Exhibitors warm to Paperworld 2008

Changes to set-up see mixed opinions from buyers and vendors.

A slight decrease in the total number of visitors did not dampen the views of exhibitors at an unusually temperate and international Paperworld 2008.

The usually freezing climate of Frankfurt in January swapped the snow for sunshine, with the mood of most exhibitors and buyers improving to match. Some 60,112 visitors (down from 61,118 in 2007) passed through the doors this year, including an increasingly international delegation, with over 60 percent of visitors this time around travelling from outside Germany (up 4 percent on last year).

Growing too was the number of counterfeit goods seized, up by 50 percent on last year, with customs officials believing that IP fraud is on the increase.

The better-than-usual weather did not stop buyers from complaining about having to travel to see ‘exhibitors’ that insist on setting up outside the Messegelände (main exhibition space).

Opinion on the new layout drew some strong responses too, with both buyers and vendors offering differing views on the topic.

In their annual post-show report, organisers Messe Frankfurt said that exhibitors gave a better rating than last year to orders placed during the fair and visitor target groups reached. Altogether, almost three quarters of exhibitors said they were "satisfied to extremely satisfied" with the degree to which they had achieved their goals for the fair, said the report.

In total, 2,255 exhibitors from 61 countries presented the latest products and trends for the forthcoming season. One exhibitor, cleaning products manufacturer AF International, said the event was a success overall, despite controversial changes to the floorplan.

"We had many business meetings, most of which were new to AF, and we are extremely hopeful that a large percentage of them will pay off," said the company’s marketing manager Karen Harrison. "For us, new business meetings increased and the enthusiasm within the industry seemed high. The visitors to the show were of a high calibre which is always very encouraging to see."

In the technology channel, HSM was full of praise after it saw a 30 percent increase in the number of visitors to its stand in Hall 3.0.

"We worked in the months before the exhibition to invite our existing and potential customers and to make sure that they show up," said the company’s managing director, Irene Dengler. "In our opinion, the layout was also much better than last year.

"Paperworld is the most important exhibition in office technology for us. We can meet a huge number of existing and new customers and partners in a short amount of time. For us, it is traditionally the start for all our main activities, promotions and campaigns."

In the sourcing arena, Jan van Belleghem, director of wholesale alliance interACTION, voiced his concerns that the cost of a booth was pushing vendors over the road to set up camp in a nearby hotel. "As there are fewer and fewer buyers (due to the consolidation on the distribution side), it’s easier for the suppliers to visit them during the year a couple of times and do the business there. In that respect, a booth in Frankfurt is a very expensive cappuccino terrace and as a consequence ‘Marriottworld’ is booming. Only for second tier and private label suppliers does the fair still makes sense."

Concern over the exodus to nearby hotels was also voiced by some major buyers. John Watson, group marketing director at Lyreco added to a prevailing feeling of bewilderment over why vendors would chose to make themselves hard to visit.

"What I find bizarre is the trend for suppliers to move away from the exhibition itself and instead take up residence at local hotels. I guess this is down to cost," he said. "When that hotel is next door to the halls, it’s not too bad, but this year we discovered that vendors were taking hotels further away meaning taxis to travel in between, which is not efficient for us."

Another much debated point of contention was the change of dates next year. At the request of exhibitors, Paperworld 2009 will be reverting back to a familiar format and shortened by a day. Next year’s event will be held from Saturday 31 January to Tuesday 3 February, cutting off the ‘dead’ last day.

The effect on the all-important international visitors, however, could be detrimental, with some at this year’s show expressing their dismay about losing their weekend in favour of what could end up being a nine-day week.

Jim Preston, CEO of BPGI, said: "I have significant concerns regarding the new format. We hold meetings with our members before the start of the show and then meet with vendors during the trade show days. The new scheduling means that we will have tied up the better part of two weeks between meetings, trade show and travel. This is very time-consuming and inefficient."

So what does OPI think? Well, this concern about losing a weekend certainly shows that we live in different times to a few years ago. Back then, the airport departure lounges on the Friday before Paperworld were crammed full with OP buyers and vendors, right across the world, all eagerly looking forward to several days at the show.

Sure, we all lead increasingly busy lives and none of us like spending a weekend away from our families. But is it really too much to expect office products buyers to make this sacrifice once a year for what continues to be the most important event in the international calendar? After all, the vendors will be there for the duration…and paying handsomely for it!