March 6, 2019

With Global Pet Expo taking place this month, I thought it timely to discuss one aspect of the reptile business and the role of trade shows and conventions within the industry. While the digital revolution has modernized the way we communicate from supplier to wholesaler to store to customer, the importance of face-to-face events in the pet industry cannot be understated.

In many ways, the rise of trade shows and conventions goes hand-in-hand with the rise in digital communications. Social media networking allows interested parties to collaborate at a moment’s notice, planning events from across the country. Regional networking boards aid in everything from monthly meetup groups, to regional pet shows, all the way up to national or global conventions.

But why attend in the first place? If you can communicate with industry insiders at a moment’s notice, why bother to go to the extreme effort (and, in some manners, the expense) to attend trade shows and conventions?

The primary reason is for the ability to network face-to-face with your peers and contemporaries. Being able to build a relationship with other industry insiders allows you a better chance to build a relationship with those individuals. Chatting at a booth, going out for drinks or dinner after a show, or participating in a panel event or raffle with those individuals builds a lifelong bond that a simple Facebook conversation or email chain simply can’t compare to. Those events bring us together as an industry and start to build the bonds of long-lasting, strong relationships.

Secondly, attending conventions such as Global Pet permits you the ability to mine for ideas. As you roam a trade show floor, you can not only see what new suppliers are producing and working on, but you can also gain a strata-type view of every element of the industry from the bottom up. You can mine ideas for your own business, hone your own best practice and potentially investigate new products as you peruse the other ideas on display across the convention. Your own innovation is spurred on by the innovation around you!

Thirdly, trade shows like Global Pet will have some live reptile vendors with which to discuss your reptile supply and hopefully, gain additional suppliers. In between the big, national trade shows there are also opportunities locally to not only find new suppliers but to help your store generate more sales by aligning your store with hundreds and sometimes even thousands of new reptile pet parents.

Each month, there are many smaller reptile trade shows across the nation, and while your store may not have the ability to sell large quantities of reptiles, the hidden opportunity here lies in the consumables that all these new pets in your market will need long after the vendors have gone. It is for this reason that you may even consider vending or sponsoring one of these smaller trade shows to get your store the exposure for this very lucrative market and hopefully, lots of new customers walking in the door.

While exhibiting at trade shows can be a lucrative decision, the logistics do raise a number of serious questions. The first is one of staffing. Most trade shows last a full eight hours for each day. This means that your staff must be able to take on the additional effort of attending, complete with travel, a potential hotel stay, food, and other needs. In this regard, conventions can become costly, especially depending on the venue.

The benefits of attending trade shows absolutely makes them worth the while, even coupled with any logistical issues. Even if you’re not ready to make the leap into opening a booth at your next local show, consider taking the time to at least attend a regional trade show in your vicinity. The rewards in relationship-building and information-gathering are well worth the effort!

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