A Show of Global Proportions
Andrew Darmohraj, executive vice president and COO of the American Pet Products Association, discusses what exhibitors and attendees can expect from this year’s Global Pet Expo.
Every year, Global Pet Expo sets new records in terms of exhibitor participation and show floor space. Will it do so again this year?
Andrew Darmohraj: Yes, we were already ahead in booth space and number of exhibitors a couple months before the show, and then we always get a lot of new companies that come in right up until the last minute. You know, people who may be new to the industry hear about Global Pet Expo and want to do whatever they can to participate. Doing so gives them an opportunity to get in front of the buyers that we draw from all over the world. So, it’s safe to say you can expect a bigger show than ever this year.
What are your expectations for buyer attendance? Have you seen any notable trends in pre-registration?
Darmohraj: Overall, we were about six percent ahead of last year with our buyer pre-registration, which we’re really excited about. That includes mass market pre-registration, which is up 44 percent. International pre-registration is definitely higher, as is the number of stores represented. Also, importers are up 11 percent. Another interesting tidbit is that 21 percent of our pre-registration audience has attended the show the previous four years.
Things are looking really positive, in terms of buyer participation. Still, we always get a lot of people who register on site. So, while the preshow numbers are a good indicator of what we can expect, we won’t know anything for sure until we get on site and start scanning badges.
This past November, for the 10th year in a row, Global Pet Expo was named as part of Trade Show Executive Magazine’s Gold 100, which honors the 100 largest shows in the trade show industry. What does this honor mean to you and your staff?
Darmohraj: We have a great team of people who work on the show. That includes not only the staff members who concentrate on booth sales, operations and marketing full time, but everyone else who works in our relatively small office. There are 21 of us in all and, as we get closer to the show, every single person in the office has a responsibility for the trade show. Everybody has ownership. Everybody’s involved. So, it’s a really good feeling when all that hard work is acknowledged.
What are some of the returning show features that buyers and exhibitors should be sure to take advantage of at this year’s Global Pet Expo?
Darmohraj: Networking is the key for both buyers and exhibitors, so offering opportunities for people to connect is an important part of what we do. Whether it’s the networking reception that will take place after the show this evening or some of the events hosted by the APPA Young Professionals Group, any opportunity that you can get to meet and have conversations with other industry professionals can be valuable. A lot of times, that’s where the best ideas come from.
Obviously, education is also important for buyers, and we are the one show in the pet industry that provides free educational sessions for retailers. This year, we’re offering more than 50 hours of educational content through our Global Pet Expo Academy.
The New Products Showcase is another important another feature of Global Pet Expo. It provides exhibitors with an opportunity to highlight their
new products and get a little more attention, and buyers can quickly see what the trends are in the industry. We also present the Best in Show awards there in the Showcase, and that always gets a great turnout.
Then you have the Retailer Round Table Discussions that we will be holding along with the Retailer Excellence Awards Thursday morning before the show opens. This is the second year we’re holding this event, and we think it’s a really positive thing. We’re planning to continue growing that opportunity as much as we can. From a networking perspective, not only does it give retailers an opportunity to exchange ideas that they can take back to their stores, it allows them to build relationships with their peers, and that’s invaluable.
You mentioned the Retailer Excellence Awards presentation, which will take place along with the round table discussions. Are there any changes to the awards program this year?
Darmohraj: We think that acknowledging retailers in any way we can is important, and Global Pet Expo is the perfect venue to honor some very deserving businesses. This year we’ve actually added two new award categories that we think really reflect what it takes to be a successful pet specialty retailer today. First, there’s the Best Ecofriendly Retailer Award, which will honor one business that stands out as a great example of eco-conscious and sustainable retailing, including their product selection, business practices and support of ecological causes.
We’ve also introduced a Best Internet Marketing Award that will put a spotlight on a brick-and-mortar retailer that has demonstrated an aptitude for reaching customers on the internet by using tools such as newsletters, blogs and mobile marketing.
Are you introducing any new features to the show this year?
