Interview: Michael Reichhold, Messe Frankfurt

How is Paperworld reflecting the needs and wants of the business supplies sector? OPI finds out as the event returns to Frankfurt in 2017 with a forward-looking theme.


A shake-up in hall layout and a new show featuring the office of the future are two of the changes that visitors to Paperworld 2017 can expect this year. But the event also sees the welcome return of the biennial Plaza concept. OPI talks to Paperworld Director Michael Reichhold about the latest developments and his thoughts on how this annual fair can continue to reflect the changing nature of the business supplies industry.

OPI: What’s new about Paperworld 2017? 

Michael Reichhold: For many years Paperworld has been very successful in bringing the two main pillars of the industry together under one roof: the commercial office products sector and the B2C stationery, writing instruments and school supplies categories. As such we’ve been able to reflect the largest possible range of stationery and office supplies in terms of both breadth and depth. 

This year’s Paperworld features a slightly modified hall layout that brings these two aspects closer together in one compact unit at the eastern end of the exhibition centre. It allows us to provide a more concentrated overview that reflects the changing market and which will further strengthen and emphasise this combination. 

OPI: How attractive will this new format be for visitors as well as exhibitors? 

MR: The new Paperworld structure gives greater emphasis to each product group and allows visitors to easily target those manufacturers that are relevant to them within a more compact area. The Plaza area in Hall 3.0 is the marketplace where to get comprehensive information about commercial office supplies as well as meeting the most important and leading manufacturers. 

Additionally, the new Future Office display in Hall 3.0 aims to give a preview of tomorrow’s world of work. 

OPI: Please tell me a bit more about that. What can visitors expect from the Future Office?

MR: Visitors will be able to see what tomorrow’s working world is expected to look like. It’s a world that is having to constantly adapt to different kinds of working relationships and cope with the increasing pace of digitisation. Consequently, the office buildings of the future will have completely new room concepts which will require entirely different types of products. 

Attendees will be able to immerse themselves in tomorrow’s opportunities and needs, as well as discover these new innovative products. This part of Paperworld will be of particular interest to architects, interior designers, planners and facility managers who can gather ideas and plan for the future. It will also show manufacturers of stationery and office supplies how these envisaged changes in the workplace can generate new opportunities for their product development.

During the show we will be offering guided tours of the dedicated displays and there will be a number of specialist lectures themed around the Future Office concept, coupled with specific product presentations. 

OPI: Business supplies resellers are increasingly diversifying away from traditional supplies into other categories such as cleaning, breakroom, safety products, etc. We haven’t seen any of these categories at Paperworld so far. What are your plans in that regard?

MR: It’s true, the market is changing and everyone is trying to find a niche in which to specialise. The results of a recent study we commissioned demonstrates this and, of course, as a result trade fairs will also need to change.

This shift in the market will be seen and felt at Paperworld as well. It’s the start of a process – often difficult and lengthy – that will continue for many years to come. We see it as an opportunity and are confidently looking towards the future. This year’s slogan ‘hello tomorrow’ reflects this and is a sign of things to come.

OPI: The Paperworld Plaza concept was inaugurated in 2015. What are your hopes for it this year? 

MR: Commercial office supplies are the centrepiece of Paperworld. It’s only here that this huge product group is so comprehensively represented by both national and international manufacturers. 

The coverage Paperworld provides is unique in both breadth and depth. As such it’s important that the Plaza features exhibitors from across the entire office supplies spectrum and gives them the chance to showcase their new products and innovations. I believe we have achieved that and I’m convinced the Plaza will once again prove to be a major visitor magnet.

OPI: Paperworld Plaza only happens every two years. Surely the quantity and quality of exhibitors and visitors is therefore better during a ‘Plaza’ year? 

MR: We’ve not seen any change in quality or quantity. Even in years without the Plaza arena Paperworld is still a major source of information and a unique platform for the paper, office supplies and stationery sectors. 

But we’re constantly developing the event and the strengthening of the office area this year is an important step in that development.

OPI: What continues to make Paperworld the ‘must-visit’ event for the OP industry?

MR: Every major sector has its leading trade fair and for the OP industry that fair is Paperworld. It’s all about seeing new things and being seen yourself, about networking opportunities and about introducing your company to a broader audience. It’s also a mirror where you can compare your own performance and achievements with others in the sector. 

Paperworld provides an opportunity to develop new synergies and contacts, and to take a fresh look at the sector, leaving behind well-trodden paths and moving forward. Put simply, it’s a trade fair that offers unique possibilities for inspiration and development.

OPI: What are your expectations for the industry overall in 2017? 

MR: I believe that the paper, office supplies and stationery market will stabilise, but we’ll continue to see progressive digitisation in these sectors. However, I don’t see these two developments as incompatible, but more as two sides of the same coin offering huge opportunities. 

Change always brings new possibilities and we need to grasp these with both hands in 2017 and beyond. I’m excited about the future of this sector, rather than concerned.