Fespa’s return hailed a success

Richard Stuart-Turner
Monday, October 18, 2021

Fespa’s returning Global Print Expo has been hailed a success by exhibitors, many of which found the Amsterdam event to be busier and more successful than expected.

Some stands were packed with visitors at Fespa
Some stands were packed with visitors at Fespa

While visitor numbers were not available at the time of writing for the event, which took place at the RAI exhibition centre in the Dutch capital from Tuesday to Friday (12 to 15 October) last week, the general feeling was that despite being a smaller affair than usual, the quality of the visitors that attended was up, with key decision makers in high supply.

The first Fespa event since the Munich show in 2019, due to numerous coronavirus-enforced delays, the event – co-located with speciality print and signage show European Sign Expo 2021 – attracted around 200 exhibitors, with a handful of major names absent.

Numerous Covid-safe regulations were in place, including the checking of vaccination status or proof of a negative test on the door and then wristbands required for entry, digital entry badges held on visitors’ phones via an online visitor portal, and a raft of strict cleaning and hygiene measures.

Despite this, the show felt remarkably like the Fespa of old in many ways, especially once out on the show floor. While some exhibitors said the first day felt relatively quiet, by the second day visitors were flooding the halls and on many stands it felt as busy as any of the last few Fespa shows.

With many participants unable to attend the events due to ongoing travel restrictions, Fespa also livestreamed a series of interviews with suppliers and Fespa members.

And while there was a smaller feature programme than usual, the two that were present – the Printeriors collection of bespoke interior decor applications, and World Wrap Masters Europe 2021 – the European leg of the vehicle wrap competition – were well received.

Several key themes emerged at the Amsterdam show; navigating Covid recovery – including the way that many pivoted to new applications and markets, the rise of online print-on-demand and personalised products as a result of the pandemic, the rise of industrial applications and interior decor, and the increasing use of and demand for automation.

There were also numerous launches within the burgeoning direct-to-film (DTF) printing sector, from companies including Mutoh and Promattex.

Arguably the biggest trend, perhaps unsurprisingly, though was sustainability, with many exhibitors demonstrating or discussing new or recently launched sustainable products and innovations, as the wide-format sector continues to further enhance its green credentials.

While show debuts were understandably thinner on the ground than usual – companies could not sit on their new products while they waited for the pandemic to ease – there were nevertheless a few key launches from companies including SwissQprint, Roland DG, and Durst while many others were showing products in public for the first time that they’d launched over the past 18 months.

Many exhibitors and visitors applauded Fespa’s efforts for pulling off a show of still such a large scale and one that felt in a lot of ways like previous events, particularly as many international travel restrictions and Dutch social distancing restrictions have only eased in the past few weeks.

SwissQprint UK managing director Erskine Stewart told Printweek the show had been exciting to exhibit at.

“It’s been fantastic to connect with colleagues who’ve come from all of Europe, but also to meet customers – we’ve had a number of customers from the UK attending.”

Canon Production Printing Large Format Graphics EMEA sales and marketing director Wouter Derichs added: “From the day I arrived here I really saw twinkling in the eyes of the [exhibitors and staff], a feeling that finally we are back in business, back on track and back to normal.

“And this is also what I’ve recognised with the people visiting – it doesn’t feel like a reunion but like a type of relief. There are a lot of smiles. The amount of visitors was also higher than expected, especially on the first day when it’s usually fairly slow.

“And there’s a sense that the people that are visiting are really interested – it’s more about the quality than the quantity of the leads, and the confirmation in the market that people want to see and want to touch the solutions.”

Fespa was the first major international show for Kongsberg PCS since it became a standalone company earlier this year. Wim Brunsting, sales director for Europe and the Middle East (EMEA), said visitors had “come in waves” to its stand.

“Good waves as well, and they have come from all over – Egypt, Italy, Russia. People coming to the stand have said 'oh wow, Kongsberg – I know the name but I've never seen the brand' and saying that it looks the real deal.”

Mimaki Europe showcased several recently-launched machines at Fespa and general marketing manager Danna Drion said she was “super happy with how the show had gone.

“It's really exciting to see everyone again, all those familiar faces including partners and distributors who we haven't seen in person for two years. And I'm thrilled about how busy it's been, my expectations [on visitor numbers] were much lower than what we've seen.

“When we started to investigate whether we would participate in Fespa, we immediately said yes, as first of all we are loyal to them and we appreciate them, and secondly we needed to show the audience that we're here and that we would like to stay in this market. Also to show the confidence to the audience – to our partners but also to our customers.”​

Also speaking to Printweek during the show, Fespa CEO Neil Felton said: “The feedback has been frankly incredible. I think people are really happy to be back – they are very engaged, happy, and smiling and really energised.

“And we’ve also heard that while it’s not the same number of visitors that you would normally get at a Fespa show, the quality has been very, very strong. In some ways the people that have come are here to do business.”

He also praised the Fespa team for their efforts in organising the show: “The team are absolutely incredible – they’ve managed to put something on like this when people all around us have been cancelling shows.

“This team deserve all the credit for pulling together because it was by no means easy – up to a month beforehand we weren’t sure how we were even going to get the team here [prior to the easing of UK travel to The Netherlands], so it’s absolutely phenomenal.

“I hope the exhibitors recognise the work they have done because we certainly recognise the work the exhibitors have done to make this a great show.”

The dates and venue for the 2022 show had already been announced – 31 May to 3 June at Messe Berlin in Germany, covering eight halls, and Felton said it was already shaping up to be a much bigger event.

It should also see the return of some of the manufacturers and suppliers that chose not to exhibit in Amsterdam, as well as many of the printers who could not make it due to ongoing travel restrictions, or who chose to wait a few more months to travel.

“We’ve had some of the big guys taking 20-30% more space for Berlin – we’ve had some record-breaking stands [booked] that we’ve never had before at Fespa. There are so many people who are lining up to book, which is great for Fespa but the most important thing is that it’s great for the industry that we’re back,” said Felton.

“It's also important that we get back to educating – providing feature content for people. In addition to Printeriors and World Wrap Masters we want to be looking at industrial printing, more information on textiles, interior design, and sustainability, there will be a whole range of things we’ll be looking at.”

With no show for the last two and a half years, Fespa’s 2021 outing felt more like a review of the trends and industry innovations that have continued at pace all the way through the pandemic.

2022 should build on these further and will no doubt see the return of more major launches and higher numbers through the doors but Amsterdam will go down as a success regardless for most of those who attended.

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