The Right Show Strategy

As the industry gears up for the Atlanta Pet Fair & Conference in March and SuperZoo in July, it’s the perfect time for groomers to prepare for successful trade show experiences.



I’ve been on just about every side of the pet industry. My parents owned a commercial boarding facility, I worked as a groomer for many years, and I’ve been in sales and worked as a supplier to everyone from boutique pet salons to big-box pet retail stores. My experience has shown me that groomers are a passionate and valuable part of the pet universe, and that the influence you can have in the grooming world is perhaps beyond what you can imagine. 

Trade shows are such a valuable part of the ever-growing pet industry. They’re a great way for groomers to gain valuable insights through education, networking and seeing the latest products. With the Atlanta Pet Fair & Conference kicking off in March and SuperZoo not far behind at the end of July, I want to share some tips and tricks for how grooming professionals can get the most out of their trade show experience. 

Getting the Most From Trade Shows
Trade shows are fantastic places to source new products and educate yourself on new trends and information. However, they’re also a huge opportunity to promote your business and your brand. International trade shows like SuperZoo put you in touch with people from across the pet world—literally—and they’re an incredible place to put your brand out there and form relationships that can push your business to the next level. 

Professionalism is something we always address during seminars at SuperZoo, and I always encourage groomers to put your best, professional face forward. Take advantage of networking opportunities and get to know other groomers from different parts of the country. When I was grooming, one of the most valuable things I did was make friends with other groomers that I could contact for an idea or to work out an issue. 

And don’t be intimidated to talk to exhibitors. Once they understand your sphere of influence, they’ll pay attention to the important role you play with clients and their pets.

Being an Influencer
Those on the supply side of the pet industry spectrum—manufacturers, suppliers, distributors—may not fully realize this, but we groomers know how large our sphere of influence is. Most groomers have an extensive network of clients, retailers and veterinarians who value and trust their opinion about the care of pets. When I was a groomer, I was always recommending certain shampoos or forms of nutrition to my customers, and most would take my advice. 

It’s important to drive this home when you’re on the trade show floor interacting with exhibitors. Let them know that you may represent one independent operation, but you have 500 clients who value your input and will buy a product based on your recommendation. Try talking with exhibitors about how many consumers you reach and you may get somewhere more productive. You have the power to recommend products to clients and prompt them to become loyal to a brand. 

Gaining an Education
The old adage “the more you know” rings true in the world of professional grooming. If you want to get your start or continue to build your business, you have to take advantage of any education opportunities available to you. The World Pet Association (WPA) goes out of its way to ensure groomers have a multitude of options when it comes to education at both SuperZoo and Atlanta Pet Fair & Conference. In addition to grooming-specific seminars, both offer classes that speak to boosting overall business management skills, customer service and better utilizing social media, among many others.

Engaging the Local Pet Community
When I was grooming full-time, I made it a point to get to know the pet retailers and vets within a certain radius of my business. I’d introduce myself so they knew who I was and that I was looking out for pets in the area. As a result, if something came up with a client or at the vet, they would contact me. 

Seeing dogs as often as we do—and more often than a vet—gives us a unique perspective on the pet’s health. We cannot diagnose anything, but if we notice something, we can recommend the owner take it to the vet to have it checked out. I always gave my card to the owner to give to their vet, so they knew I was looking out for the animal. And the more I referred clients to a vet, the more they referred new clients to me.

Judy Breton, CMG, CKO, is director of grooming and special services for the World Pet Association, which will host the Atlanta Pet Fair & Conference March 9-12 at the Georgia International Convention Center, and SuperZoo July 25-27 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.


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