As we are coming into the pond season, at least here in the Northeast, I thought I would offer some observations on the changing nature of the pond business. In recent years, almost every lawn maintenance company (and every guy with a truck and a lawnmower), has become an expert in the pond business. Rather than perceiving this as a threat to a local fish store, I think this is, in reality, a tremendous opportunity. To actually construct an effective and efficient pond takes a lot of work; in the form of planning with the customer, sourcing materials, actual construction and then maintenance. With the exception of the larger fish stores, most of this is outside of the capabilities of the average fish store.
I suggest that fish stores stick to what they are really good at – sourcing, keeping, selling and helping customers with the fish and plants that go into these ponds. For most fish stores, the best thing is to set up working relationships with the guys and gals out there who are building and maintaining these ponds. The contractors will be the first to admit that they do not really know anything about fish. They do not want to get into the business of buying, holding and selling fish for the ponds they build. Establishing a working relationship with pond contractors can prove the easiest, and most profitable, way for everyone to share a large, and growing, segment of fishkeeping.
One other thought concerns the “pondless” water features that have become very popular. These usually consist of a sump that is a couple of gallons at most, covered by a mesh of some sort, and a “feature” along the lines of a rock, pot or some other fountain. These are becoming very popular, as they are not that expensive, are easy to install, and give the nice sounds of a water feature without having to maintain or worry about an actual pond.