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  • Our Thoughtful Diary – An Inside View Into Trade Shows

    Our Thoughtful Diary – An Inside View Into Trade Shows

    February and March are pretty exciting months in the pet business world. In February we have the opportunity to attend PATS Sandown, one of the first big trade shows of the year. It’s the perfect opportunity for manufacturers, suppliers and retailers to meet up and network.

    In March, just shortly after PATS, it’s time for Crufts! This massive gathering of consumers, retailers, and manufacturers gives companies the chance to promote new and exciting products to thousands of potential customers.

    Running The Thoughtful Pet Food Store means I have to wear many hats. Some days I am packing orders ready for delivery, other days I am writing blog articles, and at special times of the year, I am out of the office searching for new and exciting products! Here’s a little insight into why we visit trade shows, and what it means for you, our customers.

    WHAT ARE TRADE SHOWS?

    As mentioned above, PATS Sandown is the first major trade show of the year, and conveniently is also the most local show for us, being based in Surrey.

    PATS, and other tradeshows like it, are a gathering of pet product manufacturers and distributors looking to promote their products to retailers such as ourselves. These events are not open to the public and allow us a sneak peek into what’s coming to the market.

    Many companies will announce new products that are due to be launched in the next few months and it is also a place for newly formed companies to introduce themselves to the industry.

    WHY DO WE GO?

    Attending these trade shows brings many benefits. For The Thoughtful Pet Food Store, it is a great opportunity for us to source new potential products for our customers. As we are quite selective when it comes to what brands we choose to stock, it is easier for us to spot new companies to work with when so many are gathered in one place.

    The pet food market is ever-changing, and businesses, including ourselves, need to be ahead of the curve. I am so passionate about finding high quality and innovative products for our customers, so tradeshows are the ideal places to see what is new and upcoming.

    As well as discovering new products, tradeshows are the perfect opportunity to catch up with the companies that we already have relationships with. By maintaining good relationships with our suppliers and manufacturers, we can help our customers more easily with product enquiries, and sometimes negotiate better prices or deals that we can then pass along to you. Also, when you’ve been working in the industry for some time, you inevitably build up friendships with people, so it’s always a good excuse for a chat!

    On a personal level, I just love seeing what amazing ideas and products people are thinking up and creating. Before The Thoughtful Pet Food Store, I worked in an independent chain pet shop as a sales assistant. Whenever new products were delivered to the store, I was also the first one checking them out and usually purchasing them for myself to try them out with my pets!

    WHAT DO WE GET UP TO?

    As I’m a stickler for organisation, any trip to a trade show starts with a plan. Attendees receive an information pack in advance which lists all the stallholders and where they are situated at the venue. I figure out which companies I wish to speak to and plan the most effective route around the venue to allow myself time to see everyone without rushing.

    Once we arrive, it’s business hats on and ready to scout out some new products. When meeting the representatives from other companies, I am always sure to ask lots of questions about the products I’m interested in. These can include questions such as:

    ‘Where is your product manufactured?”
    “What are the welfare standards of the animals you use for your meat?”
    “What does your company do to support independent retailers such as ourselves?”

    And, of course:

    “Do you have any free samples?”

    Now, don’t get me wrong, free samples are one of the bonuses of attending trade shows. They do, however, serve a much more important purpose. One of the principles of The Thoughtful Pet Food Store that I feel so strongly about is that I won’t sell anything that I haven’t tried and tested on my own pets. By being able to bring home samples of products, I have the perfect opportunity to see if a product lives up to its sales pitch.

    For example, if a company is advertising a brand new “irresistible” training treat, I’ll make sure I bring some along on my next dog walk and see if Stella will respond well to them. Do they compare to her usual favourite treat? As a dog owner do I find they work well for training (e.g. are they an appropriate size, do they leave my hands greasy or stinking of meat?).

    If I do decide to stock a product, this is all feedback I can give to my customers to help them make informed decisions about what they are buying for their pets.

    Once we’ve met everyone we planned to meet, it’s time for lunch and then one last browse around the stalls to see if anything else catches our eye. With the information we’ve gathered throughout the day, I can then return to work and start making decisions about which products are worth considering for our store.

    Overall, trade shows are a great deal of fun and a fantastic opportunity to get a fresh insight into the pet market and hopefully find some exciting new products I think our customers will love!

    We always love hearing suggestions from our customers too. If there is a product you think we should consider stocking, you can drop me an email directly at sally@thoughtfulpets.co.uk.

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