The focus for many pet retailers at the start of 2021 is to find a steady predictability for purchasing that was completely lacking last year as the pandemic took hold. On one hand, pet ownership increased as more people stayed home, ramping up sales of basics, including pet food, accessories and supplies. On the other hand, global economic declines left no one unscathed as supply chain disruptions influenced both production and distribution of retail products.

In June, Nielsen reported unprecedented sales fluctuations as pet owners rushed to load up pantries with essentials—and then ceased purchasing following the stock-up. Added to this dilemma was the fact that even before the global shutdown, the pet industry was in a state of transition with consolidation happening at manufacturer, distributor and retail levels.

Despite the influx of big-box stores and subscription services, distributors have always been seen as the most efficient and effective way to move products from manufacturers to pet owners. And yet, one of the biggest impacts on pet retailers in 2020 was the cessation of trade shows and major buying events, which traditionally connect top distributors with their biggest buyers. As a result, it was incredibly difficult for pet retailers to access the products and pricing they normally find at industrywide buying events, like SuperZoo. This is especially important in areas such as nutrition and treats, where new research influences food ingredients and product lines. For example, Purina employs more than 500 scientists who are constantly searching for breakthrough ingredients and new formulas, whether they are focused on sustainability for the Beyond Organic line or supporting specialized diets, like the Pro Plan line.

If the key to stability is in providing a steady channel for distributors and retailers to connect, the desired outcome of that open communication is that retailers will have an opportunity to explore the latest products and be able to source them in desired quantities at optimal pricing on World Pet Association’s (WPA) newest on-demand platform, WPA365.

“The toughest decision we had to make this year was postponing SuperZoo and Atlanta Pet Fair and Conference, because we know that so many retailers rely on those events to stock their shelves and get a first look at the latest products,” said WPA president Vic Mason. “Since then, we’ve been investing our efforts into WPA365, which provides a 24/7 platform for distributors and retailers to form relationships, tap into exclusive pricing from top manufacturers, and access trending products and customer favorites.”

“Working with WPA365 has been fantastic,” said Joe Toscano, vice president of trade and industry development for Purina Sales North America. “The team made it simple and easy to bring our brands to life on the platform. We have some great innovation coming in early 2021 across multiple Purina brands, and we plan on showcasing those products on WPA365.”

Grooming supplies are another sector of products that change rapidly based on trends and research. HandsOn Gloves is the company behind the popular shedding, bathing and grooming gloves.

“For us in grooming, we have already seen the trend shifting towards more natural and non-harsh grooming tools,” said Jay Michaelson, founder and CEO of HandsOn Gloves. “Even the big blade makers have been adding rubber to the metal bristles and creating more gentle products that don’t rip the hair out.”

The company is anticipating new product launches in 2021 that will be showcased in WPA365’s New Product Showcase during the year ahead.

While the heart of pet retail and service businesses is about supporting pet owners, the key to success is being able to source the latest products at optimal pricing. As we leave 2020 behind and use the lessons it taught us, we are clearly seeing an emergence of new technologies and platforms that provide even more opportunities for the pet community to form meaningful relationships with top manufacturers and distributors that save time, boost revenue with optimal margins and source products customers are seeking. For more information on how you can connect with top distributors, click here.

The World Pet Association (WPA) brings the pet world together so quality interaction and education between and among product suppliers and pet owners can create healthier, happier pets and a healthier, more productive pet industry. Founded in 1950, WPA brings thought leadership, innovative thinking and best practices to the pet industry, working to inform and educate the general public in order to ensure safe and healthy lifestyles for our animal friends.