The Big Three
While the Global Pet Expo and SuperZoo trade shows have proven to be vital to the ongoing success of the pet industry, the Pet Industry Leadership Conference coming up in January will be no less important.
Trade shows have been an integral part of the pet industry in the U.S. for more than 60 years. The simple act of vendors gathering in a hotel ballroom or convention center to display their products for buyers is as elemental as the colorful marketplaces that have existed for millennia.
In the digital age, pundits have been predicting the demise of trade shows for years. Yet, even in the most tech-savvy sectors (think consumer electronics), trade shows have instead grown bigger and more elaborate. There is simply no digital substitute for holding a product in your hand and looking a company representative in the eye as you determine whether this is something to put your faith—and money—into.
There is no question that the trade show landscape has changed dramatically in the pet industry. As recently as the late 1990s, there were no fewer than seven industry trade events around the country. The Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA) sponsored the PETS shows in Tampa, Fla., and Arlington, Texas. The American Pet Products Association’s (APPA) National Trade Show moved from city to city, while its Dealer Showcase was held for several years in Baltimore. The Backer organization’s Rosemont, Ill., and Atlantic City shows were annual mainstays. And the World Pet Association (WPA) sponsored shows for many years on the west coast—in Long Beach, Anaheim and other locations.
Most of these shows were regional in scope. Buyers within a few hours’ drive would attend on a weekend, often with kids in tow. Today, these regional shows have now been largely supplanted by distributor open houses. PIDA member distributors held more than two dozen such events around the country last year.
What has emerged are two powerhouse events that can truly be called national pet industry trade shows—the APPA- and PIDA-sponsored Global Pet Expo in Orlando, and WPA’s SuperZoo in Las Vegas. Nearly every pet product buyer in the country attends one or both of these behemoths each year, and a significant percentage of attendees come from countries around the globe to see what innovative and unique products American manufacturers have cooked up. Each show now features more than 1,000 exhibiting companies, hundreds of new product introductions, dozens of educational seminars and more miles of aisles than most buyers can traverse in three days.
Buyers’ time constraints and the relative ease and low cost of air travel have contributed to this consolidation of shows. And consolidation itself, with fewer independent pet stores and hence fewer buyers, has contributed to the demise of regional shows. Global Pet Expo and SuperZoo seem to have hit the sweet spot for industry trade events, and their continued growth are evidence of the vitality of today’s pet industry.
The Third Pillar
Over the past few years, another event that is just as important to the overall advancement of the pet industry as the two trade shows has also emerged—the Pet Industry Leadership Conference. This event is co-sponsored by all of the major trade associations—APPA, PIDA, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIDA) and WPA. It is open to all segments of the industry and is geared to senior management. What makes this event unique is the focus on dialogue about industry issues, networking among trading partners and thought-provoking talks by experts in a wide range of endeavors. Past speakers have included astronaut Mark Kelly, NFL coach and commentator Herm Edwards, entrepreneur Josh Linkner and economist Chris Kuehl. Some of these names are more familiar than others, but all delivered a unique perspective and compelling story.
If you are a business owner or senior manager with a pet retailer, live animal or pet product distributor, manufacturer or industry service provider and are a member of one of the aforementioned associations, you owe it to yourself to attend the 2018 Pet Industry Leadership Conference, January 28-31 in Naples, Fla.
CNN commentator and TED Talk superstar Mel Robbins will provide her provocative and compelling views on leadership, courage and human potential. Economist Brian Beaulieu will bring his 30 years of experience in deciphering economic trends to explain what leading indicators say about the market for pet products in the months to come. Cyber security expert Brett Williams will give insight into the truly frightening world of cyber-crime and what C-level execs must do to protect their company’s most precious assets. And Amazon’s Mike Bassani will discuss the world’s most powerful retail disrupter’s interest in pet products and how consumer behavior is driving change in the channel.
Trade shows fulfill an important need for buyers and sellers to discuss products, make deals and keep abreast of emerging trends. Likewise, the Pet Industry Leadership Conference allows us to step away from day-to-day business to examine our roles as leaders, mentors, business partners and most importantly, human beings. I hope to see you there in January. PB
Steve King is an industry veteran with more than 35 years in the pet industry. He is president of the Pet Industry Distributors Association and executive director of the Pet Care Trust.