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It gets bigger every time—and it’s a big deal for all entities involved.

When Global Pet Expo rolls into Orlando, Florida, for three days each year, the Orlando County Convention Center teems with buyers, manufacturers and exhibiting companies from around the world as they participate in “the pet industry’s largest annual trade show featuring the newest, most innovative pet products on the market today,” according to the event’s website.

Thanks in part to attracting more registrants, no two editions of Global Pet Expo are the same. In 2019, Global featured 1,174 exhibitors and 3,604 booths, while in 2018, there were 1,164 exhibitors and 3,523 booths. But the growth is not limited to attendance: The size of the 2020 show itself will be the biggest in Global Pet Expo history, says Andrew Darmohraj, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the American Pet Products Association, which co-presents the event with the Pet Industry Distributors Association.

“With more than 360,000 net square feet of exhibit space, we will be expanding into an additional hall on the trade show floor,” he said.

Darmohraj has been to all 15 previous Global Pet Expos, and he’s scheduled to be in Orlando with his co-workers for the 2020 edition.

“In order to maintain the positive growth Global Pet Expo has enjoyed over the past 15 years, it truly takes the entire team working year round on every detail of the show,” he said. “I oversee all of the trade show departments and overall operations and show production, [and I] am very proud of the dedicated team we have built over the years. We never stop when it comes to continuously looking for new offerings that will enhance the Global Pet Expo experience for all attendees.”

All APPA members who attend Global Pet Expo are assigned specific tasks for the run of the event.

“In many cases, they have had the same role for many years,” said Darmohraj. “They get to know the show and build valuable relationships with attendees and exhibitors.”

Darmohraj remembers when the event was called the APPMA Show, and at his first one of those—more than 20 years ago—it featured 528 exhibitors and 1,234 booths.

“The industry has changed so much over that time, and I consider myself lucky to have seen the industry grow,” he said.

A Notable Change

Like International Women’s Day, the NCAA college basketball tournament and St. Patrick’s Day, Global Pet Expo has long been a March mainstay. However, things are different for 2020: This year, it is taking place February 26-28.

“We schedule out dates for the show many years in advance—in fact, we already have tentative dates on the books until 2030,” explained Darmohraj. “However, 10 years ago, when we were booking dates for 2020, another event was scheduled in the March dates and could not be changed.”

Although Global Pet Expo strives to maintain calendar consistency for planning purposes, presenting it the month prior to what’s been the longtime norm could turn out to have a positive effect on the industry, Darmohraj says.

“The February date can be a real advantage, particularly for buyers as they look to plan for 2020 and to see firsthand the latest innovations for the new year,” he said. “The extra few weeks can equate to a positive jump-start to the new year.”

“Global is when the industry gets together to find new products, discuss what happened last year and what suppliers and retailers see coming up in future years,” said Derek Panfil, senior vice president of merchandising and marketing for retailer Pet Supplies Plus. “[So] whether it’s in February or March, we see no real difference in the value we get for attending Global.”Global Pet Expo_seminars 1

Gretchen George, founder and president of PetRageous Designs in Wilmington, Massachusetts, also doesn’t think the earlier dates for 2020 matter all that much. “We have to be ready for whenever the show is,” said George.

And they are: Her company will occupy a booth (No. 2055) at Global for the 16th consecutive year.

“This is traditionally where PetRageous Designs is able to showcase our new line of products to our customers for the first time,” George said. “It is a great way for us to reconnect and have quality face-to-face time with these fantastic people we work with throughout the year but rarely get to see.”

In addition to in-person interactions, Global provides PetRageous Designs’ customers with the opportunity “to touch our products [and] ask questions,” George said, while the manufacturer gathers feedback on its entire line and introduces the brand to new contacts.

Meetings and Relationships

Tickner’s, a family-owned farm feed and pet supply store in Hackettstown, New Jersey, has been a steady presence at Global Pet Expo. Of the company’s previous appearances covering the past 10 years, Brian Harchar has attended eight of them.

“We have never purchased a booth to display the manufacturers we distribute,” explained Harchar, who works in sales for Tickner’s. “As a distributor, we walk the show and attend meetings with our manufacturers and customers.”

That plan remains the same for Tickner’s this year, as does its specific goals, among them to “keep our relationships with the manufacturers strong, attend to the needs of our customers and identify what the newest industry trends may be,” Harchar said.

