Bigger and Better

Not only is Global Pet Expo growing in size, it is also evolving to deliver more value to buyers and exhibitors, says Andrew Darmohraj, executive vice president and COO of the American Pet Products Association.


How does the size of this year’s Global Pet Expo compare to previous editions of the show, in terms of the number of exhibitors and show floor size?

Andrew Darmohraj:
It seems to be the same good news every year. This is once again the biggest show we’ve ever had. Our booth sales are up eight percent, in terms of square footage, and the number of companies exhibiting at this year’s show is up five percent over last year. We have more than 1,000 exhibiting companies and more than 3,100 10-by-10 booths, so it is a huge show.

Are there any clear trends in the size of the exhibits at this year’s show?

Booth sizes are definitely going up. We have so many more companies that have taken larger booths at this year’s show. And they’re not just upgrading from a 10-by-10 booth to a 10-by-20—they’re taking booths that are the equivalent of 15, 25 or 40 10-by-10s. That is a trend that continues to grow, and what it means is there are a lot of companies that want to make a big splash at this show. They want to make sure they can show their full product lines and really get the attention of the buyers who are walking around.

What are your expectations for attendance, based on pre-show registration? Do you see any particular trends here?
Darmohraj: Pre-show registration among international attendees was much higher than it was last year, so we’re expecting an even higher percentage of international buyers this year. Our overall pre-registration was also up—by about four percent—over last year, which is a very good sign.

What we’re also seeing is more multiple registrations per company. So, clearly companies are bringing more people to the show. We see that as a sign of a healthy industry, when retailers are able to take more buyers out of the office to come to the show to see what’s new and exciting in the market.

How have the specialized segments of the show floor—The Natural Pet, The Boutique, Everything Aquatic—done this year, in terms of exhibitor demand?

For the first time, all of the specialty areas sold out more than a month before the show this year. There was a huge demand for the Natural Pet section again. The Boutique section sold out faster than it has in the past eight years, and the same goes for Everything Aquatic, which was full by Jan. 1. So, the specialty areas are really popular with exhibitors.

How does The International Pavilion section of the show floor compare to years past?

The International Pavilion grew by about 10 percent this year, but this section of the show floor only represents a small part of our international participation. Our total international exhibitor participation grew by well over 10 percent. So, there are a lot of international companies exhibiting at Global Pet Expo 2015.

What are some of the show features that buyers and exhibitors should be sure to take advantage of at this year’s show? Does Global Pet Expo have any brand-new features or any features that have changed this year?

One of the cool new things we’ve done at this year’s show is a service project that took place yesterday. In conjunction with the Professional Women’s Network, we set aside about four hours to assemble hygiene kits—shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc.—for a women’s shelter in Orlando. It is a shelter for battered and abused women, and it also takes in their pets. That was a first for us. We’ve always donated pet products to animal shelters, but this is the first time that we’re doing something to help the [human] community in Orlando.

At this year’s show, we are launching our Young Professionals Network. The goal is to provide Millennials within the pet industry with networking and educational opportunities. Usually, people in that age group are relatively new to the business world and the pet industry, and this will be an easy way to build a network of colleagues, which is important. The other part of the program is providing young professionals with educational opportunities to help them build their careers.

The Young Professionals Network is launching this evening at 6 p.m., with a casual meet-up at the frozen yogurt lounge at the bottom of the 4900 aisle. We’re really excited to bring the young professionals in the pet industry together—it’s something that has never been done before. And this first meeting will be a great opportunity for people to get involved from the start and help us to formulate what the network does moving forward.

One of the other things we’re launching this year is the Global Pet Expo Trolley. It is a little shuttle that does a loop around the exhibit hall, with a handful of stops where people can get on and get off. The show floor has gotten so big that it can be difficult to get from the 200 aisle to the 4500 aisle, for example. This transportation system will help.

We are also introducing a smartphone app this year, which is a little different than the mobile site that we’ve done in the past. It is available for Apple and Android devices, and it will enable you to get information about the show, sign up for notifications and basically just have everything you need together right there on your phone. 

Every year, Global Pet Expo draws a wide range of media outlets to Orlando. Are there any notable developments in media coverage this year?

We expect to have more than 200 members of the media at this year’s show. And it’s not just the pet industry trade press; we also get all of the local and mainstream media to attend. Two of the more notable media outlets that are scheduled to be here are CNN and the Huffington Post, and we are very excited to see what kind of coverage that will generate.

Global Pet Expo was recently honored by Trade Show Executive magazine on several fronts—a Gold Grand Award for Best Use of Social Media, a sixth straight year in the Gold 100 Awards, and named one of the 50 fastest growing trade shows. To what do you attribute these honors, and what do they mean to you?

We are very proud of all of these awards. They are all based on very specific criteria, so you have to hit certain numbers—the winners are not selected randomly. So, we are growing at a significant enough rate every year that  we not only continue to be one of the top 100 shows in the country, we keep moving up the list.

I was really thrilled about the social media award because that is based on the fact that our show and the pet industry can create such a strong buzz and so much activity on social media over the span of the event. And we don’t get that award unless our buyers and exhibitors are interacting, so it’s the industry that is helping that activity grow.

The Fastest 50 Award shows that our audience is growing, and we’re growing faster than most other industries and segments in the tradeshow world. So, we think it casts a very positive light on the industry, as well as the show.

How important is it that you continue to evolve Global Pet Expo year after year; and what is your approach to improving the show?

To keep improving the show year after year is our most important goal. We treat the tradeshow like it is a living thing—it is always changing. Our job on the show management side is to make sure that we’re talking to buyers and exhibitors, and listening to what their needs and desires are.

Really, our whole approach to evolving the show starts with the buyer and exhibitor surveys we send out every year after the show. We ask people what they were happy with and what they would like to see changed. For example, the trolley service we’re launching this year came directly from buyer and exhibitor surveys saying that the show has gotten so big that they feel it has gotten difficult to get from appointment to appointment sometimes.

Apparently, there are some big changes coming for the International Drive area surrounding the Orange County Convention Center. Do you have any idea what some of those changes might be, and how they will enhance the experience of those attending Global Pet Expo in years to come?

What is happening on International Drive is pretty amazing. The development in Orlando in general is really growing, and it’s not just centered on the theme parks. A lot of stuff is happening on the International Drive and Sand Lake Road corridor. The Orlando Eye, which looks like a giant Ferris wheel, is one of the tallest attractions in the city, and there is a whole dining and entertainment complex built around it.

There are more restaurants and entertainment spaces opening along International Drive. Point Orlando is moving away from retail and going just to dining options. What this means for people who are coming to the show and staying in that convention center district is there will be a lot more to do than ever has been before. International Drive will look a lot different five years from now.

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