Darmohraj: The new element that I’m most excited about is the preview hour we offered in the New Products Showcase this morning. From 8:00 to 9:00 a.m., buyers who had their badges were able to get into the New Products Showcase and walk around for an hour before the show opened. It gave them a little head start on seeing all of the new products being highlighted in the Showcase, and that in turn gives them an extra hour to work the exhibit hall.
Another new feature this year is an expanded registration process that makes it easier for buyers and exhibitors to get registered for the show. We’ve extended the hours that we offer registration within conference hotels and we’ve put in a full service registration area in Hall C for first time. It has been much easier for everyone to get their badges and go.
This year, we’ve also relocated the Aquatics Lounge to Hall A2. We think it’s a great move for our aquatics exhibitors because it gives them more access to the main cross aisles, and more visibility. It also gave us more flexibility with the way we built the aquatics lounge itself, to make it as attractive as possible. We’re excited to be able to shine a little more light on the aquatic side of the industry.
One more new thing that we’re doing this year is hosting the Purina Innovation Awards. Nestlé Purina has a contest for new companies in the pet industry, where they select a group of finalists that compete for the title of the year’s most innovative product in the pet industry. For the past few years, the winners have been represented at Global Pet Expo, but what we’re doing this year is we’re actually having all the finalists come and present here in the New Products Showcase tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. They’re going to be judged on the spot and a winner will be announced.
On Friday, the American Pet Products Association’s Young Professionals group is hosting an educational breakfast (at 7:45 a.m. in Room W209). What can attendees expect from this event?
Darmohraj: This is another example of how we’re always looking to fine tune everything we do. For at least five years in a row, we did an educational breakfast focused on Professional Women’s Network, which were led by great female speakers. This year, we found an economist named Connor Lokar who can speak about the economic side of the pet industry, but with a millennial focus. And since we are always looking for opportunities for the APPA Young Professionals to expand their presence, we thought this would be a great opportunity to do just that. There are so many young people coming into the pet industry, and it’s great for them to get the type of information that Connor will present.
But this event is not just for young professionals; anybody can come and benefit from expert analysis of what to expect from the economy in 2019 and beyond, including things like pet industry trends, business-to-business activity, trade, labor market trends, inflation, interest rates and more.
The Young Professionals group hosts some additional events here at the show, right?
Darmohraj: Yes, they will have their annual meet up at the sports bar here on the show floor. It should be a lot more fun this year, because there’s an NCAA March Madness focus, since some of the games are actually being played while the show is going on.
Then there’s the Baristart, which will be a returning feature from last year. We’re going to do all three days of the show this year, so a lot more people will have the opportunity to come and have a picture drawn on their latte, whether it’s a picture of themselves, their pet or whomever they want immortalized for the five minutes before they drink their coffee. Last year, it was a big hit on social media, and we’ve come up with a cool, different setup this year that we think is going be much more conducive to people being able to sit and watch and record. It’ll be a lot of fun.
Global Pet Expo has a mobile app to help buyers successfully navigate the show. What are some of the key features of
Darmohraj: Because the show features more than 1,000 exhibitors, 50-plus hours of educational seminars, and special networking events each day, the biggest tip we give attendees is to come prepared with a plan for taking advantage of everything. The Global Pet Expo app is the most convenient way to accomplish this, from anywhere.
One of the biggest benefits is the personal planner that lets buyers track all of the exhibitors they plan to visit, save all of the seminars they want to attend and schedule all the networking events taking place, so they don’t miss anything. App users can also save personal appointments to the planner, like meetings with exhibitors or other high-priority tasks. If buyers would prefer to use their own calendars, all of the seminars and special events can also be added to their Outlook, Apple or Google account calendars.
Show management also sends timely push notifications through the app, spotlighting must-see events and opportunities so attendees are always kept informed. And the app is an attendee’s all-access pass to the exhibitors and floor plan, so you can always find whomever you want to see and where they are located.
Whether you’re researching the exhibitors, mapping out your route on the show floor or planning your day around the Barista artist who makes portraits of your pet on your latte, the app is an attendee’s go-to tool for making the most of Global Pet Expo.
Do you have any advice for buyers on how they can make the most of their experience at Global Pet Expo?
