3 Issues Creating a Buzz Among Retailers at SuperZoo



As the pet industry gathers in Las Vegas for this year's edition of SuperZoo (Aug. 20-22), there is no shortage of issues generating a buzz both on the show floor and off.


In fact, discussion of some of the most buzz-worthy topics actually started the day before the show officially kicked off as a group of retailers representing more than 2,000 pet stores assembled in one fo the Mandalay Bay Convention Center's meeting rooms to talk about their common concerns. Here are just three issues that are at the forefront:


1. DCM & Grain-Free Foods

The FDA's warnings about a possible connection between grain-free foods and canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) has stirred up quite a bit of controversy over the past year, so it's no surprise that this was a major topic of conversation at the pre-show retailer meeting. Nielsen's Brad Boldridge offered some compelling data that illustrated the impact that the DCM warnings have had on both the grain-free and with-grain food categories, with particular attention paid to some of the brands specifically cited by the FDA. While growth in grain-free diet sales have slowed significantly, grain-diets are experiencing sales increases that Boldridge says haven't been observed in years.


Following up Boldridge's presentation, Dr. Susan Wynn from Nature's Variety provided retailers at the meeting with a primer on DCM and its connection with the diets that were fed to dogs diagnosed with this serious health condition. The bottom line, it seems, is there is nothing close to definitive proof that the cases of DCM reported to the FDA were caused by food. Apparently, the only thing we do know for sure is that no one really knows exactly why these cases seems to be spiking, but Dr. Wynn suggests that there are likely multiple factors at play here.


2. The Growing Impact of E-commerce

The threat that online retailers pose to brick-and-mortar pet stores is a subject that has been creating a buzz in the industry for years now, but the impact being made by e-commerce giants like Amazon and Chewy has reached a whole new level and could be downright devastating in the near future. In fact, data from Packaged Facts that was presented at the retailer meeting forecasts that online retailers could capture as much as a 25% share of the pet care market by 2022, at the expense of independent pet, big-box pet and mass/grocery stores. Given what's at stake, the brick-and-mortar crowd can no longer afford to hope that great service will be enough to give them a competitive edge. Retailers must figure out a way to not only continue playing to their strengths, but also engage and serve pet owners in the digital space.


3. Retailers Organizing?

Another big topic of discussion at the retailer meeting was the idea that independent pet retailers may look to organize their own trade association. Given the progress that has been made in areas such as MAP policy enforcement as a result of similar informal meetings, which independent retailers have been hosting at SuperZoo since 2016, the general sentiment seems to be that a presenting a more formal unified voice may be essential to the continued health of this channel. At the heart of the concept is the idea of identifying and rewarding vendors that prioritize brick-and-mortar independents, as well as giving retailers a seat at the table in legislative and regulatory matters. 


The idea is still in its infancy, but when a show of hands was requested to gauge the interest of retailers at the meeting, it seemed to garner overwhelming support. Stay tuned for further developments on this front, as the concept could quickly gain traction.


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