An Opportunity That Most Pet Retailers Are Missing Out On
Not long ago, I brought home a 16-week-old English Cocker Spaniel puppy. My plans for him included dog sports, as well as showing him in the AKC conformation ring. Later this month, that puppy will turn nine months old, and we’re spending the weekend at a conformation show in Tennessee, where literally hundreds of dog owners will gather to prep their pups and parade them around the ring.
You know what I don’t expect to see in attendance? Any local pet retailers.
There are often vendors at these types of shows, and those vendors will have everything from collars to clothing for people who forgot a suit—yes, you can buy a suit and jacket at the dog show.
But most of the vendors I see are very small businesses—artists or dog show hobbyists who travel around the country on the weekends just to set up their booths at one dog show or another. They handmake leather collars or paint pet portraits.
Most of these shows are held annually and are put on by local breed clubs. Some are bigger than others, for sure, but they all represent an opportunity for local retailers. The attendees are people who live for their dogs—they spend their vacations attending dog shows, or they’re retired and buy RVs and travel the country with their dogs, attending show after show. They invest significant amounts of money, not just in the dogs themselves, but in care and products.
And it’s not just conformation shows I’m talking about.
I’m helping organize an annual dog sports training conference that brings together about 350 dedicated dog sports enthusiasts. Yet, last year this event only drew two or three vendors.
Again, we’re talking about an audience that competes with their dogs almost every weekend—many of whom spend thousands a year on training classes, gear and other goodies.
In both cases, these seem like dream shoppers — the kind of customers who will drop a pretty penny without blinking an eye, just because a bed you have caught their attention, or because they are low on dog food or forgot their bait or treats.
While they may not become recurring customers, at least not on a weekly or monthly basis, this feels like a missed opportunity to me. A crowd of dog people who’ve demonstrated they have at least some disposable income. Lots of dogs there, in person. And very little competition.