Show Business
By Seth Mendelson

Have pet industry trade shows outlived their usefulness?

The answer is a definite no. Fresh off of the annual Backer Christmas Show in Rosemont, Ill., last month, I can tell you that if you are not attending at least one pet industry trade show each year—you should probably be going to two or three annually—you are missing the opportunity to see the newest products available to the industry and, more importantly, foregoing an opportunity to talk to other industry executives about the state of the industry and other key issues that directly impact your business.

Today, merchants can comfortably sit behind their computers and research virtually everything they want about the new pet products hitting the marketplace. But nothing beats the face-to-face time with industry executives, including vendors and other retailers, that a two- or three-day trade show can provide. It is at these events that merchants get the opportunity to meet with colleagues to discuss similar opportunities and roadblocks they face as pet retailers. It is also at these events that retailers and suppliers can sit down together to discuss everything from product introductions to distribution issues to pricing concerns.

There is also no better way to negotiate a great deal than with the face-to-face contact that a trade show provides.
So, what is the hang-up? First, it appears that many retailers do not want to leave their stores for any extended period of time, especially during weekends when sales spike and the need for management is at its greatest. Second, many retailers say that the cost of attending a three-day show can be prohibitive. Third, retailers are looking for a strong educational element to add value to the experience.

The officials who put on two of the industry’s key national trade shows (Global Pet Expo in Orlando in February and Superzoo in Las Vegas in July) have worked hard to address all three of these issues. First, both Global Pet Expo and Superzoo take place entirely during the week, so storeowners can get back in time for the weekend rush.

Second, the show organizers annually work out deals with airlines and nearby hotels to get attendees the best rates possible. That is followed by a concerted effort to get this information out well before the event is schedule to take place.

Finally, each of the trade shows offers a wide range of informative seminars on everything from merchandising and marketing to balancing the company’s books.

Trade shows provide a forum for retailers, distributors and manufacturers to collaborate on trends and selling opportunities in the pet industry. Every pet retailer should take advantage.