As some of the big vendors stay away once more from the show floor, Paperworld’s organisers have pulled out all the stops in trying to inject new life into the premier event for all things office products
The stats speak for themselves. Paperworld Frankfurt is an event in decline. True, the numbers were up in 2010, by about 3,000 in terms of visitors to about 45,500. But that’s calculating from a very low base in 2009, the Paperworld year that will forever be remembered by all attendees as the one in the midst of the worst recession in decades. And, of course, the inaugural addition of Remax to the show in 2010 no doubt added interest as well as overall numbers, numbers that would otherwise almost certainly have been further down.
But as sure as visitors and exhibitors alike are bracing themselves again for a few Arctic days in Frankfurt, as certain is the fact that Paperworld Frankfurt, with all its ifs and buts, remains the first and foremost event for the paper, stationery and office supplies world.
Office supplies indeed continue to be the top product category that trade visitors are interested in (see ‘Visitor Interest’ graph on page 35), followed by office papers, writing instruments and school supplies.
It might seem bewildering then that one of the perennial questions surrounding the event is the growing absence of some big name vendors. Not so many years ago, exhibition stands of the likes of Stabilo, Esselte, 3M and Henkel dominated entire halls with elaborate – often two-story – displays that wowed visitors (and fellow exhibitors). Of late, some of these exhibitors are simply not there anymore. Why?
Better and more diverse communications channels between vendors and their channel partners – many of them electronic – are partially responsible for this drawback. After all, even Paperworld’s organiser Messe Frankfurt is jumping on the social media bandwagon this year with Twitter and Facebook having recently been chosen as two of the fair’s modernised communication channels.
Other communication channels
Fellowes Europe President Andrea Davis elaborates on her company’s no-show in 2011. She says: "For 2011, our focus is on continuing to create end-user demand and to drive sales to our customers, which we see as critical given the current economic climate. To this end, we want to focus our marketing activities on continuing to increase awareness of our range of products and solutions alongside the provision of best-in-class product and sales support for our customers with an increased emphasis on digital marketing."
Most manufacturers remain tight-lipped about their reasons for staying away, however. One said: "Don’t ask me why we are not exhibiting. Ask Messe Frankfurt why we should spend B300,000+ ($393,000) talking to customers who we see every month anyway."
Fair point perhaps. Attending an event like Paperworld with a large team of people is an ever spiralling cost as well as human resource factor, especially in or at the tail end of a recession. But the fact that many major brands still choose to attend and see their clients in the many nearby hotel meeting rooms suggests that Messe Frankfurt’s forum is still a big attraction. The issue for some major vendors will remain value for money and, until that is resolved, their absence presents a timely and much welcomed opportunity for many smaller and emerging – and often very innovative – manufacturers to get face time with the leading resellers who are often too busy to see them back at their offices.
And if the larger vendors opt not to have any space at all, they can still participate in the many networking events that Paperworld has to offer – one of them being OPI’s European Office Products Awards (EOPA).
There’s a wider question too: in among all the economic talk and the continuing consolidation that is happening cross-channel, has innovation ground to a halt or, to put it less severely, settled at a much slower pace?
Not if you believe those vendors that have become true Paperworld stalwarts. Says edding International’s Managing Director Thorsten Streppelhoff: "For edding, Paperworld is the main annual platform for presenting our brand and our marketing activities. As much for our national market as for our international subsidiaries and foreign distributors, Paperworld is the ideal opportunity for a broad customer base to experience the whole of the edding brand in all its diversity. What’s more, Paperworld provides a chance to talk to other members of the sector, which makes it unique in our industry. After our anniversary year in 2010, expectations are very high for the coming year."
Fellow writing instrument manufacturer Staedtler Mars meanwhile is really pushing the boat out, with stands in two locations. Britta Olsen, Head of International Marketing, explains: "Paperworld is the leading international trade fair for our sector. That’s why we are back with two stands to represent us [in 2011]; one in Hall 4.2 – the new Creativeworld – and another in Hall 3.1 – in the paper, office supplies and stationery section. We shall take advantage of the platform provided by Paperworld to be able, once again, to showcase our new products and concepts to the specialist international audience."
Injecting new life
Messe Frankfurt is continually exploring new avenues to add value to exhibitors and visitors alike. Last year, as mentioned, Remax became part of Paperworld and the combination of the two – Remax had previously been a standalone event for ten years – was roundly regarded as a success, especially since several of the OEMs in the sector have stayed away.
For 2011, Messe Frankfurt is launching another standalone event in response to a spurt of interest in the creative and hobbycraft sector. Creativeworld, formerly part of the fair’s popular creative area, will become completely autonomous and run parallel to Paperworld, again in Hall 4.2, showcasing the world’s biggest range of hobby, craft and artist supplies. Michael Reichhold, Director of Paperworld and Creativeworld, points out that the creative segment has grown continuously over the years with 220 exhibitors presenting their products at the 2010 show. He says: "With the new Creativeworld brand, we aim to give the sector greater freedom for independence so it attracts more attention."
The overall concept of structuring the hall layout based on product areas proved successful at Paperworld 2010 and, as a result, will be retained in 2011. Office and school supplies and writing instruments will be on show in a compact exhibition area on two floors in Hall 3. Hall 4.1 too is characterised by office supplies while computer and printer accessories, paper, labels or original accessories as well as Remax will again be represented in Hall 4.0.
In addition to hall after hall filled with established and often brand new products, Paperworld Frankfurt has also become a magnet for those interested in trends and design. From the Asia Design Excellence show as part of the Asia High Quality Selection in Hall 10.0 over Pimp your Shop in Hall 6.1 to the now well-established and much anticipated Paperworld Trend Show (also Hall 6.1) – trade visitors can take their pick from the many fringe benefits that have become part and parcel of the world’s largest event in our industry. See you there!