Andrew Darmohraj, executive vice president and COO of the American Pet Products Association, discusses how Global Pet Expo is not only expanding in size, it is also evolving to deliver more value to buyers and exhibitors.
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: On the exhibit side, we look at numbers based not only on exhibiting companies, but also on the amount of space and the number of booths that they take. This year, we’re about eight percent ahead of where we were for the show in 2016. So that’s pretty significant growth in terms of numbers of exhibitors and exhibit space.
Are companies taking out more booth space than they have in the past? Are you expecting big exhibits?
Darmohraj: What we’re seeing this year is that exhibitors are taking a little bit extra space. We’re seeing the average booth space go up by about a quarter of a booth. That’s a good sign for the industry, and it’s a good sign for the economy in general, that people are investing more in Global Pet Expo.
What are your expectations for buyer attendance? Have you seen any notable trends in pre-registration?
Darmohraj: Our pre-registered numbers are also up this year. It’s a little hard to tell until people actually come in and check-in for the show, but we do use our pre-registered numbers as a measuring stick. Our pre-registration was about 15 percent higher than last year. So, we’re confident that we’re going to have a bigger attendance. We’re also seeing a real spike in international registration.
In the past, you have been very focused on trying to increase attendance among independent pet retailers. Is that still a focus? How have those efforts been going?
Darmohraj: Yes, that’s a very important piece of the puzzle for us. We do very well with the international importers and wholesalers. We have great participation from the national and regional distributors and the mass-market retailers. So, our focus on growth for the show is with the independent retailers—not just from the southeast or from the east coast, but from across the country. We have a very detailed focus on those retailers, which includes not only participating in distributor open houses across the country, but also doing some targeted marketing to those retailers as well.
In 2016, Global Pet Expo was named to Trade Show Executive magazine’s Gold 100 list for the eighth year in a row. What does this honor mean to you and your staff?
Darmohraj: Not only have we been on that Gold 100 list for the last eight years, every year we have moved up. We were number 61 in the latest edition. What it says is that we continue to grow the show not only in terms of the number of exhibitors and size of the show floor, but also in terms of attendance and the education and all the products that we provide for our customers at the show.
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: The Aquatics Lounge and Everything Aquatics has been expanded and relocated. This year, we have a secondary entrance to the show in Hall C of the Orange County Convention Center. Basically the aquatics lounge anchors that entrance. Buyers coming in this way are basically entering into the Everything Aquatics section. We think that’s going to be a nice draw for attendees and a nice call out for aquatics exhibitors.
For the past several years, Global Pet Expo has offered a mobile app to help buyers successfully navigate the show. Are you offering the app again this year? What are some of the key features?
Darmohraj: The Global Pet Expo mobile app is really the easiest tool for getting immediate information about the show. With the mobile app, you get a full listing of all the exhibitors and their booth numbers. You get a searchable floor plan. You can set up appointments, and there are other features like full listings of all the seminars that we provide. While all that stuff is included in the show directory as well, the mobile app gives you access to it right on your smartphone, which a lot of people want nowadays.
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: As a trade association, it’s our job to provide opportunities for our members. Whether it’s a national pet owner’s survey or export programs, we put things in place to help people improve their business and succeed in business. It’s also our job to provide opportunities to the individuals in our member companies, and both the Professional Women’s Network and the Young Professionals group fit into that category.
We started the Professional Women’s Network as a way for women in the industry to be able to network, to develop relationships and to build their business profiles in ways that are a little more specific than just general networking opportunities.
The Young Professionals group is a newer program, but it is just as important. As more and more Millennials enter the workplace, we see that they’re hungry not only for knowledge but also for opportunities to build their businesses and to advance their careers.
While we do events, webinars and meet-ups throughout the year, Global Pet Expo is a perfect opportunity to get these groups together because we have thousands of people from the industry in one place for three days. Whether the focus is education, networking or just having some fun, we’re really happy to be able to provide those gatherings.
