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B.C. HENSCHEN, a certified pet care technician and an accredited pet trainer, is a
partner in PLATINUM PAWS, a full-service
pet salon and premium pet food store
in Carmel, Ind. His knowledge of the pet
food industry makes Platinum Paws the
go-to store for pet owners who want
more for their pet than a bag off a shelf.
PERSPECTIVES & OPINIONS FROM AROUND THE INDUSTRY
Why Consumer Shows Matter
Attending consumer pet shows isn’t just about making quick sales—
it’s about starting conversations that will earn your store lifelong customers.
Outdoor Cleaning Products.
MICHELLE HIGDON, a pet industry executive, will
be joining the board of directors and become a key
contributor to Ark Naturals. Higdon currently serves
as the CEO of Jones Naturals in Rockford, Ill. Prior to
Jones Naturals, she was the CEO of Solid Gold Pet and
was formerly the president and COO of Waggin’ Train.
Jay and Susan Weiss, who founded the Naples,
Fla.-based company, will continue as board members
The Company of Animals hired
CODY ROSSI to serve as vice
president of sales for its U.S.
division in Davenport, Fla. In this
capacity, Rossi’s first priority will
be to establish even stronger relationships with the
company’s growing portfolio of regional and national
accounts, according to company officials. He will also
be responsible for building and implementing a compre-
hensive sales and marketing plan to further elevate the
company’s presence in the U.S.
Rossi brings a wealth of pet industry experience to
BY B.C. HENSCHEN
The Company of Animals, having spent the past eight
years at Kyjen Co. (dba Outward Hound). At the pet toy
company, he was instrumental in acquiring and manag-
ing numerous large global corporate accounts. Beyond
building close relationships with key brick-and-mortar
and e-commerce customers, Rossi also played a pivotal
role in sales, marketing and product development for
the Outward Hound, Petstages, Nina Ottosson and
Bionic brands, according to company officials.
Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a couple of consumer pet shows. One was the Aquatic Ex- perience in a Chicago suburb, which I attended on
behalf of World Pet Association (WPA), the show’s organizer. I don’t sell aquatics in my store, but it was a really
neat event to attend. The other was the Great Indy Pet
Expo, which was held at the Indiana State Fairgrounds
in Indianapolis. I was set up at that show to showcase our
store and my pet nutrition counseling.
Both of the shows were an absolute blast. They featured entertainers, contests, speakers, manufacturers and
national TV celebrities. There were even local veterinarians that fielded consumers’ questions in a no-pressure
environment. I had never thought about the need for a
fish veterinarian, but I met a few in Chicago. People love
The only thing really missing at the shows was you.
I cannot believe the lack of participation from micro independent pet stores. The big-box stores were there, the
multistore “independent” conglomerates were there,
internet retailers were there and the “touring” vendors
(those that hop from show to show to show selling whatever) were there. Touring vendors typically have closeouts or returns they blow out at these shows and others
like it. I’ve seen these guys show up at craft fairs, flea
markets and pretty much any event that’s going to have
a decent door count.
Why weren’t you there? I’ve heard all the excuses—I’ll
never make enough money to pay for the booth and related labor; it takes too much of my time; I can’t compete
against (fill in the blank). I understand those sentiments.
Chances are you aren’t going to make enough sales to justify the expenses related to being at a show, but you need
to look beyond the money to overall brand awareness.
Both of the shows had a door charge, which really
helps me decide if I am going to participate. When a
show charges an admittance fee, it eliminates people who
are just looking for an activity to kill some time or those
just looking for freebies. When a consumer pays a door
fee, it makes them invested in the show. Nobody likes
wasting money, so those consumers are looking to get
the full value of their door charge and are really going to
spend some time at the show and take in everything that
is being offered. That gives me committed pet owners
from my local area, but it’s only one part of the equation.
You need to spend some time exploring the vendor
list and figure out how you are going to fit in. I knew at
Great Indy Pet Expo, for example, there was going to be
some retailers offering specials and deals on things such
as collars, leashes, crates and really pretty much any hard
good you can think of, which meant I was not going to
try to sell those things—I simply cannot compete. What
I can do is sell items they don’t have and, in the process,
have some great interactions. That’s where micro inde-
pendents win—conversations. I take a lot of supplements
to the show, as well as treats and products that pet own-
ers aren’t going to find at most stores. When a consum-
er stops by my booth, I’m going to talk to them about
why they should be adding a probiotic to their kibble
diet—regardless of what they’re feeding. Probiotics are
typically an easy sell, and consumers will see a benefit
from adding them.
I will have them check out some treats from a great
small manufacturer. I also bring out my small bone freez-
er. None of the touring vendors are going to have frozen
items because it’s too hard logistically, but it’s easy for
me because I am local. I actually source my bones from a
local butcher so they are different than what you might
find at a local pet store. That opens up a channel for con-
versations about sourcing and the advantages in feeding
fresh and local.
However, simply standing in your booth with unique
products will not necessarily make your participation in
a consumer tradeshow a success. The old saying of “you
get out what you put in” certainly applies. I do several
presentations on “how to read a pet food label,” and I
moderate several events. Being the MC for “ask a dog
trainer” isn’t going to directly put dollars in my pocket,
but it puts me in front of an audience so people hear who
I am, what I do and about my store.
The show promoters typically love to have stores vol-
unteer for these events. It takes some responsibility off of
them, and it gives consumers a little bit more value. For
instance, when I host the Furminator Shedding Contest,
I’m able to work with the manufacturer and my distrib-
utors to get show specials and giveaway items. If a con-
sumer wins an event we sponsor, they get a nice basket
loaded with treats and other products I am usually able
to get donated to us from manufacturers. It’s a win-win
for everybody involved.
These conversations and the awareness your store
gets at local consumer shows sets you up to be the local
pet expert in your area. I’ve actually gotten several local
TV news spots because I was seen at an event and the TV
station wanted to do something fun for its audience, so
why not have “the pet food guy” on with one of his dogs?
It’s a lot of fun to do these consumer events and it’s
always nice to get some regional exposure. But when you
get a phone call a week or a month after you’ve done a
show and the caller starts up the conversation with, “I
saw you at Great Indy Pet Expo and I’m really strug-
gling with my pet’s diet. Would you have some time to
talk with me?,” that one phone call, can lead to a lifelong
customer who is tied to you beyond the convenience of
where your store is located. And because of the exposure,
they are now “looking beyond the bag.”
Setting up a booth at consumer
trade shows allows retailers to
stoke the fires of future sales.