The premiere event of the U.S. pet industry gets under way on March 24th. This is the 63rd show (my 33rd) in a tradition that began in 1958. Both the show and the industry have grown spectacularly since then, until a Global Pandemic produced a true worldwide crisis. With Pet Parents often stuck at home, they have turned more of their attention to their Pet Children. During this time consumers have focused on essential spending. Since there is no doubt that Pets are an essential part of U.S. families, it is no surprise that the Pet Product segments of the industry have grown even stronger.
That brings us to trade shows, specifically GPE 2021. Until December, it was scheduled to be an in person event. However, it became obvious that this was not practical or even possible, so it was made virtual – Global Pet Expo Digital Access. Both the exhibitor count and the number of registered attendees are down significantly but continue to grow. As of February 26, there were 189 Exhibitors. Normally, there are 1000+. The number of registered attendees is also smaller. However, that will grow significantly. Remember, you don’t have to plan a trip, just show up online. A quick review of the buyers showed that companies responsible for selling 90+% of the Pet Products sold in the U.S. will be attending. That raises a question for the companies who have chosen not to exhibit. “Can you really afford to not exhibit at this show?” I guess that they’ll wait and see.
Before we start our preview of what you will see at GPE 2021, I would like to put some recent events into perspective. Normally, the health and progress of an industry are largely dependent upon the choices and decisions made by the participants. Since 2018, outside influences have had a major impact on the pet industry. It began with the FDA warning on grain free dog food. This was followed by the added tariffs which drove Supplies prices up. Finally, we are currently in the midst of a global pandemic which has radically affected the lives of both people and businesses. No one had control over these events. However, you have control of how you react to them. Businesses must be prepared to adapt to a changing environment or face extinction. That is the choice to be made.
Now let’s look at GPE 2021. I am not aware of special sections and there is no way to tell since there is no “floorplan”. However, we can note a big change in the number of International exhibitors. In a normal year there would be over 250, about 25%. In 2021 there are less than 25. As you recall, many Chinese exhibitors had to drop out of GPE 2020 due to travel restrictions. There are also less 1st time exhibitors. Usually, there are 300 who didn’t do the previous year’s show, about 30%. This year, less than 40 weren’t at GPE 2020. Although the event is virtual, it appears that COVID-19 had a big impact.
I will be publishing my Super Search exhibitor visit planner to help guide your time on the virtual show floor. I have researched the product category offerings of every exhibitor. Let’s take a look at the results from this year’s research.
First, we’ll Compare Exhibitor Types – By function: By Animal type (Data is based on the exhibitor list as of 2/26/21) Note: Distributors were removed from the animal type count to more accurately reflect product category coverage.
I included the actual booth count for 2021 but not the change in numbers from 2020. Because of the huge drop in the number of exhibitors, the change in share is a better way to compare the 2 years.
- Dogs Still Rule …and their kingdom is growing. About 7 of every 8 exhibitors sell dog products.
- Cats continue to gain share – In 2021, Cat Products are offered by 62% of exhibitors. Up from 40% in 2014.
- Fish/Aquatic – In 2020 this category was down 42% from 2017. It continues to fade.
- Other Animals – Horses & Reptiles lost a little in share, but Birds and Small Animals held their ground.
- Business Services – Besides wellness products, this has been the other big trend in the Industry. Private label/OEM has become important and reflects the changing needs in the industry. 18 exhibitors is a small number, but it is twice as many as in 2014.
- Distributors – Although the share is small, it is double that of last year and provides national coverage.
- Gift/Gen Mdse – This category has been declining since 2016. These products are not a big priority in the pandemic.
Dogs and Cats are the undisputed royalty of Pet and they are even more of a focus in these trying times. Because of their huge impact on the industry, I have divided the products designed for them into 33 subcategories. Let’s see how this year’s GPE Top 15 (17 due to a tie) are doing. The rank was determined by the number of exhibitors, less distributors.
There was a shuffling in the rankings as only 4 held their place, including the Top 3. Furniture dropped out of the top 15 and was replaced by Dental, Rawhide and Scratching. (Remember, because of the tie, there are 17 on the list)
- Treats are still #1 and gained share. 1 in 2 exhibitors offers treats. (Many supplements are in treat form.)
- OTC Meds/Supplements/Devices also continues to gain strength and share. In 2014 their share was 11%.
- Food and Feeding Accessories – Food made a big increase in rank and share so Accessories dropped in rank.
- Toys, Scratching – It’s not all about health and nutrition. Toys held their rank and Scratching gained ground.
- Collars, Leads & Harnesses – They held their share but fell 1 spot in rank due to the Food lift.
- Beds/Mats – They had the biggest drop in share and fell 2 spots to 8th
- Apparel – This less essential category had the 2nd biggest drop in share but the biggest drop in rank, 8th to 13th.
- Waste Pickup, Shampoo, Stain & Odor, Grooming Tools – All these categories gained in share and all but Grooming Tools gained in rank. Obviously, cleanliness is also a big aspect of the trend to a healthier life for pets.
- Rawhide & Dental – These categories made huge gains in rank and share. Dogs definitely need to chew.
- Carriers & Crates, Litter Acc. – Both gained share. Litter Accessories fell in rank due to big gains from other categories.
Pet Parents’ concern for the overall health and wellness of their “pet children” remains the biggest trend.
The last chart details the specifics for all 33 of the Dog/Cat product categories that I defined. Of note: All the data inputs for this report and the SuperSearch tool come from visits to over 200 websites. They’re not 100% accurate, but pretty close. Which categories are of interest to your business?
GPE 2021 is smaller and virtual but it still showcases the World of Pets and is Packed with Opportunities in products, services and education to fulfill your needs. Speaking of Education, there are 39 targeted sessions offered during the afternoons of every show day. They are live but many will be available on demand thanks to the virtual nature of the show. However, to reap all these benefits, you still need a plan. Exhibitors must showcase the “right” items. Attendees need to strategically analyze their data, determine what they need to improve their business, develop a plan to find the products to fulfill their needs, then…execute the plan. Although your fingers will be “doing the walking” during GPE 2021, your time is still limited. As always, time is still our most valuable commodity. The GPE 2021 SuperSearch Tool will be available by 3/8 and regularly updated. It should help you make more efficient use of your time at the show. Try it out and…the best of luck at GPE Digital Access and for the balance of 2021!
Hope to see you in person in 2022 in Orlando!