Heidelberg had had a substantial presence in the brand new Hall 1 at the Messe Dusseldorf alongside partner companies including Masterwork Machinery and Muller Martini.
However, this morning (8 July) Heidelberg made the bombshell announcement that it would no longer be exhibiting.
The manufacturer said that it planned to focus on “new, virtual trade fair concepts and regional events”.
Participation in next year’s Drupa trade fair had been “cancelled due to unforeseeable effects of Covid-19”.
Heidelberg CEO Rainer Hundsdörfer told Printweek: “We all love Drupa… it used to be a festival but this is not going to happen next year with distance and masks.
“Our customers say they will most likely not come, and what sense does a festival make if the guests are not coming?”
He said the major investment involved as a big exhibitor would therefore be wasted.
Hundsdörfer said the firm would instead shift its double-digit million euros Drupa marcomms spend into open houses and virtual events. Heidelberg spent at least €10m (£9m) on the last Drupa in 2016.
“I can do probably 50 in-house shows for the same money,” he stated.
The news is a major blow to the Drupa organisers Messe Dusseldorf, and hoists a huge question mark over the future for the event and whether other exhibitors will follow suit.
Two large exhibitors: Xerox and Bobst, had already cancelled their participation.
Since then Printweek has learned that a number of other exhibitors have scaled back their presence, including digital printing giant HP, which had been the biggest single exhibitor taking up all of Hall 17.
The Heidelberg news could cause other exhibitors to revise their plans.
One industry expo expert commented: “It’s emotive. Heidelberg is not as big a deal as it used to be, but it’s still a big deal.”
Another likened the situation to the problems that afflicted the UK-based Ipex show after large exhibitors began pulling out.
“This is just like Ipex, like dominoes,” he said.
A source at one large Drupa exhibitor said that up until now they had considered the chances of Drupa going ahead next year as “50:50 – now the chances are low 50.”
Commenting yesterday, prior to this morning’s announcement by Heidelberg, a Messe spokesperson told Printweek: “The Corona crisis is forcing us all to rethink and replan. Of course, this also affects many of our exhibitors, some of whom are forced to reduce their space.
“The hall layout will therefore have to change at one point or another.”
Drupa has disabled the interactive hall plan on its website because of the situation. Prior to the plan being taken down, it appeared that HP had effectively halved its presence.
“We will make the new layout plan available to our visitors again as soon as possible,” the Messe spokesperson said.
HP did not comment specifically about its revised space. The firm told Printweek: “It’s far too early to discuss our onsite plans, which have not been finalised."
The Messe is implementing new ‘Covid-secure’ exhibition concept for exhibitors and visitors, which will be deployed as major shows resume at the beginning of September.
This will include the ability to track contact chains through the online registration of visitors.
“We will inform our exhibitors shortly about the security requirements they’ll have to take into account when planning their exhibition. The implementation of the safety distances on the individual exhibition stands will be the responsibility of the exhibitors themselves,” the Messe said.
“We certainly hope that by April the global situation will be much more positive than it is today with regard to a vaccine, global travel restrictions and control and prevention of new infections.”
Heidelberg said that its new plans will begin with an ‘Innovation Week’ from 19-23 October this year. This will take place virtually and in person at its Wiesloch Print Media Center.
“Face-to-face dialogue will continue to be the focus at the unique Print Media Centers in Wiesloch/Walldorf, Atlanta, Shanghai, Sao Paulo and Tokyo, where we can engage with our customers specific needs directly on-site,” the manufacturer said.
Drupa had originally been scheduled to take place from 16-26 June this year, but was postponed until April 2021 due to the pandemic.