Doug Poindexter, president of the World Pet Association, discusses the many business-driving opportunities that will be found at what is shaping up to be another record-breaking edition of SuperZoo.
What are your expectations for this year’s SuperZoo in terms of attendance?
Doug Poindexter: We expect SuperZoo 2016 to be the biggest pet retail show in North America this year, in terms of both exhibitor and buyer attendance. This year’s show floor expansion allows us to welcome more than 1,100 exhibitors, making it the biggest exhibit floor in SuperZoo history. Also, attendee excitement continues to build, and registrations are trending ahead of last year.
Who will be this year’s keynote speaker?
Poindexter: This year, we’re excited to welcome Earvin “Magic” Johnson. He brings a solid business background and expertise. He will talk about persevering through setbacks and how he parlayed his skills and tenacity on the basketball court into success in the business world. He’ll share how his company has provided high-quality products and services while assisting underserved urban communities across the United States for more than 30 years. He’s built a globally recognized and respected brand while simultaneously helping transform our country through philanthropic efforts. We can’t think of a better speaker to help shed light on how to stand out in 2016.
What are some of the popular features that attendees can expect to find on the show floor again this year?
Poindexter: The New Product Showcase will definitely be a must-see for everyone at the show this year. Natural products are very much a major trend in the industry, and the Nature’s Pathway area grows and sells out every year, which speaks to the big consumer desire for wellness and organic products.
Finally, Rodeo Drive, which focuses on the humanization trend in the industry, is always a huge draw.
Are there any new features that are making their debut at this year’s edition of SuperZoo?
Poindexter: We constantly evaluate speakers and educational programming, based on feedback, to add new things to the mix each year.
This year, we made a huge change to the shape of the exhibit hall, adding two new halls and replacing the L-shaped layout with a more streamlined configuration. There is so much to see on the SuperZoo show floor, and we’re implementing this change to make things easier for our busy exhibitors and attendees.
We addressed attendees’ need for more networking opportunities by adding a new Networking Reception last year, which we’ll have again this year. It’s another chance for attendees to spend more time with fellow retailers, and it’s also where we will present our 2016 Retailer of the Year Award. The reception takes place Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the North Convention Center, South Pacific Ballroom.
Finally, we just launched our Show Us Your Good Works photo contest, the winner of which will be announced at the Networking Reception. The World Pet Association’s (WPA) Good Works program has donated over $3 million in the past decade and continues to support all aspects of the pet industry, from pets to owners to retailers. Through the program, all proceeds from SuperZoo and WPA’s other trade shows are distributed to leading organizations and non-profits in the pet industry.
This year, we’re asking pet retailers to show us the good they are doing in their communities. All they have to do is post a photo on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram of their pet business doing good works in their community using the hashtag #WPAGoodWorks by July 20 for a chance to win $1,000 donated to a charity of their choice.
Tell us about the SuperZoo mobile app. What features and benefits does it provide to attendees?
Poindexter: The SuperZoo app is a must-have for attendees who want to make the most of their experience. It’s a tailor-made guide that allows them to set their schedule; review and star the exhibitor list, so they remember who they want to visit; plan ahead for special events and education sessions; access a personalized “walking map” of the exhibit floor; keep up with daily news from the show; and finally, share their experience via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, right from the app.
What can professional groomers expect to find at SuperZoo’s Groomer SuperShow this year? How has this portion of the show evolved?
Poindexter: There are grooming contests and a grooming conference with more than 40 educational sessions, including everything from grooming demos to seminars on starting a pet services business. The grooming contests are some of the largest in the industry, with over $45,000 in prizes at stake. Groomers come from all over the world to compete. A portion of the show floor is also dedicated to grooming products.
What should attendees expect from this year’s SuperZoo University and School of Animal Wellness seminar schedule? Are there any new features or highlights that bear mentioning?
Poindexter: We have more than 80 sessions this year, which is up from 2015 and makes SuperZoo the biggest conference in the industry, with more than twice the number of sessions as other shows.
This year, we have a presenter speaking directly to human resources beyond just staffing, as we’ve had in previous years. With the rapid expansion our industry is experiencing, human resources is something retailers need as their businesses grow, so I’m excited about that.
We also have some great speakers talking about leadership and communication, which we think retailers will find extremely valuable moving forward in 2016.
We changed up our School of Animal Wellness this year as well; sessions will be 30 minutes and will have veterinarians speaking on small animal health in addition to last year’s featured topics.
The biggest thing we hear each year is that attendees can’t wait to get back to their store and put what they’ve learned into action.
How can retail buyers make the most of their experience at SuperZoo? Are there any common mistakes that attendees make?
Poindexter: Retailers need to have a solid plan in advance of the show to determine which current vendors they need to see and which new exhibitors to network with, and still leave themselves time to wander the show floor to make sure they don’t miss anything. You have to go into the show knowing you can’t visit every booth and that you need to prioritize; it’s helpful to bring enough staff with you to cover every segment of the show floor that you need to see and sit in on different education sessions.
We have tools, like our mobile app, that will make preshow planning much easier and help retailers get as much as they can out of the show. At the same time, and as a former trade show attendee myself, I’d encourage people to leave themselves enough time to have an impromptu discovery and explore areas of the trade show they might not look at otherwise.
It has been reported that the popular Fox Business Network show The Big Pitch will be shooting at SuperZoo this year. Can you tell us a bit about what they’ve got planned?
Poindexter: On August 1, SuperZoo exhibitors will have the opportunity to pitch The Big Pitch panel, which includes direct-to-consumer sales pioneer (and former ABC-TV “Shark”) Kevin Harrington. A select group will be invited to appear on a fall episode of The Big Pitch, which airs on Fox Business Network. To pitch the panel, companies need to be registered exhibitors, and must also fill out a brief online questionnaire to pre-qualify. There is a $350 fee to participate, which helps to cover the travel expenses of The Big Pitch crew. Every product pitch will be taped for possible broadcast. The panel offers companies feedback, business advice and potential networking connections.
It’s an excellent opportunity for our exhibitors to gain recognition for their incredible products. These successes help broadcast our message of responsible pet ownership and a healthy and safe lifestyle for our animal friends to a national audience.
What does the future hold for the show?
Poindexter: SuperZoo has succeeded year after year because we pay attention to independent retailers and focus on attracting high-quality attendees. While we certainly attract larger distributors and retailers, we also know and appreciate independent retailers and work to make sure they have a great show experience, meeting up with fellow professionals to network and hunt for the best new products. We’ll continue to provide that forum, as well as improve the experience for attendees and exhibitors.