Reef Retail and Supporting LFS

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by Squist, May 16, 2019.

  1. Squist

    Squist Supporting Member

    Returning to reef keeping after 20+ years. Blank canvas to work with and thrilled by how the hobby has advanced; (expensive) automation esp. Though equipment was also expensive in the '90s, I was able to shop around, price compare, and find deals while buying locally through my local fish stores (LFS). Jumping forward to today's marketplace, and like other speciality hobbies, reef keeping equipment appears to be priced the exact same across retailers -- both online and local fish shops. It's as though prices are fixed through sales terms established by the manufacturers and/or distributors.

    I'm wondering: are LFS typically amenable to discounting a reef keeping package deal? I'm not motivated to haggle over price, given the credit discounts offered by the few big online retail shops I've found, free shipping, and often no sales tax. But I'm also wanting to support Bay Area small business.

    Do LFS stock their hardware for impulse purchases and their top-tier clients who don't compare price? Or do they also stock it with the intent of bundling discounted package deals for customers purchasing all-at-once?

    Anyone have experience shopping retail through LFS in this regard?
  2. ofzakaria

    ofzakaria Supporting Member

    Neptune aquatics have great bundle deals and they give 20% discount on live stock if you buy the aquarium from them.
    The discount is nice and adds up while you are filling up your system with coral and fish.
    Squist likes this.
  3. sfsuphysics

    sfsuphysics Supporting Member

    This is exactly it, it's called MAP, Minimum Advertised Pricing. And most of the newer well known brands apply this policy to their gear. There are some exceptions, but for the most part, yeah you're not going to get any discounts
  4. Squist

    Squist Supporting Member

    Makes sense. Thanks for sharing insight. Well... score +1 for the non-LFS, on cost alone. It's got to be a tough local Bay Area retail environment. Something to consider and appreciate.
  5. Vhuang168

    Vhuang168 Supporting Member

    Since it's the same price everywhere, why wouldn't you buy from the LFS?

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
  6. tankguy

    tankguy Supporting Member

    I’d prefer to shop locally and support my LFS
    ofzakaria likes this.
  7. ofzakaria

    ofzakaria Supporting Member

    I try to do most my shoping from LFS. Honestly I get better pricing on live stock than online and have the peace if mind that I can see the animal or coral before buying it.
    The problem i face that when it come to dry good selection is limited because its dictated by the deals the store have with vendors. Which even some times push the store to be biased toward one brand over the other.
    That is my only problem some times.
    So of the good am looking for is stocked by the store, I will always buy from the store cause I get the same price as online for reasons explained above..
  8. sfsuphysics

    sfsuphysics Supporting Member

    Well he did mention it... sales tax, this makes it not the same price everywhere. As sad as it is to say, buying a certain $799 piece of equipment in San Jose versus many online stores not named Amazon (which does collect some level of sales tax), that's a $74 savings by buying online.

    Sure you can argue all the other benefits of shopping locally, etc, but if you're talking dollar for dollar, it's not the same price.
  9. sfsuphysics

    sfsuphysics Supporting Member

    Out of curiosity if the only LFS in your area was a place like 6th Avenue Aquarium ( and Flowers :D :D :D) would you have that same mindset?
  10. Vhuang168

    Vhuang168 Supporting Member

    BRS charges tax. Marine Depot charges tax. Saltwater charges tax. Do some online stores not charge tax? Sure.

    Bear in mind the LFS does NOT keep your $74. That goes to Uncle Sam.

    So you are punishing the LFS by not giving them your money even though both places make the same amount of money off you.

    But yet everyone say they want to support LFS and lament how online stores are killing off LFS.

    I understand the savings to you. Everyone, including me, want to spend less if we can.

    But you vote with your dollars, so in buying online, you vote online. Not LFS.

    How do you support your LFS? By making sure they make enough money to stay in business. When they give you a discount, they loose money. Yes, same with online stores. But who has less overhead? Who can give you a bigger discount but still have a higher ROI? Online.

    Without MAP, prices start to spiral down as each lowering of the price becomes the norm. Eventually it would not be cost effective for the LFS to carry that item. Only place you can get it at that point is online. Who wins in that situation? The consumer and the online store. LFS just lost a revenue stream.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    fishdoctor likes this.
  11. Vhuang168

    Vhuang168 Supporting Member

    I personally would drive further to find a LFS worth spending my money on. 1 that will support/help me, 1 that I would in turn support by spending my money there.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
  12. sfsuphysics

    sfsuphysics Supporting Member

    Well the big online stores charging sales tax is a relative new thing, that happened IIRC beginning of this year with laws that allow states to go after etailers of certain sizes, and of course a state like Taxifornia is going to go after everyone to make sure they start collecting sales tax (because obviously no one is filling out that part on their tax forms that ask if you made any out of state purchases :D :D :D).

