Getting More Out of Global Pet Expo
Andrew Darmohraj, executive vice president and COO of the American Pet Products Association, discusses the growth of the pet industry’s premiere annual tradeshow and offers advice on how buyers and exhibitors can make the most of their time here in Orlando.
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: Five weeks before the show, we had already sold more booths than we did for the entire show in 2017. Overall, we have well over 3,500 booths this year; and we have about 1,150 companies, which is a record for us as well. So we’re very happy about the participation we’re seeing, in terms of both the number of companies that are here and the amount of space that they’ve taken.
It looks like the increased exhibitor participation has led to an expansion of the show floor again this year, correct?
Darmohraj: Yes, the floor plan continues to expand. You know, it’s very important for us to create an experience that is good for buyers and exhibitors. We really try to control how we expand the show, so we can make it as easy as possible for buyers to navigate while maximizing the amount of exposure that all of our exhibitors are getting with the attendees.
What are your expectations for buyer attendance? Have you seen any notable trends in pre-registration?
Darmohraj: Our pre-registration numbers surpassed 2017, in terms of both domestic and international buyers. Interestingly, our international buyer participation was up at a higher rate than it was last year, which indicates that the show is becoming even more of a draw for buyers around the world. In fact, we have buyers registered from 74 countries, which is pretty exciting.
Every year, you and your team work hard to improve Global Pet Expo and the value it provides to exhibitors and attendees. What were some of your particular areas of focus? What are your goals for this edition of the show?
Darmohraj: Global Pet Expo is the premier industry event, so we work hard to make sure it’s a high-quality experience for both the buyers and exhibitors. We’re always looking to make sure that we have the best exhibitors showing their products at the show, and we put a lot of effort into making sure that the buyers who come in to walk the show are vetted. We have a pretty thorough qualification process to ensure that everyone who’s on the show floor is someone who is ready and willing to buy pet products.
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: I think one of the best-kept secrets is the New Product Showcase Awards. When buyers come into the showcase area to look at products, which helps them do their shopping over the next couple of days, they can cast their vote for the best new products of the year. Then at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, we announce the results of that voting and give out awards in a number of categories. It’s a great opportunity for retailers to see what other people in the industry have to say about what items are going to be hot over the next year. And it’s only going to take about 20 minutes of your time.
Are you introducing any new features or changes to established elements of the show this year?
Darmohraj: We’ve spent a lot of time focusing on the education program for independent retailers—the Global Pet Expo Academy. Every year, we vary the speakers and topics so that the content is always fresh, which is important. Retailers want the education, but you have to make sure that you’re covering topics that they’re looking to learn about.
One of the exciting changes this year is we’re bringing education to the show floor. For the first time, we will be hosting mini-sessions in the New Products Showcase area, so people coming in to see the new products will find learning opportunities related to the various topics that will be covered in the full-length educational seminars. In addition, we’re doing some aquatic-focused education in the Aquatic Lounge.
We’re also excited about the new format of Thursday’s Pet Industry Breakfast, which features the Retailer Excellence Awards presentation. After the awards are given out, we’re going to do roundtable discussions, where independent retailers will have an opportunity to talk frankly with their peers about things that are affecting their business.
This year, the American Pet Products Association (APPA) and Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA) will be celebrating important milestone anniversaries at a reception on Thursday evening. Can you tell us a bit about the event?
Darmohraj: It’s going to be a yearlong celebration for both APPA’s 60th anniversary and PIDA’s 50th anniversary. Those are pretty significant milestones in any business, and it just proves that the pet industry is still strong and growing.
Because Global Pet Expo is really the meeting place for the entire industry every year, it makes sense for us to kick off the anniversary celebrations here. So, we’re going to host a gala reception on Thursday. It is an invitation-only event for members of the two organizations to not only say happy birthday to us, but also to thank our members for supporting us in the endeavors that we do to try to make the pet industry better.
We want to make it a special occasion for our members. It will be a celebratory atmosphere with live music along with food and beverages. And there will be an opportunity for people to do a little networking. All of the past presidents from both associations have been invited to attend, so people who have been around for a long time will be able to share some of their stories. And we have a few surprises up our sleeves to make it a little more special.
Global Pet Expo has a mobile app to help buyers successfully navigate the show. What are some of the key features of the app?
