Opening events must always aim to dazzle, and Paperworld USA had a tougher job than most. Its granddaddy Paperworld event, held in Frankfurt in January, has been under considerably strain of late with big-name manufacturers such as Esselte, Smead Europe, Fellowes, Avery Dennison Europe and Acco all having pulled out for 2006. The reasons? Budgets; the want to protect products from eagle-eyed counterfeiters; the impersonal focus of a large event; and the fact that parts of Asia are emerging in themselves as never-ending trade shows. So what hope was there for a smaller, less international cousin?
It is probably fair to say that expectations for Paperworld USA, which took place from 9-11 November in Las Vegas, were none too high. Firstly, some of the industry’s prominent exhibitors such as Sanford and Esselte were noticeably absent. Secondly, the event covered considerably less floor space than the previous SHOPA shows – and obviously was a big step down from Paperworld Frankfurt. It is pointless to compare the two events (the US is obviously a more homogenous market than Europe with fewer buyers and bigger firms) but for reference: Paperworld USA registered 390 exhibitors from 32 countries and 4,025 attendees from 81 countries; Paperworld Frankfurt counted 2,722 exhibitors from 69 countries surveyed by 66,000 buyers.
Steve Jacober, president of co-organiser SHOPA, believes that preconceptions were often boosted as the show went on. "For a first-time event, I think that the trade fair was indeed successful, especially given the evolving role of shows in the marketplace," he told OPI+. "I honestly believe that many participants went into the show with somewhat lower expectations than they had in the past. These expectations, however, were truly exceeded given the number of quality visitors and the broad range of product on the show floor."
President of event owner Messe Frankfurt (MF), Roland Bleinroth, has declared the show an outright success. "A primary goal for Paperworld USA was to provide a comprehensive industry platform for exhibitors and buyers of the entire American continent. With attendees from almost every Latin American country, we feel this goal was achieved. Many exhibitors expressed that they were positively surprised by the excellent international buyer participation. At times, our registration counters were struggling to print the badges of even the pre-registered buyers quick enough. The general atmosphere at the show was very positive."
This success, he claims, is reflected in the high number of exhibitors that have already signed up for next year’s Paperworld USA, to take place in Miami Beach from 8-10 November. "Approximately 40 per cent of the new show floor was already spoken for before the end of this year’s show," he said. "We also expect an increase in the total number of exhibitors. Of course, the Latin American buyers are particularly enthusiastic about the location."
The event also scooped up some positive comments from the floor. Keith Davies, CEO of UK-based BOSS Federation, said: "All of the British companies exhibiting through the BOSS Federation have very positive feelings about Paperworld USA. Several described the quality and quantity of leads as excellent." But he also added to OPI+ that those firms that received the most enquiries appear to have put in proportionately more pre-show activity than those that hadn’t.
Jack Leenaarts of US exhibitor Gripping Stuff added: "We are very satisfied. We saw everyone we expected to see and more. In addition, we had a broad sampling of key buyers from Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Scandinavia, the Middle East and Asia."
But despite the impressive mix of international buyers, the relatively small number of them meant that some products didn’t get the exposure of other shows. Furthermore, the non-appearance of some of the big manufacturers did little to impress attendees.
"I think many visitors were surprised that there was only a sprinkling of major brands present, and surprised to see so many Asian exhibitors with many ‘me too’ products," Doug Skeggs of Systemcare told OPI+. "But for us it was good. We had very positive meetings."
Jeff Chow of US exhibitor Viastone added: "Judging from the turnout, I don’t believe the show was a success. The visitors were about half resellers and half manufacturers. Talking to some of the exhibitors, they too are disappointed at the number of attendees. The turnout at SHOPA [in Orlando] last year was a lot better than this year." But he believes that Paperworld USA has a future – "if it could generate more interest from both ends of the spectrum," he added.
Don Dowd of exhibitor Mill Marking claims he will not be returning next year. "We were very disappointed in Paperworld. Our objective was to present domestic independent office supply retailers with our network of professional rubber stamp manufacturers. We saw very little of our target. Most enquiries were off-shore. In fact, the traffic was very light. Unfortunately, this show was a waste of resources and time. We will probably look for other ways to reach our target in the future."
Mark Walpole at Answer Co agreed that only 50 per cent of visitors were in fact resellers, but said that another major problem of the event was that the traffic trickled down on the second day and it was very quiet on the third day, a comment echoed by many of the exhibitors that OPI+ spoke to. "We had to hustle people down," he said. This may have had something to do with the fact that the third day, Friday, was Veteran’s Day in the US (the US equivalent of Armistice Day) when many people take a day off work.
But does Walpole believe Paperworld USA has a future? "Yes, if [the organisers] get more manufacturers to the show," he said. "Brother, Canon, Panasonic, Xerox, IBM, Lexmark need to be at this show. But I have been to other shows in their first year and this being their first year, this one was better than any other first year show I have attended."
So where is Paperworld USA headed? A two-day show may not offer exhibitors and visitors value for money. Many agree it is the focus of the event that needs to change. For Messe Frankfurt, it may also pay to cut back on the optional extras such as VIP cafés and community areas, which were often empty. At the end of the day, it may be in the small, more intimate nature of Paperworld USA where its strength lies. After all, quality is more important than quantity."
Both MF’s Bleinroth and SHOPA’s Jacober agree that there are improvements to be made. Bleinroth suggests that "such topics will include the marketing approach as well as operational issues", Jacober added: "I believe that this initial event can be much improved upon in order to enhance the way it serves the industry and I expect next year’s event in Miami Beach to be larger, more exciting and more important to the marketplace."