    That said, the question is of cost, not about who keeps the money, and ultimately that may be the deciding factor for people. My intent was not spur an argument of pro/con of Online nor LFS.

    As to MAP, I'm done getting in arguments about it. Not going to try to convince people regardless of how they view it, I just know the way I feel about it and I'm sticking with it regardless of anyone's arguments on the matter.
  13. sfsuphysics

    sfsuphysics Supporting Member

    I agree, but you have to agree there has to be a point at which you won't consider a store "Local" enough to go to. Whether that is a 2+ hour drive or a 1 hour drive, everyone is different, and there will be a point where someone just says "Yanno what, I can wait 2-4 days for FedEx to drop a package off" .
  14. Vhuang168

    Vhuang168 Supporting Member

    Sure. Ultimately it is your choice as a consumer. You choose where you want to spend your money.

    I enjoy going to LFS. I’ve driven as far as Roseville, (before my current job) just to see the stores there. And if I find a good store, I will make the extra effort to go there as often as I can. My personal limit is 2hrs. Anything more than that would require the store to be phenomenal!

    So if I was in SF, both AC and Neptune would be within my range. And would include all the other stores in between them of course.

    I’ve driven as far as Watsonville, because there were no decent quadcopter stores here at that time. They had an online presence but I drove there anyway.

    Just the other day, I was contemplating driving to Chico to pick up parts for my RC Heli. Could have ordered it online from their webstore (which I ultimately did because the store didn’t have it in stock but the warehouse did), but by going to the store, I would get to talk to the owners and workers there, meet other enthusiasts and have a good afternoon enjoying a big part of most hobbies. The other people who share the same interest.

    It is the same with most things I choose to buy. I see if it is available locally 1st. Online is almost always 2nd choice.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    tankguy likes this.
  15. Flagg37

    Flagg37 Supporting Member

    I read the original post before anyone had commented and almost got into all this but decided I didn’t have it in me for another debate on map pricing.

    When the question comes up on turbo tax about online sales tax, I often wonder how many people actually enter it in. I’ll usually think about if there were any big purchases.
  16. sfsuphysics

    sfsuphysics Supporting Member

    Well I think it's largely viewed that you shouldn't have to pay sales tax if you didn't make a SALE in the state that you're in. If I go on vacation, I pay sales tax in that state on purchases (assuming there is some), I don't pay sales tax in my state for those purchases (although I do know certain large ticket items like automobiles they do slap you with a tax if you try to register in the state of CA). But why should online sales be any differently?

    Then there's the argument of living in one of the most tax happy places in the US and they still can't make things work right, so why should I feel obligated to pay more :D
    Rostato and ofzakaria like this.
  17. Squist

    Squist Supporting Member

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, everyone. I think we can all agree that we appreciate our LFSs and would prefer to support their efforts by buying through them.

    What motivated me to post this question has to do with my (re-)entering the hobby, starting from scratch. (I jumped back in after meeting some of you guys at your SF frag swap last March. I knew with a club like BAR this was the right time, not to mention all the cool automation that's going on in the hobby.)

    A couple weeks after the swap I started cycling and curing rock in plastic drums (part of phase 1 of 5: drums, RODI, salt, heater, circulating pump, Dr. Tims, etc.) My next phase (2 of 5) is making one of the bigger initial purchases: tank, sump, pumps. Followed by phase 3, lighting. Then phase 4, controllers and dosing. Last, phase 5, livestock in a few months, though fish will start to be added after phase 2.

    Online, one mail order retailer is offering a 10x point credit this month; undoubtedly you're all aware. I could rack up some significant savings through this alone by buying the big stuff for Phase 2 and then applying their credit towards Phase 3. I need to run some numbers using their point credit formula, but I'm guessing it will be in the lower hundreds of dollars saved. What's key to me is that this is maybe last time I'll be in this position again -- starting from scratch with a single initial purchase -- and I'd like to save as much as possible so I can put that money saved into stocking the tank in Phase 5.

    What I'll do is ask the LFS that I want to support. They've been mentioned in the thread above. If they're able and it's worth it to them, well, win-win.

    Thanks again for sharing. I learned about MAP though this exchange. And I look forward to showing you how everything comes together over the summer.

    Coral reefer and glee like this.
  18. sfsuphysics

    sfsuphysics Supporting Member

    Just FYI, the points that are 10x this month are only on certain items, not everything in stock. And the way their points work is *usually* you get 1 point per dollar spent, then it takes 100 points to get $1 off of something, so at the end of the day you effectively get 1% off. It also requires you to do it on a future purchase too, which is fine if they're your go-to place for goods, but if you're making a single purchase and good to go, then they don't do you much good :)
    Squist likes this.
  19. Flagg37

    Flagg37 Supporting Member

    I usually get the mundane things like test kit reagents with my points.
  20. Squist

    Squist Supporting Member

    I'm realizing I've over-estimated the reward points. LFS purchase making more sense.

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