A Meeting of the Minds
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Pet Industry's Top2Top Conference, hosted by the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), in Amelia Island, Fla. It was my second year at what has quickly become one of my favorite events in the pet industry.
With a much different tone than the bustling, sales-oriented atmosphere that can be found at trade shows, the Top2Top conference gathers the top echelon of the industry together in a relatively casual environment to build relationships and discuss a variety of issues impacting its collective future. Because of this, there may be no better place to connect with high-level executives from every level of the pet trade.
Once again this year, the PIJAC staff did an excellent job of hosting the event, which featured a nice mix of networking opportunities and thought-provoking presentations from prominent speakers. Some of the highlights of this year's presentation schedule included:
• Nathan Richter, of Wakefield Research, led an insightful session on The Millenial Pet Owner. During his presentation, Richter pointed out that Millennials are expected to surpass Baby Boomers in spending by 2018 and offered several key trends among this emerging customer base:
• They are 52% more likely to make impulse or pampering purchases.
• 76% say they would splurge on their pet before themselves.
• They are motivated by functional marketing messages, while Baby Boomers are motivated by emotional marketing messages.
• They are more likely to purchase versus rescue a pet.
• 61% think it's important to have a portable pet.
• They are twice as likely to buy clothing for their pets.
• 90% are on social networks.
• They are markedly more receptive to pet product features like BPA-free, natural/organic, hypo-allergenic.
• Sam Geduldig, of Clark Lytle Geduldig & Cranford, led a session about Applying Your Business Expertise to Solve Industry Threats, in which he noted that the pet industry's success is sure to draw interest from politicians. Unfortunately, said Geduldig, animal-rights groups often frame the public-policy debate for the pet industry, and politicians usually align with the emotional side of an issue—both factors that do not make for fair assessment of the issues. As a result, members of the pet industry must be proactive in government relations to ensure that their interests are represented.
• Dr. Candace Croney, of Purdue University, led a session focused on the need for science-based breeder guidelines. Croney is involved in Purdue University's current work to develop voluntary breeding standards that address housing, sanitation, nutrition, health and more. The standards wil address public concerns and facilitate best practices in other communities such as shelters, etc. While Dr. Croney's entire presentation was extremely interesting—and important—one fact in particular resonated with me, particularly as it relates to the battle against pet-sale bans: A study has shown that more relinquished pets come from another shelter (22.5%) than a pet store (3.9%).
• Secretary Norman Mineta, the conference's keynote speaker, closed out the presentation scheduled with a speech and Q&A session that offered all in attendance a peek at the inner workings of federal and local politics, with a healthy dose of actionable advice and engaging humor.
Looking back, I am happy to report that the Pet Industry's Top2Top Conference continues to evolve as one of the most important events on the industry calendar. With that said, I encourage executives from every company in the pet care trade—from the smallest retailer to the biggest manufacturer—to attend next year, when it will be held in Southern California.