products made and sourced? This craft movement is a great opportunity for retailers
to connect with their customer base in a new way, positioning themselves as a knowledgeable resource and helping to better educate and connect with customers to better the industry as a whole. Independent retailers, in particular, can benefit from this
trend as they provide consumers with an authentic shopping destination.
On the other hand, there has also been a great deal of consolidation, both on the manufacturing
and distribution side of the industry as well as on the retail end. What impact do you think this
has on the pet specialty industry as a whole?
Poindexter: The consolidation we’ve seen in the industry has had a polarizing effect—
there aren’t as many “middle ground” pet stores, and we’re seeing more and more
boutique, independent retail stores or big-box stores. This trend also has given rise to
online-only organizations. Again, this is an effect that both the pet industry and other
retail industries are experiencing in the current economic and demographic climate.
While this trend has felt tumultuous in many ways, it offers pet professionals a huge
opportunity to differentiate themselves. Whether it is a distributor, manufacturer or
retailer, the customer experience is more valuable than ever in building a consumer
base and boosting revenue. Focusing on what your organization offers that is different
and special, and then following through on this differentiating factor, can really set a
business apart in the minds of consumers.
What do you see as some of the top product trends in the industry?
Poindexter: Top pet product trends that we’ve been seeing have developed from major consumer trends. Pet food is a big deal. Pet owners are looking for food products that are tailored specifically to their pets. Whether it be natural, raw, organic
or any of the other many pet food trends, food products that clearly state what
their ingredients are, where they come from and how they’re processed are a huge
driving factor in the industry.
Urbanization of many communities is also driving product trends in the pet industry.
Families are increasingly living in smaller spaces with less room for their pets to roam, so
products that work well in an apartment or small, urban home environment are becoming more and more popular. Conversely, consumers in urban communities are traveling
farther to find adventure, and they want to take their pets with them. We are seeing
increases in demand for travel and outdoor products so vacations can include pets.
There is so much discussion in the industry about how changing demographics are affecting
and will continue to impact the pet industry. What else do you see happening in terms of the
evolution of the customer base for the industry now and in the years to come?
Poindexter: Trends in each demographic can be very different. Millennials are leading
the craft movement and prefer to travel more with their pets. With many millennials delaying starting families, pets are increasingly filling the void and are becoming
viewed more as family members rather than simply pets. This portends very well
for the pet industry in the next few years. At the same time, with housing prices increasing in many urban hubs, more millennials are renting for longer and may not
be able to afford larger houses. With that, we see millennials taking another look at
lower-maintenance pets like fish or birds.
Looking forward to the next generation of pet owners, integrating technology into
pet products is growing as a trend. Generation Z, even more so than millennials, were
raised in a connected world, and as they start to join the pet community, they will
expect the same connectivity in their pet products, whether that be Bluetooth collars,
high-tech feeders or digital connections to their pets while they’re away.
Let’s talk a little about the pet-owning community, which WPA reaches through its consumer-facing events. Can you share with us some of your latest initiatives focused on consumer education
and the promotion of responsible pet ownership?
Poindexter: America’s Family Pet Expo (AFPE) was developed to help consumers understand what is required of them to own the animal they already have or the animal
they are thinking about adding to their household. WPA donates or steeply discounts
60 to 70 percent of the exhibit space at AFPE to various animal group experts to educate consumers about responsible pet ownership and what is required to keep a pet in
a forever home so it does not end up in a shelter or lesser environment.
We also believe that consumers should have a choice in where they may acquire
their pets. While adoption is a great avenue for obtaining a new pet and giving it a
forever home, it may not be right for everyone. Some people may have specific needs
that require specific animals that may not be available through adoption. Finding the
right pet for each individual need gives better assurance that the animal chosen will
find a forever home.
Shows such as America’s Family Pet Expo and Aquatic Experience seem to grow each year.
What’s driving that growth and momentum?
Poindexter: We continue to see a movement in consumers to treat their pets more like
kids. This means they are not simply buying more products for their pets and are
more willing to spend money on services for their pets, but also feel a stronger need
to have a better understanding of their pets’ needs and health. This includes wanting
to be better educated on the products they’re buying, in the foods their pet needs to be
healthy and in overall animal wellness. This trend is a huge driving factor behind the
growth in America’s Family Pet Expo and the consumer side of Aquatic Experience,
as WPA strives to continue to foster a community of education and excitement in the
consumer sector for each event. We have even moved free Animal Wellness sessions
to the SuperZoo trade show floor this year to educate consumer-facing businesses on
common questions customers are asking.
Aquatic Experience continues to grow in the trade sector because of the growth in
the aquatics industry and WPA’s push to always be at the forefront of product trends
for this industry. The current economic and demographic climate means that consumers are looking for pets that will function well in a smaller, more urban environment.
Pets like fish and other aquatic animals.
What recent WPA achievements are you most proud of?
Poindexter: We are honored to have been recognized by Tradeshow Executive in their
Fastest 50 Awards and Summit. SuperZoo racked up four awards, including the No.
1 spot for percentage growth of exhibitors, No. 17 in the 50 Fastest-Growing by Net
Square Feet of Exhibit Space, No. 17 in the 50 Fastest-Growing by Number of Exhibiting Companies and No. 98 in Next 50—By Total Attendance. We continue to work
hard to bring the pet industry together and provide them with the best resources to
succeed, and it is wonderful to be recognized for that effort.
Can you share anything about what the future holds for WPA? Are there any plans or initiatives
you can tell our readers about?
Poindexter: We just announced that, starting in 2018, SuperZoo will take place each year
in June. Moving the show up a few weeks from its traditional date in late July allows
WPA to increase the number of hotel rooms available to attendees at the Mandalay
Bay and Delano hotels by 30 percent and also facilitates the expansion of the show to
add an additional exhibit hall. SuperZoo has come a long way since we started out as
a regional show in California. We are excited to continue that growth and continue
to bring our attendees and exhibitors the very best in the pet industry year after year.
WPA is also in the early stages of releasing some new initiatives to support consumer-facing businesses in the industry. At this stage, we’re conducting some research
and surveys to see what sorts of education and tools retailers and service professionals
are looking for. ◊
WILL TAKE PLACE
IN JUNE EVERY
YEAR. CHANGING THE DATE
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 10