Local stores versus online vendors


alink - I didn't want to hijack the other thread, so I started a new one. Not sure if this is the right subforum, but I figured "local fish stores" was as good as any.

To catch any newcomers up in our conversation from other thread, here is my post when a member was talking about pricing stuff locally....

I wouldn't buy anything from local stores, they usually mark things up over twice the price you can find things online. Make a list of all the supplies you may need in the next few months such as water treatment, filter media, food, fertilizers, etc and place one order to save on shipping. Places like bigalspets.com and kensfish.com are usually the cheapest around.

Here is alink's response to my post...

Since its not the point of this thread, I will keep it short. You said not to buy anything from local stores because they are more expensive. These local stores need people to come to their shops and buy things from them in order to pay their bills, put food on the table, make that rent payment and car repair bills. These are NOT multI millionaires who are getting rich, they are trying to survive. because of that, I think it is very important and a good idea to shop at these local stores and keep the money in your local economy when you can afford to do so... /end rant.

And now for my response....

I do see your point alink, but I'm also not a multI millionaire, and it's not my job to put food on anyone's table but my own. I feel if these local places wanted to compete they would offer better services, prices, and products. But they don't. Remember these local stores are business not charities, so I treat them so. If they were a charity than sure throw them a bone, and buy from them sometimes. Business on the other hand is all about competition, open market, and survival of the fittest. Unfortunately these local places usually don't cut it.

I live in Birmingham, AL and our small locally owned stores are horrible. Dirty, no selection, expensive prices, etc. I don't feel like supporting them. The larger big box stores are a little better, but their knowledge is lacking, and prices are still much more than online.

I use online resources such as Fishlore for info, and I try to buy all products online from places like bigalspets.com or kensfish.com for a large savings. For what its worth, Kensfish.com is basically a small locally owned place that ended up going large by having online sales. I have called and personally talked with "Ken" before. So in a sense, buying from him is supporting locally owned business, just maybe not in your area. If I'm buying fish, I sometimes buy locally for the ease of it, but even then it's often better to buy from fellow fishkeepers online from sites like aquabid or here on fishlore.

At the end of the day, for me personally, I'm a smart shopper and go with people that have the best prices and best service. As sad as it may be, that is not from locally owned shops. So I vote with my tax dollar and buy online. I feel if the local guys want to compete they need to re-evaluate their business model and get smart with how they do things.

Also wanted to add that alink - I totally respect you and your beliefs, just having a good healthy debate here, no hard feelings or anything, haha.


I understand your point 100% now that you have spelled it out. My response was made solely because you suggested to avoid the local shops.

If a local fish shop is dirty, has lots of dead fish, high prices, poor service, etc, then of course you wouldnt want to frequent their business. I think that is obvious to most consumers. Another example, if I went to a local pizza place, and the floors and tables were always dirty, service sucked, people didnt use gloves when making the food, etc, I wouldn't go there again because I don't want to help them survive when they are displaying such a poor effort to make customers happy. The same goes for any type of local, or big box stores for that matter.

For me, I have a local fish/pet store here in town that is open 5 days a week with somewhat limited hours. It is owned and operated by a middle aged (50's or so) married couple. They are the only employees. They have about 25 tanks and a couple shelves of food and meds along with decor for tanks and some equipment along with cat and dog food and toys. Its not a huge selection of stuff, but if I am going to buy something, I will go in there to see if they have it and how much they want for it. If they do have it and it isn't horribly over priced, I will gladly give them my money. They are personable people that are very friendly and seem knowledgeable about the stuff they sell. They even gave me a 10% discount the last time I was there just because I was telling them a good story about one of my experiences.

Another part of it for me also is that the big box stores are over a half hour drive so that uses gas and goes to a company that doesn't care about the animals, just the money. Buying online has shipping costs most of the time and you obviously have to wait for it to arrive.

Dont get me wrong, If I got $20 in my pocket and I need something that costs $18.99 locally or online for $10 and free shipping with Amazon Prime, I will go that route. I know we aren't all rich and need to pinch pennies here and there. That is why I said in my post on the other thread, that its important and a good idea to shop at these local stores and keep the money in the local economy **when you can afford to do so**.

If someone would rather go to the big box stores or online for all their goods when they have a decently run fish store that carries the same product but at a slightly higher cost (likely because they pay more for it since they can't buy it by the thousands of pieces at a time), then I question that persons morals and integrity. But if someone buys their stuff elsewhere because their local stores have poor service, inventory or bad stock, or you are simply on a limited budget that you can not afford to pay a little extra, then that is doing what is best for you and I am fine with that.


Not all small local stores are horriable. One in my area is very nice and not over priced. The selection is awsome and the service is great. The staff is very knowledgeable and willing to help even with small simple problems. The prices are slightly over online prices but not enough to stop my from buying. I've heard stories of small stores being nasty and having horriable service but their not all like that.


A good LFS has a higher overhead than an online warehouse. This increases the cost of items they sell. However, they are local, and if I need something in a hurry, I can buy it locally. A lot of the supplies I purchase online aren't available locally anyway.

I also prefer to buy fish at a store because I can see what I'm buying, how healthy they are, how big they are, how well they have been fed. Buying at a store, I almost never get bad fish because I can see them.

If the only place I can find a fish is online, then I will weigh the risk and buy if I feel it's necessary/appropriate. I've been burned almost as often as I've gotten good fish. On more than one occasion, the shipping company killed the fish I had ordered.

I understand living in an area where there simply aren't any decent stores. Right now, a non-chain "local" shop for me is at least an hour away. The gas to drive that far is cheaper than shipping these days, so I will do so. If I want to go the extra distance, there are fantastic shops 3 hours out, and they are worth the occasional visit, particularly for unusual fish. Yes, they cost a bit more than online. That's the price of seeing what you are buying and increasing the probability of getting healthy fish.

ajint boo

I actually wouldn't mind paying a little more for fish and supplies at the LFS (as long as it was only a little more not like 50% more). But my local LFS (there are 4 of them including pet smart and Walmart)hardly ever have what I'm looking for and their advice is bad (the sales person either doesn't know a thing or offers bad advice). One time I asked the owner of our best LFS if she could see if her supplier could get me some yellow labs (I thought that was a reasonable request). Nope no luck so I ordered them online. I've given up on dealing locally, I just get better selection advice and value online. Maybe it's because the online vendors aren't trying to sell dogs, cats birds, reptiles and rodents in addition to fish.

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