With the future of the industry’s granddaddy event under the spotlight more than ever, the Paperworld Strategy Commission has announced some big changes for next year’s show. One of the most significant is the plan to attract a completely new group of visitors, which Messe Frankfurt hopes will inject the event with a new supply of lifeblood.
This new group of visitors will include corporate buyers, the central buyers of large concerns and conglomerates. Ruth Lorenz, divisional manager for Messe Frankfurt’s Paperworld, explained to OPI: "Up until now, these people weren’t allowed to visit the fair during the trading days. But as the distribution and trading structures change in the office products industry, so do potential new sales channels.
"Paperworld’s Strategy Commission has identified new visitor groups from the semi-professional field, which from now on will be incorporated in all national and international marketing activities. And at the very front of those new target groups are corporate buyers and sales directors from industry conglomerates, civil servants, as well as people like architects and graphic designers. With this move, we are hoping to create some new, high calibre visitor potential in the future, all with large buying budgets."
Some exhibitors and delegates could well view the move as watering down the trade focus of the fair in the name of making it appear busier.
One former employee at a past exhibitor of Paperworld told OPI that there are potential pitfalls with such a move. "I remember that NOPA tried the same thing during the last few years of the show. What ended up happening was that business people came with their kids (it was on a Saturday) and they went for all the free samples. It brought the traffic to the show, but really did nothing for the buying process.
"I would ask the question of what the show expects to gain from the addition of these groups" he added. "Since the buyers cannot purchase directly from the manufacturers, I assume that they will be there to see new ideas and products only. I understand that there is a need to keep the vitality of the show very high, but I am not sure this will help."
But some exhibitors are in favour of opening up the show, arguing that the move would improve the networking opportunities on the floor as well as boosting communication between manufacturers and the all-important end-user. Bernard Mazeron, European category manager at Smead Europe told OPI: "My personal opinion is that it is a good idea to have these new target groups at Paperworld. They can stimulate the contacts in the stands and therefore bring relevant thoughts and ideas on office products. I have the feeling that we are suffering from not having direct contacts with [our] target groups."
Mike Brownbridge, pan-European business manager at Brother International, which decided not to attend Paperworld 2006 after being an exhibitor for many years due to cost justifications, said the decision may mean the company will reconsider its position and exhibit again. He said: "If, like CeBIT, we have the next show in 2007, targeting large corporate buyers and all the other categories of end-users mentioned, we may reconsider our position regarding exhibiting [at Paperworld] again."
As well as the inclusion of new visitor target groups, another new measure set up by the commission for Paperworld 2007 includes a completely new and innovative concept for the floors of Hall 3. The space, which will be laid out in collaboration with internationally renowned industry designer and architect Clemens Weisshaar, will go against its normal, uniform design and be opened up into wide aisles with food and drink areas (previously outside), incorporated into special "plazas".
Lorenz explained to OPI: "The thinking behind the decision was to make Paperworld an all-encompassing experience. And the new hall structure was part of this. We were keen to show the power of innovation in the industry not just through the products on offer here, but also through the whole set-up and architecture of the event."
A fresh slant on a traditional event is sure to get the thumbs up among both exhibitors and delegates. But Paperworld sceptics may see ulterior motives for the move, as the floors of Hall 3 were those that this year were plagued by the absence of big names including Esselte, Smead Europe, Fellowes, Avery Dennison Europe and Acco. "Opening up" the hall to include spacious "wide avenues and plazas" could be the perfect way to hide space left if the big names fail to return to Frankfurt in 2007 – or if more firms announce their non-appearance.
Messe Frankfurt is determined that the recently announced changes will not go unnoticed and will be illustrated in a new advertising campaign for Paperworld 2007. The organisation’s traditional trade media campaign will also be complemented for the first time by ad campaigns in the daily and business press just before the fair.