Paperworld busy despite challenges

Global trade show attracts over 45,000 visitors.

The annual mega-show Paperworld in Frankfurt at the end of January is still a magnet for the key players in the European office supplies industry. You also bump into visitors from farther afield such as the US, South Africa and Australia (SP Richards and Office 1 this year, for example). This year, official visitor numbers over the four days totalled 45,360 (2012: 49,350) while exhibitor numbers declined slightly to 1,780. Comparisons with previous years are difficult because of a change in the hall layout, but the effect of the economic crisis on some Asian manufacturers was evident in the reduction in space used in Hall 10.0.

While areas such as high-end social stationery and hobby and crafts seem to be booming at Paperworld, the same cannot be said of the office products channel where leading international brand names such as 3M, ACCO, Avery, BIC, Esselte, Fellowes, Newell Rubbermaid and Pilot (among others) were not exhibiting, and Messe Frankfurt clearly faces some challenges to attract these companies back into the official exhibition fold. Perhaps a separate ‘Officeworld’ section is required that would allow a greater range of new products and services – IT accessories, jan/san, packaging and third-party providers in areas such as e-commerce, print, logistics and back-office systems, for example – which are more relevant to today’s office channel.

The Italian trade show Big Buyer has a very straightforward policy when it comes to non-exhibiting manufacturers attending its show: if you’re not exhibiting, you don’t get in. While something as radical as that is unlikely to be workable at Paperworld, there obviously needs to be some form of change to make the show a real hub for the OP sector, both in terms of visitors and manufacturers.  

Watch OPI’s video report on Paperworld trends

Lorenz defends Paperworld

In OPI’s 2013 European Annual Review published prior to this year’s Paperworld show in Frankfurt, Dr Benedikt Erdmann, CEO of leading German dealer group Soennecken, made some controversial comments about the event, saying that there should be “a strategic change” at Paperworld and that the fair needed to have “a completely different concept”

Ruth Lorenz, VP Consumer Good Fairs at Messe Frankfurt, responds to OPI’s questions about some of the challenges facing Paperworld.

OPI: What is your reaction to Dr Erdmann’s comments and to what extent do you agree with him that the event needs to change?

Ruth Lorenz: Our central task is to design our shows so as to make a sensible contribution to the development of business in the industry. We listen carefully to what the relevant sectors tell us. We also, however, have to keep an eye on the way the market as a whole is developing and what inter-relationships there are with the particular sector concerned. Numerous tools enable us to build up a detailed picture, including extensive visitor and exhibitor surveys, observation of the competition and market research into developments worldwide. Added to that, there are the informal conversations with our customers. And – believe me – from 1,780 exhibitors and numerous other sector representatives, we get more than 1,780 views, all with different opinions and needs. 

All this provides us with a comprehensive information base as to how Paperworld is seen from an international perspective and how we need to organise it in future. We look closely at this and have, for years, been constantly adapting our concepts, in order to provide new impetus. And we shall not stop doing that in the future.

One thing is undeniable; the paper, office supplies and stationery sector has changed significantly over the past ten years. There is nothing new in the notion that digitisation, globalisation and changing patterns of sales, logistics and retail structures have put enormous pressure on this industry and its retailers. Many of the brands that were present at Paperworld just ten years ago either no longer exist or have changed their areas of business to such an extent that a trade fair for the paper, office supplies and stationery sector is no longer an appropriate place for them. The European specialist retail trade, too, has been under pressure for years, and attempts at consolidation continue to increase. That doesn’t just pass a trade fair by without leaving its mark. For years, it has been crucial for us to maintain the quality of the event and build it up, in spite of the decreasing footfall. With our numerous special programmes for visitors and the extension of the complementary programme, we are investing heavily in both the event and the sector as a whole. 

But we must draw a distinction here: with these strategic developments, we can, of course, create stimuli within a sector, but we cannot solve their problems or deal with their challenges for them. Industry and the retail and wholesale trades need to get together to take action and can’t really pass that responsibility to a trade fair organiser.

OPI: How can Paperworld become more relevant for major office supplies brands that don’t attend, because at the moment they clearly don’t see the need to participate as exhibitors?

RL: Paperworld remains attractive and relevant for these companies; otherwise they would not come to Frankfurt in January, book in to neighbouring hotels and present their new products there. The internationality of our event, as well as the attention that Paperworld excites among buyers, companies and journalists worldwide, is an enormous draw. Just look, for instance, at the American and European markets. There are no comparable trade fairs for paper, office supplies and stationery that concentrate so many market participants from all over the world in one place or are able to provide the corresponding breadth and depth of products. For those companies that you mention, there is not really an alternative in the exhibition market. When all is said and done, they all need to be aware of one thing: if you do not invest, you will not be able to ‘reap’ at the end of the day. Those who do not support the international trade-fair platform for the worldwide paper, office supplies and stationery sector will no longer be able to benefit in the long term, from what still continues to make Paperworld attractive today.

Besides, we have ongoing discussions with these companies, offer them deals and suggest new concepts. We already have an idea for the 2014 show that we are keen to share with the relevant brands.

Strong turnout at Paperworld procurement event

Paperworld has been helping brand manufacturers with corporate purchasers for some time, but its 2013 Procurement day was expanded thanks to the participation of 16 leading German brands.

Over 350 corporate buyers registered to attend the new format mini-trade show and information sharing day which is the fruit of a partnership between Messe Frankfurt, Office Gold Club and two other German organisations.

The new-look Paperworld Procurement combined the previous presentation/information format and the hands-on product experience of 16 Office Gold Club brand owners that exhibited in a specially-reserved area of the Frankfurt fair.

A keynote speech was given by leading German economist Dr Peter Bofinger and there were case-study presentations from purchasing experts and corporate end-user representatives. Companies that attended included Daimler, Siemens and Henkel, as well as public bodies such as the Münster regional tax office. Office Gold Club’s Chairman, Horst Bubenzer of Durable, told OPI that the turnout at the event was at the top end of expectations and vindicated the new format. 

Last year, Office Gold Club decided to end its own roadshow programme which it had held for eight years, and the board is about to present the organisation’s new strategy to the membership.

Bubenzer confirmed the commitment to continue with the Office Gold Club concept, but said that there would be “a new and innovative” go-to-market strategy.