Last week, I had the privilege of attending the 2014 PIDA Management Conference, hosted by the Pet Industry Distributors Association. The conference gathered distributors and manufacturers together for four days in Phoenix, where they got a chance to network and learn from insightful presentations on the various dynamics affecting the pet care market. But while the conference was a members-only event, the information presented can benefit every level of the pet industry, including retailers. With this in mind, here are some of the highlights of the conference:
The first presentation was given by economist Brian Beaulieu, of ITR Economics, who discussed a variety of macroeconomic trends and their expected impact on the pet industry. Interesting points from Beaulieu’s presentation included:
• The economic forecast for 2014 is looking quite good. The Federal Reserve reports that household debt is at its lowest level in 29 years, which means that consumers have money to spend.
• Beaulieu expects the economy to keep improving through 2017, but cautions that another recession may be coming in 2018-2019. Given this forecast, he encourages businesses to be aggressive in making the most of the next three or four years, before the economy possibly goes south again.
• Shrinking margins will be a significant challenge to profitability in 2014-2015, due in large part to wage increases. Beaulieu suggests that businesses counteract the impact of escalating staff costs by looking for operational efficiencies and strategic price increases.
• A combination of low interest rates and a positive economic forecast (for the next few years, at least) means that now is the right time to borrow money for a business.
Bruce Tulgan, of Rainmaker Thinking, led the next presentation, which was about generational changes in the workforce. Among the insights offered by Tulgan were:
• Employers are on the verge of a major shift in the workforce as baby boomers who have put off retirement finally hand over the reigns to younger generations.
• An epidemic of under-management is costing businesses money as mid-level managers from Generation X have, in many ways, failed to step up in their leadership.
• With younger generations in the workforce, high performance usually comes with higher maintenance and higher expectations. These employees often think in the short term, which is driven by a “visceral sense of uncertainty in the world.”
• While younger members of the workforce do bring a lot of technical skills to the table, there is a gap in their non-technical skills, such as interpersonal communication and work habits.
State of Pet Distribution
PIDA president Steve King, along with Perry Parks and Randy Reber—chairman and vice chairman of PIDA, respectively—discussed the state of the pet specialty distribution channel. The presentation included a variety of facts about the industry’s distributors, as well as updates on several of the association’s initiatives:
• Collectively, pet specialty distributors had more than $3.3 billion in wholesale sales in 2013, which translated into approximately $4.45 billion at retail.
• PIDA will launch a new PIDA Platinum Supplier Awards program at next year’s management conference.
• Over the past four years, Pets in the Classroom—which is administrated by the Pet Care Trust, under King’s leadership—has distributed 38,000 grants to teachers who brought pets into their classrooms.
• The Pet Store Pro free online training program for retailers continues to grow, in terms of both content and usage among pet stores. More information about the latest updates to the program will be announced at the upcoming Global Pet Expo.
• The Human-Animal Bond Research Initiative—of which PIDA is a big supporter—has awarded $250,000 in grants for research into the health benefits of pet ownership.
• The PIDA Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Dr. Bern Levine.