A few years ago, Pet Business partnered with the organizers of Global Pet Expo to create what quickly became a highlight of the show—the Retailer Excellence Awards (REA). A first-of-its kind awards program designed to honor the best independent pet specialty retailers in a variety of categories, including marketing, community service and all-around operations, the REA program will be celebrating its third-annual edition at Global Pet Expo 2014.
With the nomination process in full swing, Pet Business sat down with Annie Rotberg, associate director of attendee services for Global Pet Expo and one of the lynchpins in the REA program, to discuss what inspired the creation of the awards, and how the program has evolved significantly in three short years.
Pet Business: What was your inspiration for creating the Retailer Excellence Awards?
Annie Rotberg: The inspiration came from the independent retailers themselves—their personal passion and the innovation that they bring to the marketplace. They don’t often have large advertising budgets, so their creativity is what really helps them connect with their communities. The Retailer Excellence Awards helps to recognize that.
The Retailer Excellence Awards program is about honoring excellence, but it is also about providing inspiration to other retailers and even manufacturers by highlighting the efforts that honorees have made to personalize their connection with customers.
PB: What makes Global Pet Expo a good platform for hosting the Retailer Excellence Awards?
Rotberg: As the largest annual pet industry trade show in the world, Global Pet Expo attracts the best exhibitors, retail buyers and media coverage. So, which retailers are being honored, and why, is heard by the most important people in the industry.
We love to hear from retailers, and the Retailer Excellence Awards are a great way to hear their stories. Retailers are Global Pet Expo’s customers, and we want to continue improving the show so that it is a valuable experience, and I think the awards program does that. We want to provide them with creative strategies, standards of excellence and fun ways to connect with their communities, and the Retailer Excellence Awards allows retailers to share that information with and learn from their peers.
PB: This is the third annual edition of the Retailer Excellence Awards. How has the program evolved over the past three years?
Rotberg: The program is always a work in progress, and each year we try to improve it, based on the feedback that we get from retailers. In the past, we’ve increased the number of categories to better reflect the diversity among pet specialty retailers—and this has, in turn, increased the number of nominations we receive.
This year, we have expanded the awards program to include international retailers, as well. And we’re also going to be giving special recognition to the runner-ups, because it takes a lot of effort to put together these nominations together, and we respect that. In addition, it is often difficult to pick just one winner for each category, so acknowledging the great work being done by the runner-ups is a win-win.
PB: In addition to inviting retailers nominate themselves, the Retailer Excellence Awards program invites manufacturers, distributors and sales and marketing reps to submit their own nominations. What makes these pet industry professionals ideally suited to identify honor-worthy pet stores?
Rotberg: They have a great perspective, because they are directly involved with a wide variety of retailers. They get into the stores and get a first-hand view of the product mix on the shelves, as well as retailers’ community involvement and customer service. Now, most of the nominations come from the stores themselves—after all, they can tell their own stories best—but hopefully manufacturers, distributors and reps are encouraging these retailers to nominate themselves.
I also hope that retailers who have nominated themselves before are doing so again this year, even if they didn’t win in the past. We’ve had retailers who didn’t win one year come back and win the next year. And we’ve had retailers who won an award in a certain category one year come back and win in another category the next year.
PB: What is your favorite part of the Retailer Excellence Awards? Are there any particular highlights that come to mind from the first two editions?
Rotberg: First and foremost, I love to see how pleased and proud retailers are when they win an award. I think the retail business is mostly about doing things for others, and this is an opportunity to do something or them by recognizing their hard work.
To nominate a retailer, download the official Retailer Excellence Awards ballot.