“Tickner’s is always looking to expand our portfolio of products,” he added. “I feel that we benefit from attending [Global] by being on the forefront of the industry’s new products.”

Free Seminars

In addition to learning about the latest pet products, Global registrants can expand their industry knowledge and overall business skill set by attending one of 40-plus free seminars, presented by the Global Pet Expo Academy.

Amy Castro, a business expert, Pet Age columnist and the president of the nonprofit Starlight Outreach and Rescue in Houston, Texas, attended her first Global in 2019, meeting with retailers and exhibitors and getting to know their issues. This year, she will present three seminars: the mini session “Customer Service Survival Skills” on February 26, and the longer programs “Coaching Your Employees to Greatness” and “The Customer Experience Edge” on February 27.

Global Pet Expo_pets on show floor 5Most of the Global Pet Expo seminars run for about 75 minutes. That amount of time is just a drop in the bucket in terms of what Castro invests to get ready for her sessions.

“It takes me about 16 hours minimum to create a one-hour program, then additional time to develop the visuals that go with the presentation,” she said. “Since all of my workshops are customized to the audience, I spend a lot of time researching each topic, interviewing retailers and other pet professionals. I also draw from my personal experience in the industry.”

Between her seminars, Castro expects to sit in on one or two of the other sessions, as well as visit with retailers and exhibitors, just like she did last year: “It’s a great chance for me to learn more about the challenges they’re facing for future articles, webinars and seminars.”

Trends and Social Media

Global Pet Expo provides attendees with a prime opportunity to experience what’s new on the market along with what’s on the horizon. APPA’s Darmohraj sees the trend of pet humanization continuing to influence product offerings.

“Owners no longer consider their pets an animal, but rather equate them to a child or another family member,” he said. “Because we view our pets in more human terms, our demand for higher quality and design have grown to be more in line with our preferences for products for the rest of the family.”

There is more to Darmohraj’s pet industry forecast: “Natural, organic and even CBD products are on the rise not only for humans but in the pet space as well. And high-tech products certainly seem to be garnering a lot of attention from consumers who continue to seek the very best in products that help care for their treasured pets.”

In its recap of Global Pet Expo 2019, APPA reported significant social media usage related to the event. Twitter was a popular tool for some, the #GlobalPetExpo hashtag was used at least 15,000 times on Instagram, and the Global Pet Expo Instagram account saw a 31 percent increase in followers since the 2018 show.

PetRageous Designs started using Instagram after last year’s Global Pet Expo to promote its products, and after finding it to be an effective tool during SuperZoo at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, the company will utilize Instagram this month at Global 2020.

“We will be using Instagram to showcase our presence and the new products we are showcasing,” said George, pointing out that stainless-steel bowls and cat scratchers will be among the company’s featured items in Orlando. “Together with our licensing partners, this is a great way to get buzz going for not just those attending but retailers that couldn’t attend and [for] consumers to know what to look for at their favorite retailers. It’s on opportunity in real time to show how we merchandise our products.”

Expo Guidance

Plan ahead, download the Global Pet Expo app and be sure to bring comfortable footwear and plenty of business cards.

Global veterans are not shy when it comes to offering tips to other pet industry professionals on how they can make the most out of their three days at the Orlando County Convention Center.

“Bring something to hold samples and information, as well as something—an iPad or notepad—to take notes,” said Panfil. “Most importantly, have fun and take your time, ask questions about the products and learn as much as you can.”

“We suggest surveying the floor layout and creating a list of exhibitors you need to see in each section to give yourself ample time to review all the new offerings and place orders that aren’t rushed,” said George. “Separate these sections into days, and allow some time to browse at the end if you have the time and energy at the end of the day.”

“I always pack well-worn shoes because when you walk the show the first day, my pedometer always reads between six to eight miles,” said Harchar.

Have no fear: Not all movement around the convention center has to be done on foot.

“There’s a trolley that runs a loop throughout the exhibit hall—this can make all the difference when you need to get from the 400 aisle to the 4,600 aisle quickly,” noted Darmohraj. “Also, this past year we created a dashboard system that all of our exhibitors can use. Simply log in to your account, and you’ll have a convenient snapshot of everything that’s in process or still needs to be done.”

Darmohraj recommends that exhibitors and buyers use the Global app to connect and schedule appointments, and for good reason: “Preparation is key to having a successful show experience.”

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