EXHIBITION NEWS May 2017 - Page 25

COVER FEATURE they’ve been, and I think that market has just got better and better. “Even through the recession, you’d think industries would be affected but people turned inwards to their families and their homes. It’s sort of grown from there,” she adds. “We have tapped into regular people who love their animals as a family, it’s very inclusive.” The question is, why do we love our pets so much? Scientists have discovered that humans love dogs, for example, in the same way as they do their children, and the feeling is mutual. Researchers found that the same hormone, oxytocin, spikes in both human and canine brains when a dog is gazing at its owner. The findings, published in Science magazine, suggest that this ‘oxytocin-gaze’ may have been acquired during the domestication of dogs from wolves. Take our pooch friend on the front cover, or the one on this feature’s opening spread – just look at their puppy dog eyes. Tell me you don’t want to hug those dogs. You only need to look at my Instagram feed to see how many memes I’ve posted along the lines of, ‘It takes me a while to warm up to new people but I will kiss a dog I just met on the mouth’. Even less animated pets like goldfish and reptiles are being pampered in British households, helped by the rise of shows like Cooper’s. “I started looking at the pet market, which is huge, and launched the National Pet Show London in 2010,” she says. Cooper is also one of the minds behind DogFest, which launched in 2014 as a one-day event with 6,000 visitors and now welcomes more than 50,000 to two separate weekend-long events. “We’re not trying to be anything very serious like all of the competition-sides with Crufts and The Kennel Club,” Cooper explains. “We’re a bit more about the lifestyle of the pet. With DogFest, for example, if you love your dog, come along and have fun. We have approached everything a different way and I think that has hit a note with people." A key driver of the success of the shows is their settings, and the festival atmosphere they provide for visitors. “If you look at any other dog or animal event in the past, they focus on the animals but not on making it look like a festival,” continues Cooper. “They’ll have little dog shows around the place, but what we’ve done is actually packaged something to create a proper festival. When you talk about a festival, you talk about festival food, live music, lots of bunting and hay. With DogFest we have taken that formula and created an environment where you can do everything at DogFest with your dog. “You don’t have to go and sit and watch demonstrations all day – you can if you want – you can participate in all the different activities in a fun way. The idea is that it’s all “We have taPPed into regular PeoPle Who love their animals as a family, it’s very inclusive” - nicole cooPer 25 very interactive, so when you arrive there is lovely signage everywhere making it feel like a festival, the food is great. It has a proper festival vibe to it.” PamPered Pets Swimming over to the trade side of the pet market, PATS, organised by Impact Exhibitions, runs two shows a year which attract just under 2,000 visitors each, one at Sandown Park and the other at the International Centre, Telford. “The UK pet market is brought together under one roof, one spring, one autumn when they’re launching new products,” Neil Pope, press officer for PATS, tells EN. “A pet buyer has the chance to go to one particular show and see all the new launches at the same. So one day out of their business they can buy, see all the latest products. The only trade exhibition in the UK that presents that facility really.” Impact Exhibitions also organises AQUA at Telford every other year, for fish keeping, ponds and water gardening. “The shows differ from the consumer shows because they’re mainly aimed at the pet trade so it would be pet shop owners and staff, garden centres that have pet departments and also overseas buying groups so anybody that is interested abroad comes over because it’s a concentration of the UK pet manufacturers, and they would see everything that’s new in the UK pet market.” For lots of people, owning a pet goes even further than showering them with cuddles and buying them toys. They are part of the family, which means they involve their pets in every aspect o f their lives. If you think birthdays and Valentine’s Day are occasions only to be celebrated among humans, think again. According to a survey by research firm Euromonitor, 54 per cent of respondents say they consider it common to celebrate holidays with their pets. “Pet owners are increasingly treating their cats, dogs and even small mammals like members of their family,” Gina Westbrook, director of strategy briefings at Euromonitor says. “The opportunity to commercialise this trend into a vast range of goods and services – from dog beer to cat counselling, pet weddings to ‘social petworking’ – is staggering for the company that can position itself to gain credibility among this growing demographic.” Have you treated your pet to a luxury gift recently? How much is too much to spend on your animals? It’s not just in the UK where people have gone pet crazy; world pet markets are growing at a dramatic rate, with countries across the globe reporting higher than ever pet ownership and spending. Americans, for example, are spending more on their pets than ever before, and expenditure continues to rise. continued ➞ exhibitionnews.co.uk | May 2017