What to Expect at SuperZoo 2018
Pet Business: What are your expectations for this year’s show, in terms of exhibitor and buyer attendance?
Mike Karsting: We are very optimistic about participation this year, which is largely due to the fact that there has been tremendous growth in the pet industry. In our 2017 WPA Retail Operating Performance Report, we projected that this category will grow at 5.8 percent, which is a positive outlook for us—and the industry as a whole.
With the expanded show floor at SuperZoo 2018, we are also able to bring on more exhibitors who will bring new product offerings to the pet retail industry. We expect the number of exhibitors to top 1,200. Registration is open and we are very eager to welcome both returning and first-time buyers to the event. This year’s show is shaping up to be a record setter.
PB: This year, SuperZoo is taking place in June instead of the July time frame it had in past years. What prompted this change? Has the move resulted in any particular opportunities or challenges?
Karsting: With the amount of growth we have experienced in recent years, it is important that we accommodate the industry and provide a dynamic business platform for current, as well as up-and-coming, pet brands looking to exhibit at SuperZoo. The shift to June allows us to offer more exhibit space and hotel accommodations. It is a small but impactful change for our community. We welcome 18,000 pet industry professionals annually to Las Vegas, and we want to ensure that their experience is not only comfortable in terms of lodging space, but also valuable in terms of the exhibitors we are able to bring to the show floor.
PB: This will be your first SuperZoo show as a member of the World Pet Association’s (WPA) executive staff. How has the planning of the show compared to your expectations? What are you most looking forward to about the show?
Karsting: In the last few weeks, I have truly learned what the old adage, “baptism by fire,” means! Thankfully, the WPA team has been wonderful and I could not be more honored to be a part of this extraordinary executive team. Our goals for SuperZoo are very much aligned in that we want to bring energy to the show floor that inspires our attendees to learn, innovate and take home the knowledge that will help them enhance their own businesses. I am eager to stand alongside my colleagues at WPA to shape the future of SuperZoo and ensure it serves the needs of the industry while remaining the must-attend pet retail industry event year after year.
PB: What are some of the popular show features that attendees can expect to find on the show floor again this year?
Karsting: Our flagship education sessions are certainly something attendees can look forward to, as they are the most comprehensive, on-trend educational programming in the pet industry. This year’s SuperZoo will also offer free show floor talks that cover key motivational, retail and animal wellness topics, which we format as drop-in sessions so that attendees can stop by without having to leave the show floor. We launched these talks in 2017 and have found that format to be an efficient way to really maximize the amount of education attendees are able to absorb at SuperZoo, while also getting to explore the show floor.
We are also bringing back our popular Networking Reception, which will be held on Tuesday, June 26. It is a great opportunity for attendees to benefit from peer-to-peer sharing, mentoring, friendship and support.
Of course, we also love to have a good time, so Kenny Loggins will perform a concert for all attendees on Wednesday, June 27, which is sure to be a blast.
PB: Are there any new features that are making their debut?
Karsting: In addition to the expanded show floor—which is huge for us, in terms of offering more opportunities and an overall greater experience to our attendees and exhibitors—we are also presenting a brand-new Made in the USA Showcase and a new Pet Tech Center.
The Made in the USA Showcase is intended to highlight products that were made in the United States—something for which we have seen quite a rising demand. It is a concept that we are really proud to support as it enforces a “shop local” attitude that we believe is essential to helping small businesses thrive in their local economy.
The Pet Tech Center is another highly demanded call that we are happy to answer. It will highlight the most innovative technology in the pet industry to meet the needs of tech-savvy customers looking for products to make their lives easier and enhance the health, safety and overall fun for their pets. We think people will truly enjoy this new feature, and I am excited to check it out as well.
PB: What can attendees expect from the Groomer’s Court Neighborhood and SuperZoo Grooming Contests this year? How has this segment of the show evolved?
Karsting: Grooming and grooming products make up an important segment of the show. Every year, it seems to evolve more and more, and that is because businesses are more commonly adding grooming to their service offerings. That added service is proving to be a huge business growth opportunity. With the grooming competitions we host at SuperZoo, we are able to showcase the latest trends and talent within the industry. We are also able to provide grooming-focused education and business-focused sessions to provide retailers with the support they need to grow and expand this crossover offering in their shops.
PB: What should attendees expect from this year’s SuperZoo Education seminar schedule? Are there any new elements or highlights that bear mentioning?
Karsting: Our education sessions are the biggest and most comprehensive offering in the industry. At SuperZoo, attendees can expect more than 80 seminars that are led by more than 40 top experts in their fields, with focuses on business, retail strategies, merchandising techniques, animal wellness and specialized services such as grooming and pet boarding. There is something for everyone.
PB: In addition to formal educational seminars and free Show Floor Talks, SuperZoo will feature aquascaping demonstrations on the show floor. What can attendees expect to find at these demonstrations?
Karsting: Oliver Knott, who is a well-known German aquascaper, will captivate attendees with his creations. He is not only an aquadesigner, but also a creative visionary who travels the world introducing aquascaping and spreading the art form.
He will provide live demonstration sessions on the show floor Tuesday through Thursday from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm, so we really encourage people to check out his work while they are there. His work and passion will inspire designers in their efforts to learn and hone their skills, while showcasing trends for retailers to implement in their stores.
PB: How can retail buyers make the most of their experience at SuperZoo?
Karsting: There are certainly things attendees can do to make their experience run as smoothly as possible. The first thing I would recommend is to plan ahead. On our website (superzoo.org), attendees can find all the schedules they need to plan their time efficiently. I would recommend registering early because it is free to register online in advance, and it will make checking into the event quick and easy, so you can hit the show floor running on day one. Also, book your travel early to ensure the best pricing.
Education sessions begin on Monday, so I would suggest looking into which sessions you would like to attend and signing up early to guarantee a spot. We also have an app that we encourage people to download in advance of the show, so you can schedule and navigate the show floor with ease. You can also check the tips page on the SuperZoo website (superzoo.org/first-time-attendee) for more information.
PB: What does the future hold for the show?
Karsting: As it is early in my tenure, I can initially commit to continuing our efforts to produce a robust education offering to ensure we are on the cusp of all the emerging trends and offering the latest business best practices to support the industry. As the show floor expands, my team and I will look for ways to enhance shopability and efficiency. As I really get into the everyday details and future SuperZoo show planning, I will be eager to share my thoughts about show strategy with the community. That said, SuperZoo is already an unrivaled industry offering—it can only get better from here.