The Pets and Aquatics Trade Show (PATS) returns for its second year at Sandown and Harrogate with the aim to be further recognised as the premier UK-based trade event for the pets and aquatics market.
Pets and aquatics trade makes up, according to HTA research, eight per cent of total garden centre sales. The total pet retail market is estimated to be worth £3bn. Industry exhibition veteran Gordon Thomas and launched PATS in 2009 as the UK's dedicated pet and aquatics trade exhibition.
Thomas says: "Sandown is sold out and Harrogate is bigger than when it opened. For us it's really exciting. We took the decision in December when Sandown sold out to go for quality not quantity. That sounds weird but we don't have extra halls to expand into."
"There's no ‘golden bullet' on why it works. I've come from Glee and PetIndex. We have restricted stands to 36sq m and we have north and south shows. Royal Canin is spending £11,000 on two shows and that's the maximum anyone can spend. Hagen is spending £10,000 on two shows after a few years of doing no shows. Last year was quite nasty but the show went well and it was different and relaxed. Exhibitors thought ‘this is the only thing we need to do. We don't need a gin palace at the NEC — we can do just as well here'."
One of the organisers, Angie Noon, says: "People are coming back with larger stands. PATS has been going for two years and key brands are coming on board as well as people who have not exhibited at UK trade shows for a number of years."
The event has more than 100 exhibitors booked at each venue, including many leading suppliers.
Both PATS Sandown (23-24 March 23) and PATS Harrogate (27-28 April) feature exhibitors such as Crown Petfoods (Royal Canin and James Wellbeloved) and Hills Pet Nutrition will return on larger stands. Iams/Eukanuba, Vitakraft, Eurostitch and Burns Pet Nutrition; Nishikoi, Tetra/8inOne, NT Laboratories, CASCO and John Allan Aquariums are among those who have rebooked and 2009 PATS product of the year award winners Wagg Foods, Zolux Hobby, My Pet (James & Steel), Tropical Marine Centre, Pet Food UK (Barking and Meowing Heads) will also return.
Crown Petfoods sales director Andy Read says: "We were very pleased that we chose PATS last year, simply because of the opportunities it gave us to talk to existing and potential customers knowing that they were able to access a show like this more easily than in the past.
"We know how hard it is for retailers to get away from the shop sometimes, so the fact that they can see leading manufacturers showcased in this way is a real benefit to them."
Read is keen to target garden centres. He adds: "Both Royal Canin and James Wellbeloved products are available from specialist pet outlets only, encompassing independent and group pet retailers as well as selected garden centres and other types of outlets such as farm shops. Our trade partners are all trained in our ranges, because we believe the advice they can offer is an essential customer service.
"Rather than a regional focus, we see an urban/rural diversity, with smaller packs for smaller dogs and cats selling more strongly in high-street-type outlets, while larger outlets, those with parking and in rural areas sell more big bags and customers tend to have larger or more dogs per household.
"The north/south flexibility that PATS gives us is more about the chance to catch up with retailers on their own ‘patch' rather than meeting a particular regional demand. We aim to present both James Wellbeloved and Royal Canin as complete ranges that will meet a retailer's every need in terms of quality, service and customer footfall."
South Yorkshire-based dog-food manufacturer Pointer Pet Products sales manager Ann Child is another PATS fan. The dog-treat manufacturing business Pointer Pet Foods was bought out of administration late last year by a newly formed company, Pointer Pet Products, which is backed by private investors.
Child says: "We showed at PATS last year and we immediately rebooked once we had the 2010 dates. We'd been looking for a focused trade show alternative and we were very pleased with the results. Pointer's new owners had no hesitation in supporting the decision to return so we are delighted to confirm we shall once again be at PATS.
"In recent months, the response and support we've had from customers has been remarkable. We've always believed in the company and the product and it's important that the trade has reaffirmed its belief in us. Now we are an independent company PATS will offer us a great opportunity to confirm and strengthen our relationships within the trade."
Pet- and fish-care company Vitakraft representative Richard Hulme believes that garden centre managers welcome the north-south shows: "We feel that PATS intimacy and accessibility provides an excellent opportunity to spend quality time with new and existing customers. Being regional, we hope that more retailers will find the time to attend the show that is nearest to them. Most of our business is through the traditional pet wholesalers and larger pet specialist retail stores and we have good distribution in garden centres and independent pet stores, which is mainly driven by our wholesale partners."
Hulme says visitors like the dedicated focus of PATS: "Retailers will have the opportunity to speak directly with key staff members from supplier companies and see more of what is potentially available to them. They can then speak to their wholesalers about listing new products on their behalf. Our main objective is to show more of our range to existing and potential customers — whether they be direct accounts or independent stores buying through a wholesaler — to let them see what is available and make their own minds up as to what to stock."
Both venues will host a programme of seminars sponsored by Pedigree Wholesale - on subjects for today's pets and aquatics retailers — and a series of grooming demonstrations created by the award-winning Groom Team England.
The PATS Discovery Point is an area within both shows that will host exhibitors that have focused, specialised ranges. The area will enable companies that may not have a team of sales representatives to share their expert knowledge about their specialised products and brands to a broader, nationwide retail audience. Visiting retailers will be able to discuss with the designers or creators the benefits of these specialised ranges.
Vanessa Jefferys of Bettacare, supplier of specialist pet gates, believes that this opportunity to highlight companies with smaller, specialist ranges is ideal. She says: "PATS Discovery Point will be very helpful to us as we are specialists in the field of child safety and have now crossed over into the pet market with our pet gates.
"We made a lot of very useful contacts and opened new accounts with retailers following our showing at PATS 2009 and wish to continue this by showing at PATS 2010. We realise that our products are quite specialised as there were no other similar products at the show and so this aroused a lot of interest from the visitors. We liked the venue as it was easy to get to for exhibitors and visitors alike and we feel it is very helpful to have two regional shows instead of one national one, as this maximises visitor numbers and accessibility overall."
Dog supplement specialist Pooch & Mutt representative Guy Blaskey says: "The Discovery Point is a fantastic addition to the show and enables smaller specialists to have more focus. Pooch & Mutt is extremely pleased to be exhibiting at PATS Sandown.The 2010 show is a great opportunity for us to get the word out to new retailers about our range. We have recently launched concentrated versions of our products, which shops seem to love. I am especially pleased that as part of the Discovery Point we can offer canine supplements on stand K9."
Discovery Point exhibitors will also get a free catalogue entry, customer invitations, free web presence and the free-of-charge opportunity to enter the Retailers' Choice showcase and will be included in the PATS Product of the Year Awards 2010.
PATS 2009 was a great success for exhibitor CASCO, but it was not the only one to benefit from the show. Tranquillity Aquatic Superstore in Brighton, East Sussex, visited the CASCO stand at Sandown Park and won two top-of-the-range reptile units in the prize draw.
The competition was run by CASCO over the two-day shows at Sandown and Harrogate. Tranquillity won two reptile units and the equipment to go with them — worth £4,000.
The units have heat equipment and thermostats. They have specialist lighting included and additional ventilation is available for different animals.
After much consideration over where to place the units in the store, Tranquillity made the decision and they have now been installed. They are fully up and running and displaying livestock.
Shop owner David Ford says: "We are really pleased with the units and wish we could have the same fronts throughout the shop.
"The units attract the customer's attention and provide clear and easy viewing of the reptiles.
"Very importantly, the new units provide a great living environment for the reptiles."
See www.patshow.co.uk or call 01892 862848.