This year, we have several meetings set up. First, the Young Professionals group will be meeting tonight at 6:00 p.m. at the Networking Reception that will be held in the Hall A Registration Concourse. Next we have the APPA Professional Women’s Network Breakfast, which will take place tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. in room W209 of the convention center and will feature an address from Dr. Dani McVety. Then we will be hosting meet-ups for the Young Professionals group tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. at the Sports Bar here on the show floor, and Friday at 11:00 a.m. at the APPA booth (#2401).
Do you have any advice for buyers on how they can make the most of their experience at Global Pet Expo?
Darmohraj: Hopefully you came to Global Pet Expo with some goals in place. What do you need to achieve over these three days? Once you know that, the next step is coming up with a plan.
The show floor is very big, so if you need to see one exhibitor in the 300 aisle and another in the 4400 aisle, try to set up your schedule so that you’re not spending too much time travelling from one end of the exhibit hall to the other. Of course, using the directory, show map or the mobile app can be a great help in guiding you.
While it’s important to accomplish all of your goals on the show floor, you should also make sure that you give yourself time to eat and stay hydrated. There are plenty of food service opportunities in the hall and outside, so it’s easy to grab a quick lunch and get back to work on the show floor.
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: Just like buyers, vendors exhibiting at the show hopefully have done some pre-planning, whether it was reaching out to your current customers or setting up an appointment with a buyer that you would like to do business with.
Now that you’re at the show, we have a pretty vibrant social media plan in place that exhibitors can take advantage of during Global Pet Expo to call attention to what they have in their booth. That’s probably the most direct, impactful thing that they can do here at the show.
Following up after the show is also important. There is tons of research in the trade show industry about how much follow-up exhibitors typically do after a show, and it’s not nearly what it should be. If a potential customer comes into your booth and has a conversation with you, make sure you send them an email or give them a call to thank them for their visit. People love that type of interaction.
And if you promise them that you will follow up with more information, please, please, please actually follow up. If you don’t, it’s going to be much harder to get their business because they’re going to feel like you’re not as responsive as they would want you to be.
We do make the attendee list available to exhibitors. So even if you didn’t get their business card, for whatever reason, you can find those people on the attendee list that’s available right after the show.
Global Pet Expo always draws a lot of attention from a wide range of media. Do you have anything notable to report, in terms of media participation at this year’s show?
Darmohraj: We always do extensive outreach, not only with the trade press but also with the consumer media as well. The pet industry is so prominent now in everyday life. People love their pets and always want to see what’s new, what’s different, what’s exciting. Global Pet Expo really makes it evident that there’s a lot going on that’s new and different in the pet industry.
While we don’t necessarily know exactly who from the media is coming and what kind of coverage we’re going to get, I can tell you that our pre-registration on the media side was ahead of last year. So, we’re expecting a real strong turnout from the press.
Last year, the International Drive area surrounding the Orange County Convention Center began to get some upgrades, in terms of attractions, shopping and dining options. Do you have any updates to report?
Darmohraj: A lot of the growth and a lot of the economic development that’s going on in Orlando is happening in the International Drive corridor. Whether it’s closer to the convention center or on the other side of Sand Lake, there are constantly new hotels, restaurants and attractions opening.
The county is also planning infrastructure improvements that will help people move around in the International Drive corridor. They are adding dedicated bus lanes and helping the traffic move more efficiently, not only during show hours but also in the evening when people are trying to get out to have dinner or have a few drinks.
In January, the organizers of Global Pet Expo, the American Pet Products Association and the Pet Industry Distributors Association, partnered to host the second-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 pleased with the outcome this year—not only in terms of attendee participation but also the educational content. We got a really positive response in the post-event surveys. The sponsors and tabletop exhibitors were very pleased, and the attendees were really happy not only with the content but with the venue and the events.
Next year we’re going back to the east coast. We’ll be at the Naples Grande Resort in Naples, Fla. We are just starting planning the content, and we’re pretty confident that there aren’t going to be major changes to the structure or the timing of the events. Again, the attendees seem very happy with how everything was set up this year, so we’re planning to keep things similar for 2018.