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Two of a Kind

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Publisher’s letter as published in the May 2013 issue of Pet Age.

Half way between Global Pet Expo and SuperZoo is the beginning of open house season. While some retailers believe in going to just open houses or just national pet trade shows, it is important to know that they complement each other, and you should be going to both.

Open houses started out as a way for pet companies to show off their facilities for pet retailers. It allowed many of the retailers to get a behind the scenes look at the products they sold, or were thinking of selling, in their store. Nowadays, they have grown into large regional events held at resorts and conference centers.

The national trade shows, including: Global Pet Expo, SuperZoo and the Backer Show, are all good for showing the general overview of the pet industry. Nowhere else can you see such a wide variety of pet products. At open houses, retailers get to spend more quality time with products or companies that they really want to get to know.

If you’ve never been to a large tradeshow, an open house is a good way to get your feet wet. The national trade shows can be overwhelming at first, so by taking your time at the open house, and learning everything, it gets you in the right mindset. Then you can go to the larger shows and get that much more out of it. You will already have built a trust and friendship with certain companies.

When you have a few go-to companies that you can go see at the larger shows, it makes shows like Global, SuperZoo and Backer seem a little less intimidating, and gives you the confidence to make your rounds and see all the products. There you can also interact with various industry lobbying groups, such as PIJAC, as well as industry organizations, like APPA, WPA and PIDA.

In addition, the national trade shows offer a ton of educational courses. There is everything from sessions on merchandising and employee retention to management issues and using social media to connect with customers.

If you are a retailer who has only gone to the national trade shows, you should also check out the open house circuit. There, you get more one-on-one and personal attention from the companies, and learn more about their products that you sell in your store, so you can relay that information to customers.

Open houses have been around for as long as I have been working in the pet industry, and trade shows have been around for even longer. They both continue to get better each year, and become must-attend events.

Whether you start with an open house or with the national trade shows, what matters is that you attend both of them to better equip yourself with knowledge, build relationships and make more money by providing your customers with the best products on the market.

- Craig Rexford

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