Join Date: Mar-2003
Location: Ontario Canada
Well, well well... good posts and good thoughts going on here!
There's a whole lot to consider in this business isn't there? And "herp selling for Idiots" is yet to make the bookstand. lol
All the issues discussed confront all herp breeders and can be quite perplexing, and really require quite a bit of thought.
It's not easy to be both a breeder and a marketing, customer service & shipping expert.
Generally speaking herpers are animal lovers and animal experts. Making the jump to sales, marketing and forwarding guru isn't exactly a logical or easy step.
As a crude analogy,very few professional breeders or zoologists are likely equally successful used car or life insurance salesmen, nor would they want to be.
Many herpers these days chose to sell the animals they produce directly to others that want them. Buyers obviously prefer direct interaction with the producer, but this technique of direct sales, is fairly new and done primarily to win the higher near retail price.
However, it comes with a cost as you are all discovering. It's not just the out of pocket costs of shipping, box building and gas to the airport..., its time... and time is money especially in todays busy world.
It's very difficult to be a basement breeder, and full service retailer if you also have full time day jobs in other fields. And herping full time, while being done by a few, and a very admirable vocation, is not the easiest way to make a living. And it's likely to get harder as captive breeding continues to grow and competition grows in step.
Contemplating all of this many years ago is in part what motivated me away from direct selling.
I found the hassles and time required was really taking the edge off my enjoyment of the animals.
For years I have preferred to have someone else sell my animals, as I just found I didn't have the time, or temperment to both breed and sell, and I had no intention of giving up my day job. There's alot to be said for a regular paycheck.
Of course it wasn't very long ago that there was no internet, and no such thing as websites, or shows for that matter.
It used to be the norm for herp breeders to ship animals to Tom Crutchfield, or Louis Porras' Zooherp, or some other wholesaler or retailer.
For years I shipped hundreds of animals to re-sellers in the USA, as there was no market in Canada
Most breeders did it that way because other than mailing out lists, there was no effective way to direct market animals, as communication was almost non existent because to do so cost a lot of money. Mailing,long distance call, adds in newsletters etc.
I remember the days of mailing out lists... It would cost quite a bit, and result in very few enquires. There is always a cost of doing business, and other than shipping, most of it should be invisible to the customer..
I remember waiting every spring year after year to get Bob Applegates list, but confess to never buying from him. He was both the pioneer captive breeder and pioneer direct retailer. He blazed the trail that many still follow
The advent of the internet has completely upset the normal distribution, market structure and pricing of animals.. It's all still unfolding, and there are both positives and negatives to this sudden change, which has cut out many of the middle men.
However this internet driven change to direct selling, is recently having an about face, as companies now are finding they can't effectively do it all.
OUTSOURCING is the big word these days.. This means producers of a product seek specific experties elswhere, and stick to doing what they do best.
I think that the evolution of the business of herpetoculture is still unfolding and yet to find an equilibrium.
I felt the frustration Favelle is feeling, many years ago, and that is what set me to "Outsourcing" the sales of my animals.
I think it's as true today, as ever that there is a place for specialized wholesalers and brick and mortar bona fide "retailers"
These guys fill a niche. There expertise is business and selling... They understand the dynamics of preserving markets and they are the onramp for most new herpers. They also showcase the animals breeders produce. Most breeders aren't zoos, and don't want the public in their facilities, but the public needs to see it somewhere to furthur promote sales.
I personally feel there is lots of room for more specialized herp stores, and herp wholesalers and distritutors to directly interface with both breeders and buyers.
Direct selling means holding animals, getting them feeding, sexing them, and addressing all the niceties of dealing with strangers. A breeder really has to weigh the perceived increase in profit against the convenience and real saving of moving out entire litters at once, if that option exists. Sure you take a smaller piece of the pie, but not as small as you might think.
Holding and feeding stuff for months, costs real money, in food ,housing and TIME. There is also a cost in terms of your mental well-being if you're sitting on hundreds of high maintenance babies.
The bottom line price of the animal to the buyer will continue to be the principle factor in the buyers eye, but in addition to that, the market price can rarely be higher than the going rate elsewhere, plus any currency exchange.
Unless you have an exceptional reputation for high quality, unique bloodlines or have some other good reason for demanding more, the lowest price for a comparable product, is generally what will always be sought by customers.
It's also important to recognize that low balling sets a price that from that day forward will become the market price..
It's important to have a marketing strategy and to try to avoid over producing only to flood a market that you'll then be tempted to low ball. That negatively effects all your peers, and sets the new market price. This is happening all over the US these days and is why the price of everything is dropping so dramatically. It all works out eventually, but the process can be painfull.
Breeders that find they just can't get enough to justy breeding , eventually stop.. Eventually the supply dries up until it meets demand.
In general one must always look to the USA to calculate herp prices, then add the exchange. Asking much more than that often turns buyers off.
What happens is that psychologically all buyers will weigh the cost of buying domestically to the cost of bringing one across the border. I regularly get mail from people inquiring about importing common stuff that Canada is full of.
Almost always the main motivation is the perceived lower cost. This is especially true now with the high value of the loony.
In the past I've even had perspective customers expect the US price at par, without any exchange.
Fortunately the herp industry is growing in Canada, and for that matter herpetoculture globally is growing and with it will be growing pains, as we all grapple with the diverse facets of the business.
Ultimately all businesses and markets find an equilibrium. This is the backbone of free enterprise.
The business of herpetoculture is still an industry in it's infancy, and as such we're all pioneers, but everyone that becomes a breeder is instantly a part of it, like it or not.
It's going to be a bumpy ride.
Herpetology - more than a hobby
It's a Lifestyle
celebrating 26 years of herp breeding