthy aquarium, the fish keeper must regularly purchase food, cleaning products and water maintenance solutions if his or her stock is to thrive for any length of time. At its most basic, a home set-up may consist of a single coldwater fish (such as a common goldfish) in a small tank with no heater and minimal décor, ranging up to a computer-managed salt water set-up costing tens of thousands of pounds. An aquatic retailer must not only supply the necessary fish and maintenance products, but they must also have enough knowledge about the hobby to advise those who are unsure. The retailer must know which fish are suitable for sharing a tank, what type of water they prefer, what food they need to thrive and what must be done when the fish become ill.
Fish keepers will tend to visit one local store regularly to purchase supplies, but will travel any number of miles to other large retail stores to see what new stock they have. Aquatic retail is a lucrative business, and is thought to be worth around £300 million per annum in the UK (source: Wall Street Journal). Those who work in the industry, either as shop owners or retail workers for a large retail store, tend also to be interested hobbyists, which generally means that retailers can offer good advice and care information.
The starting salary for an unskilled person joining a large aquatic retail outlet can begin at the minimum wage, which currently equates to £5.80 per hour for persons aged 22 and over, £4.83 for individuals aged between 18 and 21, and £3.57 for young persons under the age of 18 (source: HM Revenue and Customs). However, many large garden centres and chain stores will offer better wages as a means of encouragement because the retail advisor’s enthusiasm for the hobby is crucial in retaining repeat custom. As an example, stores in the Warwickshire area are currently offering £13,500 for a retail service advisory position, up to £15,000 for a senior service position. Management opportunities abound at the larger chain stores, and remuneration is good: £25,000 upwards, along with incentives for meeting bonus criteria.
- Advise customers on the appropriate choice of stock and after-care for their existing aquarium.
- Advise new hobbyists on the appropriate choice of new stock and after-care for their new aquarium.
- Advise all customers on the appropriate purchase of new mechanical or decorative items.
- Consult reference materials when asked about a breed or technique for which the retailer has little or no knowledge.
- Handle cash and credit card transactions, and refunds in the case of a customer returning an item.
- General care for all livestock whilst it awaits sale to customers.
- Be sympathetic to a customer’s requirements or complaints.
- In the case of a store manager, make decisions on stock levels and advertising and promotion.
- Store managers must also handle staff rotas and arrange for store accounts to be prepared each month.
Although there are no formal academic barriers to entry, most chain stores will require at least a GCSE in maths and English. This will show that the candidate has the capacity to learn tasks, and also to be competent dealing with cash transactions and customer care. Store managers will normally be expected to have completed some form of management training, and the options are now diverse. This could have been completed whilst in the employment of another company, or it could have been self-funded by the management candidate by way of a higher education course or programme of adult learning. Business college represents the most common form of recognised business qualifications, and a certificate in retail management will often be a huge asset to a candidate at this level. A BTEC Level 3 or Foundation degree in retail management are both popular options, and are widely available throughout the UK.
- A knowledge and passion for fish keeping is helpful, but candidates do join outlets with no prior knowledge and learn “on the job”. They often develop into hobbyists shortly after.
- This is a “dirty-hands” role in the respect that it involves a lot of cleaning and feeding of the retailer’s stock whilst it waits to be sold.
- Must be comfortable handling cash transactions and customer returns.
- In the case of a store manager, must be able to make decisions on stock levels and advertising.
- Store managers must be familiar with people management and financial accounting.
Working in an aquatic store is generally thought of as a non-hazardous occupation. Some may dislike the cleaning side of the job, whilst others find they do not like handling large fish or dead fish. Although the “electrics and water” scenario has the potential to be hazardous, the equipment has evolved over many years of development of the hobby, and most electrical items associated with the hobby are purpose-built, hence are safe.
Although perhaps not considered to be a stressful job as such, there can be times when a packed retail store can overwhelm the number of store operatives. This is common at popular retail stores on weekends. Hobbyists normally know to go mid-week to avoid queues and bustle.
Some aquatic retailers are simply hobbyists who decide to rent a shop and build a business from there. In the case of somebody joining such a business at shop worker level, experience is often not essential, although some shops will demand a certain level of reasonable knowledge. This is particularly true for a small but busy shop that does not have the capacity to administer their own in-house training. Some stores are happy to have unskilled candidates without aquatic knowledge, and value enthusiasm and a willingness to learn over an encyclopaedic knowledge of fish breeds and behavioural insight
Also known as…
- Aquarium retailer
- Aquatic store owner
- Fish shop worker
- Tropical fish store worker
- Retail worker
- Retail manager
What’s it really like?
Chris Haigh is an Assistant Manager at Aquahome Aquatic Centre, Leyland in Lancashire, England.
What made you decide to choose to get into this sort of career?
I have been a keen fish keeper for a number of years, and I have always wanted to work in the trade and learn more. I welcome being able to develop my knowledge of fish, but also to learn more about retail.
Do you have a standard day?
A typical day would be making sure that everyone has their work planned ahead of time, and for all dry goods to be processed. It’s crucial that the shop is clean and tidy too.
The Aquahome motto is “We Know Aquariums”, and we are always happy to help with our customers’ aquatic requirements. We have substantial in-house sections for coldwater, tropical, invert, marine and pond fish.
What is the most common type of problem/call-out/enquiry you must attend to?
Customers often have questions about water quality, and we regularly need to do some investigative work in finding out why the fish have died. This is a common problem to most aquatic retailers.
What do you like most about the job?
Taking my responsibilities seriously and making sure everything works well, and everyone works as a team. Making sure we get good results from sale, and keeping pushing sales for good, consistent turnover.
What do you like least about the job?
Customers whom you try and help but who do not listen. You can offer the best advice, but the customer often has no desire to follow it!====
What are the key responsibilities?
Making sure everyone works together as a team and making sure everyone is content in their role whilst also making sure we hit our goals for the week.
What about academic requirements? Any formal demands, eg- A Levels?
Maths and English GCSE are important to our particular store. It varies within the industry.
What is the starting salary and how does this increase over time with promotion?
The salary is very good to start with. To increase the wage over time, you have to give 110%, plus you have to show that you are willing to work hard and prove your dedication to the company.
If you left this position, what else would you consider/prefer doing?
I would stay in retail. I have worked most of my life working in this industry though, so I cannot see myself getting bored any time in the future. I will stick with what I’m good at!
How far is it possible to progress within the organization?
You can do very well starting from the bottom and working your way to the top, as long as you show your dedication within the company.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to get into this as a career
I would say a little understanding of fish keeping is important, and to have some knowledge of retail.
What are the most important qualities an applicant must should possess?
A little fish knowledge and the desire to learn.