PET INDUSTRY LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE RECAP
BY JENNIFER BONCY
Speakers at the 3rd Annual Pet Industry Leadership Conference, which was held Jan. 28-31 at the Naples Grande Beach Resort in Naples, Fla., reported that
the pet industry is strong, thriving and full of opportunities for product manufacturers and specialty retailers that
are prepared to grab them.
The conference, which is jointly organized by the Pet
Industry Distributors Association (PIDA), the American
Pet Products Association (APPA), the Pet Industry Joint
Advisory Council (PIJAC) and the World Pet Association (WPA), brought together top brass from pet product
manufacturers and distributors. Attendees gathered for
three days’ worth of networking opportunities, motivational speakers and breakout sessions focused on specific
pet-trade-related topics. The event also boasted a lineup
of presenters—from the president and CEO of the Pet
Food Institute to Amazon executives—that several attendees described as impressive.
Brian Beaulieu, an economist with research and consulting firm ITR Economics, based in Manchester, N.H,
kicked off this year’s event, which was titled “Tides of
Change, Waves of Opportunity.” While he portended
great things for the industry, he also insisted that the
fate of any individual company is its own to determine,
adding that even the ups and downs of the economy
will have a limited effect on pet companies should their
leaders be prepared to seize their full potential to grow
Attendee Bruce J. Flantzer, director of North American
sales and marketing for Moderna USA in Gaffney, S.C,
said he’s a long-time Beaulieu fan and agreed with his
“He is right in my opinion, and he looks at pure eco-
nomic indicators, past history, so it is purely a mathemati-
cal equation and, as they say, numbers don’t lie,” Flantzer
said. “We will definitely take his advice and seize the day,
Beaulieu also asserted that traditional pet stores will
remain firmly planted in the retail landscape despite the
growth of e-commerce giants such as Amazon.com and
“Brick-and-mortar—that’s the future,” he said. “Do
not fear online.”
Adding to the conversation revolving around online
business, the conference offered a bonus general session
that seemed perfectly suited for attendees who want to
keep a watchful eye on the growth of major e-commerce
retailers—or those who want to tap into it or leverage it.
Mike Bassani, divisional merchandise manager in Ama-
zon’s pet segment, and Zak Watts, pet category director,
were on hand to share details about the many ways in
which the online retail giant is and will be engaged in the
Watts explained that with a pet supply sales forecast of
$8.2 billion for 2018, Amazon is anticipating strong growth
as more and more people become comfortable shopping
online. Bassani followed with a detailed presentation of
Amazon’s strategy to zoom in on five focal points—selec-
tion, convenience, awareness, personalization and supply
chain innovation. Initiatives spanned from convenience
programs such as Alexa-activated voice shopping and re-
curring delivery methods to brand-growth support pro-
grams such as Amazon Media Group—a sales and mar-
keting team that, among other things, helps build brand
awareness—to assortment selection strategies.
“We want to have the world’s most selective selec-
tion,” Bassani said.
Flantzer said he appreciated hearing the Amazon
point of view and about its plans.
“As leaders, we have to look at how we can work with
all parts of the industry to make it as even a playing field
as possible with MAP, or MRP, policies,” he said. “All
companies are going to have to address e-commerce and
look at how they want to participate.”
Other speakers at the conference covered a range of
topics. Standouts included Mel Robbins, an entrepreneur
and motivational speaker who is famous for conceiving
“The Five Second Rule,” which is at the heart of a strategy
to rewire thought processes and develop more construc-
tive mental habits, and Jim Platzer, a motivational speaker
and a former Fortune 500 company top executive.
Robbins, who encouraged attendees to engage in a
“war against worrying,” impressed attendee Brad Gru-
ber, president and CEO of Health Extension Pet Care in
Deer Park, N. Y.
“Mel Robbins was truly motivating,” Gruber said. “As
educational as these seminars are, having someone teach
a simple and effective method of changing your thought
patterns for the better is often neglected and something
everyone from all walks in life can benefit from.”
Platzer, who, at the height of his career, was forced
into making radical life changes due to a degenerative
eye disease that left him blind, was another speaker who
touched attendees with his powerful story and message
of hope and self-empowerment.
Platzer’s presentation was particularly notable for Ja-
cinthe Moreau, the WPA’s recently appointed president.
“Jim Platzer and his dog Mica’s true story hit home
with me,” Moreau said. “Even though Jim lost his eye-
sight, it didn’t stop him to live fully and to realize more
than most of us—so incredibly impressive. Would you
believe the guy pilots an airplane?”
Moreau rated the entire lineup of presentations and
breakout sessions highly, describing them as diversified,
informative, motivating and thought-provoking.
Other sessions included a panel discussion on the
bird, aquatic, small animal and herp segments of the in-
dustry led by Mike Bober, president of PIJAC, and a pre-
sentation from retired Maj. Gen. Brett Williams (USAF)
on cyber security.
While many attendees rated the sessions and speakers
favorably, much of the value of the conference came from
the opportunities afforded to attendees to mingle and net-
work with others in the industry. This was particularly
true for Moreau, who took the reigns from retired past
WPA president Doug Poindexter last fall. While she has
attended the conference once before, this event marked
the first for her as WPA president.
“The networking is unparalleled,” she said. “You lit-
erally spend three days with the executives of leading
organizations of the industry, from retailers to manufac-
turers to distributors to academics and even international
She added that being able to talk to fellow attendees
face-to-face was informative and added to her insight on
how the industry is evolving, including how millennials
are affecting consumer habits, the explosive growth of
e-commerce, and mergers and acquisitions happening at
all levels of the industry.
Gruber, too, found the opportunity to convene with
others in the industry useful.
“The general concept of being in a room with
like-minded colleagues listening to top speakers about
topics that directly affect our businesses today and to-morrow is invaluable.”
For a retailer’s perspective on the Pet Industry Leadership
Conference, see PPN’s Counter Points column by Barry
Berman on page 20.
Conference Arms Attendees
with Optimism, Info and
(1) Jim Platzer, a motivational speaker and a former Fortune
500 company top executive, with his dog Mica
(2) Mel Robbins, an entrepreneur and motivational speaker
who is famous for conceiving “The Five Second Rule”