Darmohraj: The app is still going strong. Every year, more people download and use it. The key part of the mobile app is that it provides directional assistance to attendees. The show is so big and we have so many exhibiting companies, the app really is a great resource for looking at the floor plan and locating a specific
exhibitor. It also includes an appointment feature, so users can schedule meetings and build a plan for each day of the show. In addition, we do push notifications through the app, so users will know when something important is happening.
Over the past several years, the American Pet Products Association has created a couple of peer groups—the Professional Women’s Network and Young Professionals group. Can you tell us a bit about these programs? How does an event like Global Pet Expo help to foster the spirit of cooperation among the members of these groups?
Darmohraj: With 20,000 pet industry people gathering here in Orlando for three days, this is an opportunity to get those special interest groups together. For example, the Professional Women’s Network will be hosting a breakfast on Friday morning, which will be co-sponsored by the Young Professionals. In addition to being a good opportunity for both groups to do some cross networking, it will feature a presentation on using social media for your career.
The Young Professionals group is also doing a couple of additional things this year. They are having a couple of meet-ups, and they’re also doing a really cool sponsorship. They’ve brought in a barista artist who can basically draw any image that you want in your cappuccino or a latte. Just go to the booth (#4458) and show him a picture and he will recreate the image in your drink. It’s a fun addition to the show.
Do you have any advice for buyers on how they can make the most of their experience at Global Pet Expo?
Darmohraj: Time management is really crucial for a buyer at Global Pet Expo. You have to come in with a plan. Ideally, before you even came to the show, you formed an idea of the exhibitors that you absolutely have to see and made appointments in such a way that you’re not crisscrossing the entire show floor for every meeting.
It’s important to know what you want to accomplish at the show. Are you looking to add more lines? Are you looking to identify trends? Are you looking to place reorders? Having a plan is the most important thing.
Of course, an abridged version of that is asking yourself, “What are the things that I absolutely have to get accomplished today?” Try to get those things knocked off your list as early in the day as possible. What happens a lot of times is people start in one direction, get a little distracted, and all of a sudden it’s lunchtime and they have to get something to eat. Then before they know it, it’s 5:00 p.m. and the show is closing in an hour.
So, you need to go into every day with a plan. Then, after you accomplish all of the stuff that you absolutely have to do, you can maybe just wander through the specialty sections that you’re interested in or go back and do a second run through the new product showcase. Time management is really crucial as a buyer at the show.
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: The days of just showing up and hoping that people stumble upon your booth are long gone. So, just like retailers, exhibitors need to come to the show with a plan. Who are you looking to sell to? Are you trying to get more of an international distribution going? Do you want more independent retailers coming into your booth, or are you looking to grow through U.S. distributors or mass markets?
The good news with Global Pet Expo is we give exhibitors access to all the buyers who’ve registered for the show. So, it’s very easy to do targeted marketing, whether it’s through email or direct mail. It’s really important for the exhibitor to reach out to current and potential customers to get them to come by the booth.
In addition to having a variety of paid sponsorship opportunities to get your company name and brand out there, there are also some things that don’t cost anything. For example, we have a very vibrant social media presence during the show. So, whether it’s using the Global Pet Expo hashtag on Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat, there are ways to get your company’s information out there to the buyers who are walking the show floor.
In January, the organizers of Global Pet Expo, the American Pet Products Association and Pet Industry Distributors Association, partnered to host the third-annual Pet Industry Leadership Conference. From your perspective, how did the conference turn out? Were there any notable changes from the inaugural edition of this event? Do you have any changes or goals in mind for next year?
Darmohraj: We were very happy with the overall event. Attendance was strong and included a nice representation of distributors and manufacturers. The fact that all of the main associations in the industry are involved says a lot about the quality of the event. It’s really an industry-wide conference, which was the goal when we started doing it three years ago.
The educational aspect of the event gives attendees the chance to learn about things like the economic impact of the industry, as well as what to expect over
the next two, 20 or 30 years. That is a very important piece of information that comes out of the conference. We also have speakers who deliver a really strong emotional message about topics such as leadership and accountability—like Mel Robbins with her Five Second Rule—as well as presentations that offer other kinds of insights. For example, this year we had Amazon at the conference to talk about what they are planning to do in the pet industry. They are a major player in the pet care market, and it’s good for us, as an industry, to know where they are and what their plans are for the future.