After attending last week’s Pet Industry Top2Top Conference, hosted by the Pet Industry Advisory Council (PIJAC) in Napa, Calif., I came away quite impressed on a couple of different levels.
First and foremost, it was a great event that featured not only vast networking opportunities in a beautiful, relaxing setting, but also some truly insightful presentations from an array of experts. For me, some of the standout sessions included:
• A roundtable discussion between Petco’s Jim Myers, Nestle-Purina’s John Saguto and the American Pet Products Association’s Bob Vetere, moderated by PIJAC CEO Mike Canning, this session focused on a variety of issues impacting pet product retailers, such as ensuring product safety, preventing the spread of disinformation by animal rights groups and new methods of engaging current and potential pet owners.
• A presentation from economic expert Dr. Edmond Seifried, who discussed how the continued growth of the pet industry—despite all the talk of recession resistance—will be dependent on the success of the U.S. economy as a whole. Although he delved into some pretty advanced economic principals—and digressed into an interesting but probably out of place sidebar on the mining practice called “fracking”—he drew some interesting connections between various economic factors and their impact on consumer spending.
• A retailer roundtable discussion between Pet Supplies Plus’ Dave Bolen, Pet World’s Jim Seidewand, The Family Puppy’s John Stottele and Petland’s Joe Watson addressing the unique challenges and opportunities facing pet retailers that deal in live animals.
• A presentation from Chuck Latham Associates’ Michael Johnson on shifting consumer demographics and their impact on the pet industry was probably my favorite of the conference. Here, Johnson not only identified the key trends that are playing out across America, but also offered valuable insight into various consumer demographics’ shopping habits, as well as the potential they hold for the pet care category.
Ultimately, what I found most heartening about the Pet Industry’s Top2Top Conference was that its success clearly demonstrated to me that PIJAC is in very capable hands. For many years now, the organization has played a vital role in bridging the gap between the pet industry and various government agencies and legislative bodies; and having the pleasure of a front-row view of how PIJAC protects the interests of every facet of the pet world—including the pets themselves—has made it easy for me to become a great admirer. However, PIJAC has faced significant challenges, and the organization’s ongoing health, particularly in terms of finances, has long been an issue. But with the leadership of Canning, vice president of government affairs Michael Maddox, vice president of marketing and communications Cathy Calliotte, new chairman Ken Oh of Petmate, and the rest of the PIJAC family, there is good reason to be optimistic about this seemingly reinvigorated organization.
I look forward to watching their continued progress over the coming months, as well as attending next year’s Top2Top Conference, which will be held on Amelia Island, Fla. And I know the PIJAC team will make that event even bigger and better.