Proving the Industry is "Better Together"
As the industry gears up for SuperZoo 2017, Doug Poindexter, president of the World Pet Association, discusses the show’s evolution and phenomenal growth while offering practical advice on how retailers can make the most of their experience in Las Vegas.
Earlier this year, SuperZoo was honored with several growth-related awards from Trade Show Executive magazine. What does this type of recognition mean to you and the WPA team? What does it say about SuperZoo?
Doug Poindexter: SuperZoo has grown exponentially over the past few years, and we are honored to be recognized by our trade show industry peers. It’s really a validation of the hard work the team puts in across the board to raise the bar each year with regards to the quality and depth of the event program, educational tracks and overall exhibitor and attendee experience.
We were excited to actually receive four awards from Trade Show Executive: the No. 1 spot for percentage growth of exhibitors, as mentioned, plus number 17 in the 50 Fastest-Growing by net square feet of exhibit space, number 17 in the 50 Fastest-Growing by number of exhibiting companies, and number 98 by total attendance in the Next 50 category.
Our 2016 show was the biggest to date at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, with a more than four percent increase in attendance, an eight percent increase in companies attending over 2015 and nearly 1,200 exhibitors.
We’re very excited about SuperZoo’s theme for 2017—Better Together—and how that reflects the inclusive nature of the pet industry and an event that welcomes everyone, from independent retailers to groomers to international and mass-market buyers.
What are your expectations for this year’s show? Are you expecting more growth in exhibitors and buyer attendance?
Poindexter: SuperZoo has seen significant growth over the past few years in both exhibitor and buyer attendance—with 51 percent and 149 percent growth since 2012, respectively. This year, we’re looking forward to another healthy attendance and providing a wider range of products to shop from, in-depth educational sessions and fantastic networking opportunities. As we have grown and evolved as the ‘must-attend’ trade event for the pet industry, we’ve increased our focus on event quality and this year have introduced a buyer qualification system to ensure that SuperZoo remains a qualified event. We’ve also been developing new international partnerships with organizations and events in Brazil, Australia, the U.K. and Canada.
SuperZoo has been the most-attended pet retail trade show in North America for years and we expect that trend to continue this year.
Can you tell us a bit about how WPA has streamlined the registration process for buyers?
Poindexter: Pre-show registration is free for qualified attendees, exhibitors or press and costs $20 onsite. We have indeed made the registration process easier this year for past registrants, who can now simply access a pre-populated registration form by entering their email address and a unique access code generated by SuperZoo. Once access is granted, users can update their information, order concert tickets and sign up for educational sessions and contests. What’s more, if someone from the same company has already registered to attend SuperZoo 2017, they can simply add additional attendees to their registration as a group member. There is no need to register separately.
First-time registrants will be asked to submit a short form providing basic contact information for themselves and their businesses, along with an invoice from a recognized pet distributor or manufacturer that is $100 or more and dated within the past year. Within 72 hours of the form being submitted, SuperZoo will notify the registrant whether their application is approved. If approved, they will be sent an email with instructions for completing their registration. If approval is denied, the applicant may appeal the decision. One thing to note is that, again, if someone from the applicant’s company has already registered to attend SuperZoo 2017, they should simply add additional attendees to their registration as a group member. There is no need to register separately.
Registration information can be found at superzoo.org/register.
This year, you’ve added special sections for international exhibitors. What inspired you to create these sections?
Poindexter: We see the pet industry as a global family, and this year’s ‘Better Together’ theme speaks to that. It’s inspiring to see more and more of our international colleagues attending SuperZoo, crossing cultures, sharing ideas and stories. As we grow, we are dedicated to breaking down boundaries to bring elements from all around the globe to the show floor. Having an area that is distinctly internationally focused provides opportunities for retailers to find products not in the U.S. and create relationships with international manufacturers and buyers.
What can professional groomers and other pet service professionals expect to find at the show in 2017?
