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Buying and Selling

The majority of you use the middle lane at trade or distributor shows, and you sure have some good stories to tell.




Trade and distributor shows play an important part in your purchasing, whether you attend or only order from your store. We focused here on how you navigate shows, as well as what you sell and expect to see more of in the coming year.

How would you describe your “driving” style at trade/distributor shows?

Rank your reasons for attending trade/ distributor shows:

Tell us about your most memorable moment at a trade/distributor show. It can involve a great deal, a good time or even a tough lesson learned.

  • The first time I attended Global Pet Expo, I was floored when I walked in! It was overwhelming and awesome!
  • I once attended the Backer show on crutches and painkillers, with stitches everywhere only five days after a serious motorcycle accident. Fifteen years later, I still have some of the “I am tired and my arms hurt and why is this thing on two levels and &%$^# crutches and I just took another painkiller” items I bought. Like the fuschia cropped eyelash sweaters that never sold, even at 90% off. They remind me that I need to recognize when I am not up for something, even if it’s a fun trade show that happens only once a year.
  • Took home a Harley!
  • I stopped by a booth for treats we already stocked. There were three people running it, and not a single one acknowledged me. They were talking amongst themselves. I left and came back with my buyer, and we even touched and discussed the products. Still, no one came over to us, so we left and didn’t buy anything. It really blew my mind that a company that supports independent pet stores would ignore their booth visitors.
  • A session about doggie day-care standards. It was well put together and super informative; I still reference it.
  • Earth Animal parties!
  • We tossed our name into a raffle at the very end of a show. Just about to leave, and they announced we had won an expensive BBQ. It was a pleasant surprise!
  • I recently went to my first PFX Expo. The amount of learning and networking I did was insanely helpful. I came back inspired and motivated. It will make a big difference in the growth of my business.
  • My first SuperZoo, I stayed up until midnight working on deal sheets. The time I spent working those deals far outweighed any savings! I now focus more on learning and connecting at trade shows.
  • I learned from a vendor that you can bring well-known and educated groomers to your salon to give tips and tricks to your staff! I’m so excited to start bringing certain groomers to our salon to elevate the skills we currently have.
  • Getting sucked into trends, buying all the things for the trend. Temporary tattoos on dogs didn’t sell in the Midwest.
  • Many years ago when my shop was growing, a fish importer only agreed to sell to me because I was in a suit.
  • When I first started attending SuperZoo and Global, I took all of the flyers and had to drag them all around the show, then home. Now I take a picture and send it to myself!
  • First trade show, I sampled every Natural Balance dog food for a T-shirt.
  • I’m always looking for virtually indestructible dog toys. Bionic had demos with a blender and blade!
  • Free booze on the show floor. Next morning, many of us had to backtrack and delete “brainless” large orders.
  • I got into a fist fight with my thieving ex-partner, and the show came to a halt and the vendors rooted for me.
  • One of my most memorable moments was attending a Dr. Karen Becker and Rodney Habib seminar at SuperZoo.
  • The Independent Pet Supply show where I won Seahawks tickets, a TV and multiple vendor booths.
  • Buying a booth at Global and then struggling to get it all to the car — dragging a rolling cart piled with Huggle Hounds through the convention center grounds.
  • One SuperZoo I lost my voice by day three. I couldn’t speak at all, so I clipped a note to my lanyard that said, “Lost voice, can’t talk. Sorry!” It was a great way to avoid talking to vendors who are trying to drag you into their booths on the last day.

By what month do you prefer to have ordered most of your holiday-themed products for fourth-quarter holidays?


Rank these product qualities in order of importance for your customers:

How important are show specials in your decision to place an order?

Very — I only place orders with brands that offer specials.
Somewhat — A good special can sway me to place an order with a brand I’m on the fence about.
Not at all—If I want it,I buy it even without a special.

How important are loyalty programs to your customers?

Very — They gravitate toward brands or services that offer a freebie after a certain number of purchases.
Somewhat — They like free products and services, but don’t choose because of them.
Not at all — If we didn’t keep 4 track for them, customers wouldn’t know or care if freebies were available.

What percentage of your product retail/shelf space is dedicated to the following categories?

If you offer grooming, rank how you learn about professional grooming products, tools and equipment?

Rank these show specials by preference:

Rank how you prefer to buy products for your store:

If you sell live animals, which do you carry? Check all that apply.

At 82%, the majority of respondents do not sell live animals. Invertibrates, amphibians, rabbits, chickens, ducks, and feeder animals such as live rodents and crickets made up the “Other” answers. At least we assume the crickets are being sold as food and not pets.

If you sell live animals, what do you find your biggest challenge to be?

Caring for animals in-store
Competition from private breeders
Regulations governing the
sale of live animals
Sourcing well-bred animals
It’s no secret that the U.S. has a problem with puppy mills, backyard breeders, and accidental litters — all of which can lead to physically and behaviorally unhealthy dogs and cats. Perhaps a question for next year, “If you could source well-bred dogs and cats, would you sell them in your store?” Would it move the needle on these results? Perhaps not, as “Caring for animals in store” came in at 26%.

Tell us briefly about when a customer or client left you speechless.

  • A customer who enjoys woodworking in his spare time handmade a box in the shape of a heart, complete with a lid with our logo carved into it. It is absolutely beautiful and displayed on our front counter.
  • Client moved to Singapore and will only order from us.
  • We held our 4th Annual Blessing of the Animals. The next night, at our City Council meeting (I am a council member), a customer sat through the two-hour meeting until public comments to thank me for the event.
  • Customer told us we are feeding people’s souls, that our purpose is so much more than selling pet food.
  • A customer comes in every two weeks, pays cash, doesn’t want to use Astro nor my rewards program. I insisted until she said, “I know how hard it is to own a small business. I’m happy to support you. No free stuff needed.”
  • When I was new to petsitting, a client’s girlfriend called me to let me know she did not appreciate me texting her boyfriend. This was before I had software to text updates.
  • Husband and wife arguing about whether to trim their dog’s eyelashes, started cursing loudly at reception desk.
  • A visitor screamed at me about how many animals were killed to fill the products I sold, and how could I sleep at night knowing how many animals were murdered, and I should sell only vegan items if I loved animals. They left, and I just stood there waiting for a video crew to come in and say I was being punked.
  • A customer came in asking for dog food made of squirrel so their dog would get a taste for it and start hunting the squirrels on their property.
  • A customer wanted to buy an owl. I explained that doing so was illegal. Then they said, “What if I stole an egg and raised it.” Also illegal. They then went on to explain that their daughter was obsessed with owls. I suggested that she volunteer at the wildlife center. He responded with, “Do they let 3-year-olds volunteer?”
  • Nothing makes me laugh more than the lady who was upset we were out of elephant ears (cow ears). Elephant was one of the only treats her dog wasn’t allergic to.
  • When a customer told me she couldn’t feed her dog a food with chickpeas because her dog is allergic to chicken.

What do you think will be the next big breakout category in pet products or services?



P.L.A.Y. Media Spotlight

At P.L.A.Y. — Pet Lifestyle & You — toy design is definitely a team effort! Watch PETS+ interviewer Chloe DiVita and P.L.A.Y.’s Director of Sales Lisa Hisamune as they talk about the toy design process, the fine-tuning that makes each toy so special and why every P.L.A.Y. collection is made with independent retailers top of mind.

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