Global Pet Expo Retrieves a Successful Face-to-Face Edition

June 8, 2022

The pet industry’s premier trade show and conference for pet retailers, product manufacturers, importers and thought leaders recently converged in Orlando, Fla., to celebrate a triumphant return to live and in-person events. Hosted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) and Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA), the 18th annual Global Pet Expo took over the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) March 23-25, attracting more than 5,400 buyers, 722 exhibitors and a fair share of adorable cats and dogs. 

According to show officials, 52% of buyers were first-time attendees and almost all registered buyers showed up at the event. Multi-unit retailer pet boutiques comprised the show’s largest registration group, alongside an increase in mass-market variety retailers, and a strong return in international buyer attendance was also prevalent, with a 49% uptick in U.K. buyers compared to 2020. 

Although the 2022 edition of Global Pet Expo didn’t quite match its pre-pandemic numbers, its participation levels weren’t too far offin 2020, the show was attended by more than 6,000 buyers and more than 1,000 exhibitors spanning 3,541 booths.

“Many trade shows held recently have reported significant decreases in attendance following the COVID-19 pandemic, some as much as 40%,” said Celeste Powers, president of PIDA. “We are extremely proud to announce that Global Pet Expo only saw a decrease closer to 20%, with nearly 90% of registered buyers attending the event. We are already looking forward to Global Pet Expo 2023 and anticipate next year to be an even larger event!” 

An Upgraded Showfloor and Conference Experience

During the show, attendees took full advantage of myriad opportunities to discover new products and trends, learn from industry experts, network with peers and garner tools and ideas to continue building their businesses.

Showcasing a comprehensive glimpse into the future of the pet industry, the event’s massive showfloor featured 2,695 expo booths filled with the latest and greatest innovations in pet products spanning 269,500 square feet of exhibition space. Many exhibitors made their debut at this year’s event, according to show officials. 

New products and designs were also in abundance at this year’s New Products Showcase, which received more than 700 new product submissions. Participants were able to cast their votes for New Products Showcase awards in the official Global Pet Expo show app, with winners announced during the show’s ever-popular “Best in Show” awards presentation.  

Meanwhile, the event’s educational programming, the recently rebranded Global Learning Series, delivered more than 40 sessions designed to provide actionable takeaways for business growth and success in the current business climate. Led by experienced speakers and subject matter experts, the program offered inclusive learning pathways for retailers and buyers, exhibitors and attendees on a wide variety of topics, including the latest market research from Packaged Facts, Euromonitor International, NielsenIQ and APPA.  

Sessions also touched on retailer success, marketing, social media trends and practices, e-commerce tips and 15-minute, TED Talk-like “Paws2Learn” mini-sessions held in the New Product Showcase area. 

The post-pandemic return of Global Pet Expo didn’t come without several strategic changes designed to improve the show experience for all participants, including moving it to the OCCC’s North/South Concourse after calling the West building home for the last 12 years. 

“The move presented us with a unique opportunity to refresh and present many new features and enhancements designed with attendees in mind,” said Bob Merar, interim APPA CEO.

These included: 

  • Self-service registration kiosks, where attendees could scan their confirmation and receive their badge in seconds. Since the kiosks took less space, registration lines were eliminated outside peak hours.
  • New digital exhibitor search and show planning tools with Map Your Show 
  • New and expanded mobile app capabilities with in-app voting for the “Best in Show” awards
  • Free wi-fi in the exhibit hall
  • Enhanced education sessions through the Global Learning Series 

“Additional benefits of revamping the new location’s floorplan included the unique opportunity to reposition the New Products Showcase to be more accessible than ever before, as it had main-aisle visibility and access, as well as a new VIP/buyers lounge,” Merar added.

He continued, “We were extremely pleased by the turnout for this year’s event. Buyer attendance from Florida was down compared to 2020 but on par with the overall final event attendance. We predicted many attendees would wait until the last minute to make a decision about whether to attend, which turned out to be the case. We had a total of 6,738 buyer registrations with 1,170 buyers completing theirs the week prior to the show, a Global Pet Expo record for a week-long registration run.” 

In early March, Global Pet Expo also adjusted its COVID-19 precautionary measures. Based on current trends and regulatory guidance, the show announced it would make face masks optional for all show attendees and that proof of vaccination would not be required to attend. 

“[Show] organizers began working with Epistemix, a computational modeling software company that develops simulations to model the spread of diseases and inform policy, in December 2021 to develop appropriate mitigation strategies to improve and ensure the safety of all participants at Global Pet Expo,” Merar explained. “In February, Epistemix released updated data pertaining to the risk of COVID-19 transmission during Global Pet Expo, [and] the risk was projected at a rate of less than 0.1% of all attendees.” 

He added, “Epistemix data has proven to be 95% accurate when forecasting for past events.”

The show also retained its successful digital component, Global Pet Expo Digital Access, the highly popular all-virtual trade show experience created in 2021 to temporarily replace the in-person event that had to be canceled due to the pandemic.  

Offered this year as an exclusive, complimentary online event for exhibitors and registered buyers during a three-day follow-up event in late April, the platform provided participants with more chances to reconnect, access on-demand education, visit virtual booths and share information about pet products and trends. 

Global Pet Expo 2023 will return to the OCCC March 22-24.  


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