In just a few months, it seems like the whole world has changed. Stores have closed and reopened, schools and universities debate whether they can safely reopen, and no facet of life seems untouched by the influence of COVID-19. Your stores and businesses have surely seen the impact of both the disease and the subsequent shutdowns, but one aspect of the pet industry that surely took the brunt of the shutdowns have been pet shows, especially reptile shows.
But, as the economy moves to reopen and we try and figure out what exactly “the new normal” looks like, we have a recommendation for any aspiring reptile retailer: consider attending, sponsoring and even exhibiting at a reptile show.
Now, obviously, safety for yourselves the patrons must be paramount at any reptile show. Whatever you choose, be sure to adhere to social distancing protocols, wear a mask or similar facial covering, utilize hand sanitizer and proper handwashing techniques, and avoid high-risk health situations. These should be part and parcel for your daily life as it stands now; nothing there should change should you decide to participate in a reptile show.
However, the nature of a reptile exhibition itself provides a degree of protection, if you’re already following the sort of protocols that go along with proper reptile care. Handwashing and sanitization should already be part of your daily activities when handling reptiles; doing so in a public venue such as a reptile show not only helps to keep the patrons safe but also serves as a teachable moment as to what a would-be pet owner should do when handling their new pet.
We’ve discussed the advantages of reptile shows in the past, but as we begin opening back up and returning to some degree of normality, a great number of people have actively been seeking to resume social interactions and get out of the house. That group of people actively seeks new experiences and opportunities, which means that they might be more likely to step out of their typical comfort zone. That translates into a number of new pet buyers and, potentially, first-time reptile owners that need food, lighting, substrates and other products for their everyday reptile care. Reptile shows provide the perfect opportunity to tap into those new customers, show them that your store is there to help support keeping reptiles as a pet, and that can begin a long-lasting and very lucrative relationship.
The networking opportunities at a reptile show, though, may potentially outstrip the purely customer-centric benefits. Reptile shows provide you an opportunity to network and communicate with others in the reptile trade. Whether retailers, breeders, or those involved with subsidiary sales (such as cages, food, lighting, or other essentials), a reptile expo literally brings all levels of individuals in the reptile trade to the same spot. Be sure to bring a number of business cards and promotional items to share; even if you’re running a booth, find time to take a lap around the hall, introduce yourself to other pet trade professionals, and talk ‘shop’ for a while. Many times, you can find solutions to supply problems, tap into new markets, or even find new products to sell, simply by taking a stroll down the aisles.
Also, don’t forget about the possibility of post-show contacts. While the exhibit hall doors may close in the afternoon or evening, major shows often run for multiple days, which means that you have extra time to get to know vendors, exhibitors, or even patrons. In such an event, consider planning a group dinner or happy hour, where you can make those all-important connections. These discussions and conversations can keep you abreast of trends and preferences within the industry as a whole and within individual markets, giving you a competitive edge in your future planning. And, when you go, be sure to bring your business cards, promotional materials, and other informational hand-outs, ensuring that your stores name remains on others’ lips long after the show ends.
While there is certainly a great deal of risk in any sort of large gathering at this point, do give some consideration to attending or exhibiting a reptile show or other exhibition in the near future. With proper precautions taken and with a good measure of personal security, these shows can break new ground for your business. Just make sure to stay safe as you do so!