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Aquatic Experience – Chicago 2015: A Meeting of the Minds


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This past year’s Aquatic Experience took place at the Schaumburg Convention Center in Chicago on Nov. 6-8. With everything aquatic under one roof, this show is gaining prominence due to the amazing aquarium exhibits featuring fish, coral and plants. Especially promising is the attendance numbers, and the World Pet Association’s (WPA) ideology of promoting networking within the whole industry for growth. What I found enlightening were the learning opportunities offered to retailers through scheduled meetings, open discussions, and seminars. Prominent shops from the South, Midwest, East and West all were taking part, conversing, networking and exchanging ideas in hopes to build better business practices.

The retail panel forum discussion topic was “Defining Who We Are”: our place within the industry and how we can gain relevancy. Suggested strategies were shown to highlight what we (brick-and-mortar retailers) have that e-commerce does not, and how we can utilize these opportunities to our advantage. Passionate ideas flowed throughout the 90-minute session that touched upon everything from service to fish selection to suppliers to merchandising. Even the “fish guarantee” policy was debated.

During the State of the Industry forum we heard from the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council’s aquatics committee on proposed laws and regulations affecting the industry. We discussed public misconceptions and groups that are working against us. We heard from the aquatics committee about its agenda for the upcoming year and what we retailers should be doing to communicate with our clients in hopes of “creating an awareness that their hobby is in danger.”

A special retailer roundtable discussion also was held in hopes of bringing a group together. The objective was to formulate a plan of action to help brick-and-mortar retailers succeed. Subjects discussed included:

· Distributor and manufacturer pricing policies in relation to brick-and-mortar store vs. fulfillment policies.
· Minimum advertised pricing and how retailers can aid in control and support of certain manufacturers.
· Classes for a certification program to educate about best business practices, along with teaching husbandry objectives in order to certify professional aquarists.
· Developing serviceable staffs our clients will need and to convey/emulate a philosophy of “creating sustainable ecosystems for future generations to enjoy.”

The industry starts with us operators. Please do your best to attend Aquatic Experience – Chicago 2016 in November. I promise you won’t be disappointed. The industry needs you, as well as your thoughts and ideas, so that we can position ourselves to be better equipped to compete. If we do, as a group we just might be able to gain relevancy.

My congratulations to WPA for a job well done.

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