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HP booth at Ipex 2010

New business models and ways to work challenge the traditions of printing industry tradeshows

Worldwide there are a lot of trade shows to discover and attend. In addition the four „must" ones plus one: drupa, Print, Ipex, Igas and China Print. Is this set-up still reflecting the industry or just a reminder of the glorious past? Sabine A Slaughter investigates this issue in light of Agfa, HP and Kolbus pulling out of IPEX.

Print changes as does everything. The printing community changes. sales and distribution changes. The world economy changes. And within those changes there are the big five trade shows for the graphic arts community: drupa, Print, Ipex and Igas that are alternating every four years and China Print. Sure, two of them are in Europe, one in North America and two in Asia. But does this reflect also the printers, the sales suppliers and manufacturers achieve? Is Europe really so strong and in such a prime location that it should host two of the big trade shows? Well, let's look at it:

Europe has and is one of the strongest economies on the globe – no arguing. Does it achieve double the sales and production numbers than other economies, especially in the printing and graphic sector? Or is this a thing that reflects the past?

BRIC countries have been touted for a long time as strong growth regions and sales reflect this. In addition, many printers and print service suppliers in those regions are evolving, growing their businesses over proportionally.

This leads to a big question: If Europe does not reflect the sales and growth that the trade show schedule reflects, then why are there still two of the big trade shows in Europe?

  • Easy accessibility from anywhere in the world by plane? Well to be honest, planes fly everywhere.
  • Cheap travel and hotel costs – that once was, but rising prices have not stopped in Europe either
  • Many printers attending the show – visitor numbers are declining year over year and show over show
  • Many suppliers are either European or have subsidiaries here that can cater to the shows – is that really still true? Sure some of the renowned companies are European while many others are coming from Asia and other parts of the world
  • Manufacturers now have large demo centers open each day where they can host customers anytime and do not need to rely on tradeshows to demonstrate their solutions

Kolbus booth at IPEX 2010So in all honesty – why have so many trade shows in Europe (and who still remembers Imprinta)? Emerging nations and regions such as BRIC, especially South America already outperform other regions. And do they have trade shows? Sure, they do. Last Expoprint in Brasil was attended by 34,000 visitors in seven days. The Technoprint in Egypt (a bi-annually show) attracted over 50,000 visitors in four days. These are just two examples. And those visitors were happy, that there is a trade show in their region that caters to them. Where they can not only experience new technology but also buy it, make connections and overall experience the feeling of being part of the print community, being part of the whole.

So where does this leave our five "big" shows? Drupa, there is no argument about it, is and probably will stay the biggest print industry show there is – until Print China might take over. Print on the other hand caters to the huge community of American printers. Igas and China Print are the Asian shows. But Ipex as the second European show is endangered. Not only are visitor numbers declining, Ipex next has had many suppliers and manufacturers rethinking their strategies despite a good move to London. Is Ipex really a show that is a must? Do we really see our communication message reflected at Ipex? Will we attend? Will visitors attend? For now, several companies have pulled out of Ipex, among them some well known names such as HP, Agfa and Kolbus. Maybe Heidelberg or KBA will be announcing next that they will not attend Ipex? Or some other renowned company?

And shouldn't sales and results reflect trade shows as much as the willingness to attend, the regions that are growing most? Well, we need to wait and see what is happening. I believe that change is good and for the best of every participating company in our industry, be it printers, suppliers, distributors and/or manufacturers!

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