Poindexter: The Groomer’s Court is always a fascinating area within SuperZoo. As well as showcasing a huge range of products for groomers, we have a full program of grooming competitions, with more than $45,000 in prize money at stake.
This year’s contests include SuperZoo’s sanctioned grooming competitions, with multiple divisions for each regular breed class, plus Best Pet Stylist, Best First-Time Competitor, the Creative Styling Competition, the Rescue Rodeo Competition and the Groomer Super Jackpot Contest. And, while the competition can be intense, what we find every year is that there’s a great sense of camaraderie amongst the groomers, and they often share ideas and inspire each other to greater creative heights.
SuperZoo is pleased to be able to offer a special area and experience for the service professionals who attend—whether they are groomers, pet boarding and daycare professionals, etc. Service industry professionals are key consumer influencers and have a lot of power when it comes to brand promotion and product selection among the pet parents who come to them for guidance. Drawing the service industry community to SuperZoo allows our exhibitors to connect with and influence a huge group of consumers, so it’s also a huge opportunity for our exhibitors.
SuperZoo offers a variety of educational seminars through its SuperZoo Conference program. How do you ensure that the program is well-rounded each year?
Poindexter: We take a holistic view of the pet industry when it comes to designing the educational seminars and sessions, taking in current and new trends, important industry developments and feedback from attendees. I’d encourage readers to take a look at the conference sessions on our website (superzoo.org/conference/sessions) to get an idea of the breadth and depth of what we are offering this year. We’ve grouped the sessions broadly into four main areas—animal wellness and retail seminars, grooming sessions, retail sessions and sessions for service industry professionals—and we feel that there really is something for everybody.
Several years ago, SuperZoo started hosting a concert at the House of Blues at each edition of the show. What made you add this feature? Who is this year’s featured artist?
Poindexter: SuperZoo is known for being a fun show that gathers everyone in the industry together, in many cases for the only time each year. We also know it’s hard work, so what could be better than to have an opportunity to kick back and enjoy some dancing and music with your colleagues, partners and peers?
The concert has become a highlight of SuperZoo and this year will be no exception, with country music star Trace Adkins bringing his high-energy show to the House of Blues stage on Wednesday, July 26, exclusively for SuperZoo attendees.
Concert information can be found at superzoo.org/concert.
Last year, WPA introduced its Good Works initiative. How does the program work?
Poindexter: The theme for SuperZoo 2017 is ‘Better Together,’ and our Good Works social media initiative will again showcase business owners in our industry going above and beyond by performing good works in their communities. When we rolled out Good Works last year, we received many heartwarming stories that reinforced the value of the pet industry to local communities.
The winner, to be announced during SuperZoo, will receive a prize of $1,000 donated to a charity of their choice. In addition, for 2017 there will be a second prize of $500 and a third prize for $250, again to be donated to charities selected by the respective winners.
The contest rules are simple. Beginning June 12, contestants can post a photograph on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram of their pet business doing ‘Good Works’ for their community, tagging SuperZoo and using the hashtag #WPAGoodWorks. Entries close at 11:59pm PST on July 12. Highlights of the 2016 entries and winner can be viewed online at superzoo.org/good-works-contest.
Do you have any advice for retail buyers and other show attendees on how they can make the most of their experience at SuperZoo?
Poindexter: This year we expect to welcome around 20,000 pet industry professionals to SuperZoo. We are expecting more than 820 brand-new products to be launched at the show in the New Product Showcase alone. The numbers are staggering.
With so much to take in during the show, my one piece of advice to buyers attending SuperZoo is to spend time prior to the show planning. Make a list of objectives for your business. What do you need? Who do you want to see and meet with? What would be your ideal end-of-show scenario?
We have a wealth of resources available for attendees, including an interactive floor plan, exhibitor list, featured exhibitors and a personalized attendee portal, which allows attendees to build their own show guide. We also have a new webpage with plenty of tips for attendees wanting to make the most of their onsite experience (superzoo.org/first-time-attendee).