If after this year’s Ipex anyone was fearful that the days of the big European shows were drawing to a close, then it’s safe to say that last week’s Fespa Digital in Munich was a welcome fillip.
With record-breaking visitor and exhibitor numbers, Fespa bucked a worrying trend of shrinking shows and reminded many that the days of hosting a successful print expo in Europe are far from over.
“We’re absolutely over the moon because it highlights that our strategy is correct. That said, while we’re pleased, we’re certainly not going to be complacent and I’m sure we can do even more to make the next event even better. But right now we’re extremely happy,” says Fespa chief executive Neil Felton.
Myriad exhibitors, including EFI, mirrored this sentiment.
“The show’s been fantastic. There have been some signs of recovery in the European market so we were anticipating exactly what we saw. The traffic was good and it was not only existing customers, a lot of new customers also came to invest,” states EFI senior vice-president, worldwide sales and marketing Frank Mallozzi.
And Felton and Mallozzi’s reasons to be cheerful are clear: pre-audited unique visitor numbers topped 16,700, smashing the total of the previous largest Digital event in Hamburg by 30%, not to mention an increase of exhibitors from 370 at Hamburg to 536.
And as our reader reactions highlight, visitors were just as happy because many of those exhibitors also used the show as a global launchpad for new products.
Canon was one such company, launching its Océ Arizona 6100 series flatbed press at the show.
“Fespa Digital has been a great success for Canon and has surpassed all expectations, both in terms of sales made and leads generated. The global launch of the 6100 series has, in particular, received tremendous interest,” says Pierre-Olivier Esteban, marketing director of technical document systems and display graphic systems, Canon Europe
All this and Fespa Digital is not even the main event in the portfolio: with the ‘big Fespa’ taking place next May in Cologne.
With happy visitors and exhibitors and swelling numbers of both, it does beg the question: with the main show having been brought forward from its usual three-year cycle to avoid Drupa, could the big show’s temporary switch to a biennial cycle become permanent?
Felton has an open mind.
“To an extent everything is under constant review, but regarding the frequency we will be led by visitors and exhibitors. We will not make a judgement call ourselves, something as fundamental as that would need to be driven by our stakeholders, by the community not by us,” he says.
More pressing for Felton is to move the show to 1:1 ratio in terms of one visitor for every square metre of exhibitor space, the holy grail for an exhibition organiser. Munich had a ration of 0.85:1, compared to Hamburg’s 0.75:1 – so clearly the show is headed in the right direction.
The same is true of its strategy of making Fespa and Fespa Digital truly global events.
The geo-cloned events in places like China, Mexico, Turkey and South Africa (Fespa Africa launches in July) have had a big impact on visitor demographics. While the final split is yet to be announced, in the first two days of Munich visitors from almost 120 countries had attended the show with two-thirds of all visitors coming from outside of the event’s German-speaking ‘DACH’ heartland of Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
While the feeder shows have clearly had an impact, Felton also highlights Fespa’s unique structure as being a key factor in its growth; insofar as it’s a federation of trade associations, which means that by its nature it’s close to the industry and can react quicker to the changing needs of visitors and exhibitors.
“In some ways we are the market. If anyone should know what’s happening in wide-format it’s us; we have thousands of members around the world constantly telling us about it, our board members are printers – virtually every conversation we have features a printer,” he states.
While he adds that a clear marketing message and energetic sales team were also important factors in Munich’s success, being able to stay close to exhibitors and visitors outside of ‘show season’ is something all exhibition organisers crave.
But is Fespa in danger of forgetting its roots and becoming and a common-or-garden event organiser rather than an industry body?
Felton is adamant that situation won’t arise.
He says that being a not-for-profit trade body first and an event organiser second creates a virtuous circle of investment in the industry, highlighting that Fespa has fed €4m back into the industry though various local partnerships with member associations and global projects like the Fespa Census in the past seven years.
“It’s not just about how we generate money, which clearly the shows do, but also how we use it effectively to build demand for print and help the industry at large,” he adds.
And perhaps that’s the real secret of the Fespa shows’ success?
Opinion: Show was proof that we’re heading for brighter future
Neil Felton, chief executive, Fespa
Doesn’t it feel great to belong to a business community that is energetic, vibrant, dynamic, innovative and eager to embrace the future? Yes, I’m talking about print.
Last week in Munich, an audience of 25,000 printers flooded through the gates of Fespa Digital 2014 from all around the globe, ready to dive deeper into digital wide-format print. Visitor numbers were up 30% compared with the previous show in Hamburg in 2011, which was already a record-breaking event. Half of visitors this year came back for a second day, testament to the sheer wealth of innovation for printers to see.
What more proof do we need that the gloom of the past five years is behind us and, with the right mindset, we’re surfacing towards a bright future?
Print is often talked about as a mature sector, but the business owners at Fespa Digital are not treading water. They’re breaking out of commodity work and exploring new, profitable applications made possible by digital technology. It was invigorating to walk the halls and see the phenomenal diversity of products that can be created with a digital printer, a substrate, some ink and a dose of imagination.
Fespa Digital 2014 provoked many comments – from exhibitors, visitors and journalists – that this was what a great trade show should be. Buzzing stands, crowded demos, busy aisles, the hum of conversation. Exhibitions remind us that success in business is about relationships, and the most rewarding relationships are nurtured face-to-face. Online platforms may facilitate transactional communications, but true partnership is built when you look each other in the eye.
A good trade show is an elixir for business; it’s uplifting, refreshing, energising. If you missed out on your dose this May, then add dates in your diary for the other global Fespa events, culminating in Fespa 2015, our flagship screen-textile-digital show, 18 to 22 May 2015 in Cologne. There’s no boost like it.
Reader reaction: Did Fespa Digital 2014 live up to your expectations?
Charles Linney, director, Linney Group
“We took a team of six people to the show as we wanted to go and have a look at everything properly. I was there for two days. Being there reassured us that we have bought the right kit in the past, and that we have a lot of the best quality and fastest machinery out there. I saw a few things that we could add to our finishing department that would enable us to bring more processes in-house. And we’re in negotiations about something new we saw there.”
Daniel Pattison, sales director, Augustus Martin
“Fespa was wonderful. It’s the best show of the lot and it didn’t disappoint. We’ve only just had Fespa in London and you’d think we hadn’t had a show for three years. Every manufacturer had a new product, a new take on it, new systems for driving the machines, new heads in the machines and new inks that could do different things. I thought the whole thing was great. To see so many large manufacturers put so much time and effort into and take such a large presence at the show was fantastic.”
Paul Turner, owner, Paul Turner Displays
“I feel like it was a great show, it was very vibrant and there seemed to be an awful lot going on compared with Fespa London 12 months ago. It was really well organised and probably one of the best shows I’ve been to. It was very exhibitor- and visitor-friendly with excellent transport and ease of access. A specific trend that I noticed was a greater emphasis on textiles than I’ve seen at other shows, an awful lot of firms were showing direct-to-textile printers and that’s clearly the way it’s going.”