Interview: Back to the future

With a focus on emerging trends and the office of the future, OPI finds out what else Paperworld is doing to stay relevant and keep visitors interested.

Ahead of the return of Paperworld to Frankfurt, OPI caught up with Messe Frankfurt Director Michael Reichhold to find out what’s new for the trade fair in 2018. With a shake-up to the layout of the halls, the return of a special exhibition, and an extensive complementary programme of events, Paperworld 2018 promises to keep attendees engaged. And with continuing changes to the industry and some turbulence among other show organisers in the sector, we find out how Paperworld manages to stay ahead of the curve.

OPI: What can we expect from Paperworld 2018?

Michael Reichhold: Paperworld is a very international trade fair – 82% of exhibitors come from abroad, for example, and for the 2018 event we expect about 1,500 of them to come to Frankfurt. This shows just how important Paperworld is as a global platform in the sector. 

As ever, visitors can see new products, get in touch with business contacts, listen to lectures about innovative developments within the industry and discover the latest trends. There are some exciting new features to explore, and of course the popular favourites will return.

OPI: Last year you revamped the layout of the exhibition hall – how did that work out and what are you doing this year?

MR: The hall layout and occupancy will be very similar this year. Halls 3.0, 4.0 and 6.0 present national and international manufacturers in the office sector while visitors will find new items for trendy stationery and gift items in Halls 4.0, 5.1 and 6.1. This time round, we also have extra space at Forum 0 for the International Sourcing division, in addition to Hall 1.

OPI: How can you make the format of Paperworld attractive for both attendees and exhibitors year after year? 

MR: We have had many talks with industry participants about the future of Paperworld and what it could and should look like in the coming years. These discussions are hugely important to us. 

We have worked out new product areas and target groups that we will systematically introduce at Paperworld in the next few years. The focus this year is on the workplace of the future and the latest trends in the private stationery sector. As such, in the Visionary Office, visitors will find the entire range of commercial office supplies, while the Stationery Trends area is all about personalised stationery, gifts, greeting cards and packaging. 

We will continue to sharpen the structure of the event in collaboration with exhibitors, associations and our partners.

OPI: After the successful return of the biennial Paperworld Plaza last year, are you concerned that 2018 will be comparatively quiet without some of the big German manufacturers? 

MR: We are very satisfied with the number of exhibitors this year. The fact that it’s not a Plaza year will make no difference to us as we have learned to focus on other categories that are interesting for a new set of exhibitors. For example, our Future Office will provide extra exhibition space for manufacturers showcasing products for a healthy office. Brands like Active Office, Agoraphil, Casio, Durable Hunke & Jochheim, Fellowes, Legamaster, Novus Dahle, Pelikan, Sigel, tesa and Wilkhahn are all coming to Frankfurt this year especially for this special show.

OPI: Paperworld has always been about trends and the office of the future. What’s different this year?

MR: Well, 2018 will broadly see us stick to this format. What’s different is that we’ll be showcasing the two concepts – Visionary Office and Stationery Trends as I mentioned – alongside each other. The hall structure and exhibition space is focused on this concept, as is the extensive fringe programme we have. 

I am particularly looking forward to the Trend Show in the foyer between Hall 5.1 and 6.1 which will present both office and stationery trends for the coming season. We’re hoping that everyone will find plenty of inspiration to start the year.

OPI: The Future Office was a real success last year and you already referred to it for 2018. Tell me a bit more about it.

MR: Yes, at Paperworld 2017 we presented the Future Office in its entirety across a broad spectrum of issues and innovations. This time we wanted to delve a little deeper into some of the concepts, so this year the special show will focus on the healthy office. 

The overall area is bigger and there are several stations that visitors can go through – a kind of product trail to experience workplace well-being. There will also be 13 exhibitors – I named some earlier – that are present adjacent to the show as well as experts who can elaborate on exactly what makes an office healthy.

OPI: Can you elaborate on the fringe programme – what’s on offer this year?

MR: There will be a packed itinerary featuring a diverse set of lectures, talks and presentations that specifically address the different groups of visitors we expect to attend. On the first and second day of Paperworld, it will be all about topics for the trade, while on day three and four, the fringe programme is geared towards architects, facility managers and interior designers. 

In Hall 6.0, meanwhile, there will be discussions about the state of the remanufacturing industry.

OPI: We’ve been talking for some time about the many adjacent product categories that are popular with resellers right now. Last year you referred to it as a “difficult and lengthy process” in accommodating this evolution. How far down that process are you now – are we ever likely to see things like cleaning, breakroom and safety products at Paperworld?

MR: As a trade fair organiser, it is our job to create attractive platforms for exhibitors as well as an inspirational environment for trade visitors. If the product composition or sales concepts change, then we must also change, and we have done that already to some extent, for example with the Mr Books & Mrs Paper show that addresses the book trade in the German market. 

The idea of reaching new target groups, such as facility managers and architects in the Future Office area, has also worked very well and we believe we have laid a good foundation for further expansion.

OPI: The date of Paperworld remains a challenge for some manufacturers, especially those relying heavily on the back-to-school season. Insights-X seems to get full marks for better timing (October) in that regard. What’s your view?

MR: We have been asking exhibitors for the best date for Paperworld for many years, and January is the most popular, with about 90% of respondents choosing this time. 

The other 10% are spread out over the rest of the year, with no particular preference. The back-to-school area in Hall 4.0 is very well-represented and is very important to us.

OPI: Tradeshows – hugely expensive to run and attend – are often coming under pressure. But while several have faltered over the years, many have also had remarkable staying power. Why is Paperworld Germany one of them?

MR: One reason for the continued strength of Paperworld is that we are committed to developing the event alongside the market we serve. The fair also features an unrivalled product range and a broad international focus, both of which put us ahead of the competition.

The market and the industry are changing and as that happens, so does Paperworld. But after some adjustments, there is a trend towards stabilisation now I believe. Manufacturers are exploring new ideas and concepts and are looking positively into the future. And that, in my opinion, is also reflected in the industry as a whole – there’s a positive outlook.