Frankfurt may not be the most inspiring place in January. But there’s no doubt that holding the annual Paperworld extravaganza at the beginning of the year is an ideal way to bump-start the OP industry into action after the wind-down Christmas period (for those still in the mood, visit Christmas World which is held concurrently).
As Ruth Lorenz, VP of event organiser Messe Frankfurt Exhibition, puts it: "Coming as it does at the beginning of the new business year, Paperworld carries with it the hopes of industry and commerce at both an international and national level. The retail trade is hungry for inspiration, especially in the current period of economic stagnation."
Like last year, the event will be held from a Wednesday to a Sunday to even out visitor numbers over the full five days. Not everybody was entirely happy with the new arrangement, but it meant that during the week the percentage of international guests was high, while trade visitors from Germany in particular attended the fair at the weekend.
Paperworld will culminate in the ‘Focus on Specialist Trade’, an event that was successfully launched last year, with the aim to put the main activity spotlight onto specialist retailers.
Says Lorenz: "In 2006, we will have a particularly colourful range of activities and extra offerings. These include everything from attractive package holidays, prize promotions, special guided tours and discounted ‘retailer-menus’ in the trade fair restaurants to entertainment and special exhibitor and trade association activities." She adds that this special programme is not limited to the German retail trade, but open to all retailers.
However, for Germany and its Paperworld exhibitors and visitors especially, 2006 may mark the beginning of a new era. Following last year’s elections in the country and their prolonged aftermath, a new government is now in place. And finally, there’s some hope that a slowly reviving economy – one of the key tasks for new chancellor Angela Merkel – will generate an increased demand for information, innovation and inspiration.
Innovation is of course the lifeblood of many an industry, certainly OP. Without it, the sector cannot flourish. Paperworld is regarded as a forum where new ideas are born and promoted. Lorenz points to hall 4.2 where a special show called ‘Creativity meets design’ reveals innovative new concepts and also to hall 6.1 where trend expert Gunnar Frank will present the Trend Show.
Frank takes selected products from Paperworld exhibitors and demonstrates which colours, shapes and materials will set the tone for the paper, office supplies and stationery sector in the 2006/2007 season. The Trend Show also provides ideas for effective store presentation, dealing with changing consumer behaviour and helping create the right buying experiences for customers.
For the first time, Paperworld will have a ‘Creative Impulse’ prize for innovation that is awarded for innovation and dedication in the creative sector. During the fair, the entries submitted in the three categories of creative product of the year, marketing campaign as well as business person of the year will be on show in hall 4.2.
And then, of course, there are the European Office Products Awards, organised jointly by OPI and Messe Frankfurt and held on 26 January, where innovation is just one of ten award categories. Says Lorenz: "The European Office Products Award is an important accolade that exemplifies the versatility and innovation force of the international paper, office supplies and stationery sector.
"Presenting the European Office Products Awards at Paperworld, the global leading trade fair, not only provides a glittering backdrop, it also represents, above all, the ideal platform for an international award ceremony of this type."
Paperworld has always been an international show, but perhaps never more so than this year. In 2005, Messe Frankfurt launched two new events – Paperworld China and Paperworld USA. Both were welcomed by the industry at large and hailed a success. But while exhibitor and visitor numbers were naturally below those of the Frankfurt event (China reported 452 exhibitors and 12,600 visitors while the US event had 390 exhibitors and over 4,000 visitors), it does beg the question of whether the mother of all OP events might suffer as a result.
On the contrary, says Lorenz. "Undoubtedly, the brand events in China and the USA will have an effect on visitor numbers in Frankfurt, but an extremely positive one. Whenever we hold a brand event, we subsequently note an increase in visitor numbers to the respective leading trade fair in Frankfurt, especially from the country where that event was held. The fact is that for many visitors the foreign trade fairs make the fair in Frankfurt more interesting and, as a result, attract a new additional, international audience."
She adds that the three events do not compete with each other. "We have been using our leading trade fairs for more than 20 years as a trademark to establish events abroad and open up new markets for our customers. This is our answer to the way international markets are increasingly developing from seller into buyer markets and becoming more demand driven.
"Exhibiting at foreign trade fairs gives European small to medium-sized businesses the opportunity to meet new customers from that particular region. Conversely, the exhibitor that comes to Frankfurt uses the fair as an international platform for his customers from all over the world."
Having said that, exhibitor numbers for the January event are down by about 7 per cent, a fact that can be attributed to the general weakness of the economy, according to Lorenz. About 78 per cent of exhibitors are expected to come from outside Germany.
It’s been well documented that a number of large OP manufacturers have pulled out of Paperworld 2006, notably Esselte, Smead Europe, Fellowes and Avery Dennison. Lorenz is unfazed by this and points out that these might well be one-off cancellations and that it might indeed prove counter productive for the companies concerned. She says: "These are companies, where marketing strategies are characterised by an increasing concentration on shareholder value. Unfortunately, this runs totally counter to the communication needs of the retail trade and suppliers."
On the other hand, some big names in the imaging sector – Hewlett-Packard, Lexmark, Epson and Canon, for example – have recently decided to exhibit again. This substantially boosts Paperworld Imaging, a segment that has been a consistent success since it was launched three years ago and that, in addition to the traditional OP clientele, also attracts specialist photographic and IT retailers as a new trade audience group.
One of the reasons why manufacturers – notably the smaller ones, with less financial power – are reluctant to exhibit at Paperworld is the double-edged sword of exposure. While they clearly want to show off their products, they might prefer to do so in a smaller forum, where the threat of potential counterfeiters and copiers is less prevalent.
Lorenz is sympathetic and is keen to help companies in their effort to combat counterfeits. She says: "Product piracy is an important issue that causes considerable economic damage. Accordingly, Messe Frankfurt actively supports its exhibitors in mitigating this risk. Naturally, as the organisers of Paperworld, it is in our interest to ensure that infringements to intellectual property rights in relation to Paperworld are pursued through the courts."
She also advises Paperworld exhibitors to take advice from a patent agent prior to the trade fair and adds that, "if any exhibitor believes infringement to occur during the trade fair, we will provide emergency legal services to advise the best course of action".
As of this year, Messe Frankfurt also has a wide-ranging ‘Messe against copying’ campaign for all its trade fairs. This will provide exhibitors and visitors with information on how they can protect their products and legally enforce this protection. There will be information stands where for the first time trade fair visitors will be able to meet representatives from all relevant governmental authorities and private initiatives relating to commercial property rights protection.
So counterfeits would be well advised to keep out, as Paperworld opens its doors in Frankfurt for the tenth time this month.
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