Darmohraj: You know, planning ahead and making appointments is key, so hopefully buyers have come in with a plan for what they want to achieve, who they need to see and how much time they will need to get from one place to another.
Most buyers will want to start with the New Products Showcase to see some of the products being launched at the show and identify any new trends. This way, if you see anything that you haven’t thought of, you can make adjustments.
It’s all about maximizing your time at the show by doing things like getting on the floor as early as you can or utilizing the trolley to cover long distances quickly. Also, follow social media—especially Twitter. Exhibitors post a lot of things on there. Whether it’s show specials or deals that they’re offering, you’re going to see those on Twitter in real time.
Then, of course, it’s important to make sure you eat, stay hydrated and make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes. And remember, the show staff is here to help you in any way we can.
Do you have any advice for exhibitors on how they can effectively engage buyers during Global Pet Expo? What about following up after the show?
Darmohraj: Well, the first thing would be to makes sure you are taking advantage of social media. You can use #GlobalPetExpo on Twitter and other platforms to get news out about what’s going on in your booth. Anytime you can do something fun or out of the ordinary, it’s going to get people’s attention.
But the biggest thing that exhibitors need to do is follow up with the buyers they meet at the show. There’s so much research in the trade show industry that says that exhibitors don’t follow up with leads after a show. You know, with the amount of effort and money that you invest not only in your display, but in shipping your products and keeping your booth staffed, it’s super important that you follow up with the people who visited your booth.
To help with this this, we make the attendee list available to exhibitors after the show. Whether you need to find someone who stopped by your booth but didn’t provide contact information or you want to do a generic postcard or email to thank visitors, a list of everyone who walked the show will be available to everyone who exhibited.
This year’s Global Pet Expo will be Bob Vetere’s last as president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association (APPA). Tell us about working with Bob for the past 17 years. What will you miss about his leadership?
Darmohraj: Bob has definitely been a mentor to me. He has a lot of business experience and a way of looking at challenges from very creative perspective. I definitely learned a lot from him.
He’s also done a lot of great things for APPA since he came on board. You can see it in how much our membership has grown, both domestically and internationally.
However, I think Bob’s legacy really is going to be the coalition building that he did, whether it was the formation of the Pet Leadership Council or being the founding father of HABRI (the Human Animal Bond Research Institute). He’s always looked for ways to bring people together for the good of the industry and the good of the pets. Bob has had a very strong and very positive impact on the pet industry.
After leading the Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA) for nearly 30 years, Steve King is taking the reigns from Bob Vetere as CEO of APPA. What are your expectations for Steve in his new role?
Darmohraj: Steve has been a partner to APPA for as long as we’ve been doing Global Pet Expo, so I personally have worked with him very closely over the years and our staff knows him very well. That familiarity is going to be a real benefit for the association. In addition, Steve has a great record not only with PIDA, but as an executive with other associations. We’re really looking forward to the knowledge he brings to the role. We know that he’s going to come in with great ideas about not only how we can improve what the association does for its members, but things that we can do for the pet industry in general.
In January, the organizers of Global Pet Expo—APPA and PIDA—partnered with the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council and World Pet Association to host the fourth-annual Pet Industry Leadership Conference. From your perspective, how did the conference turn out? Were there any particular highlights? Do you have any changes or goals in mind for next year?
Darmohraj: I think everyone was very happy with how the conference went. The attendance numbers were strong and we had an excellent education program that touched on areas like the economy, what we can expect from Washington, and even how to find happiness in your life. You know, it’s always great when you come back from an industry event not only with information that will help you improve your business, but also something that will help you improve your life.
Of course, like we do every year, we will look at aspects that everyone liked and what can be done better to improve the next edition of the conference, which will be held at the Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego.
This year, there was a bigger retailer presence at the Pet Industry Leadership Conference, including a panel discussion featuring successful retail chain operators. Is increasing retailer participation at the conference a goal moving forward?
Darmohraj: Yes. It is an industry conference, so we want as much representation as possible from every part of the industry. There is a membership requirement for attendance, so you have to be a member of one of the four organizing associations in order to participate. But given that the scope of all four groups pretty much covers the entire industry, anyone who wants to come is able to attend.