Nicola Macdonald meets the founder of the National Pet Show to see what the future holds.
Six years ago, Nicole Cooper (pictured left) got a pet dog.
As someone with experience in the exhibition industry, she quickly noticed that there wasn’t a consumer show for the general pet market, and decided she was going to be the one to change that. With more than 40 per cent of UK households having at least one pet, it was a smart move.
“I started looking at the pet market, which is huge and grew by about £10m in the last year to just over £2.8bn,” she tells EN. “Then I went to Mayridge and QD Events for investment and launched the National Pet Show London in 2010.”
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 42,000 to two separate weekend-long events.
“I came up with the idea of doing a great dog walk, and approached Channel 4’s Supervet Noel Fitzpatrick,” she explains. “The two of us together came up with the idea of DogFest. We launched that in 2014 with organiser Brand Events.”
In September 2016, the London and Birmingham iterations of the National Pet Show, along with the two DogFest events, were acquired from Brand Events by Fitzpatrick’s company Fitz All Media. Cooper also moved to the company, taking up the role of managing director of events.
The popularity of DogFest (which promises ‘the paw-fect day out for dog lovers’) was partly due to Fitzpatrick’s involvement, even before he acquired the show.
“He’s always been a talent at our shows,” says Cooper. “Noel’s a vet but he’s also a businessman and he runs a successful company. DogFest has a simple message: if you love being with your dog then come and have a good day out. It’s lovely to market.”
Someone unfamiliar with the National Pet Show might suspect that an exhibition hall full of various household pets would create an almighty racket.
“It’s actually amazing how quiet it is, it’s quite impressive,” reveals Cooper. “We zone the shows, and obviously don’t have the cats and dogs right next to each other. The animals that we have at the indoor shows are also used to doing events.”
The animals that attend the National Pet Shows might be seasoned pros, but the dogs that descend on DogFest are anything but.
“We’re quite different to a show like Crufts; you would go to Crufts because you’re quite serious about your dog,” Cooper explains. “We’re more inclusive. If you’ve got a dog and you want a really nice day out then you should come to our event.”
The pet shows are likely to continue growing and expanding under the ownership of Fitz All Media. Fitzpatrick, after being a familiar face at the shows for years, will now be able to take an active role in developing them in the future.
“He wanted to get more involved and inject an exciting, new, fresh look and feel,” explains Cooper. “We’ll see where it goes from here. Watch this space.”