Strong turnout at Big Buyer

Visitor numbers up 20% at Italy's largest office products event.

The 18th Big Buyer trade show in Italy – which took place from 20-22 November in Bologna – was marked by a strong increase in visitor numbers. Official figures released by organiser Edinova show that 7,030 visitors attended the 2013 event, a jump of more than 20% on 2012.

Edinova owner Mariella Nasi Pfeiffer attributed the stronger interest in this year’s event to a comprehensive and relevant seminar and training programme that was spread over the three days of the exhibition. Seminar topics included back-to-school, retailing, e-commerce, contract stationery, wholesaling and green products.

There was also a special training programme for independent sales reps – who are still the main route to market for vendors and resellers in the Italian market – that took place on the third day of Big Buyer.

Pfeiffer pointed to the growing number of international delegates at the show – 860 foreign visitors represented about 12% of the total. Edinova has been taking steps to attract more global participation and this year included buying delegations from countries such as Poland.

Italian trade association AIFU also invited BPGI CEO Barrie Hayes to provide a global perspective on the state of the office supplies industry and he gave a clear message to a packed audience of about 120 delegates: “Change is here and if you don’t accept that you are in denial,” he stated. “You must evolve or you will go out of business.”

Resilience

Adriano Alessio, AIFU President and Managing Director of the In Ufficio dealer group, presented some encouraging market data, revealing that sales in the B2B channel had fallen about 4% in the first nine months of 2013, a resilient performance given the softness in the Italian economy.

However, other attendees at the show pointed to double-digit declines and there was talk of market “turmoil” in some quarters, especially given the uncertain political situation and steep public sector spending cuts.

One strategy that some vendors are taking to try to offset soft or declining sales is to broaden their product portfolios.

Fellowes Italy used Big Buyer to launch a range of environmentally friendly office accessories called Green2Desk. These products are made by Fellowes’ Italian partner Leonardi and will be distributed across Europe under the Fellowes brand.

Filing and archiving specialist Jalema meanwhile has teamed up with Italian manufacturer Natural File and is now the exclusive distributor in the Italian office channel for Natural File’s patented filing products. Durable’s focus this year was on its Colour Your Office range of accessories as it looks to offer something different for end users.

Other international vendors attended Big Buyer to provide a boost or fresh direction to their Italian operations. HSM’s experienced Head of Global Key Accounts Karlheinz Haigis was put in charge of both Italy and Spain a few months ago following a divisional reshuffle. He was at Big Buyer with Fabrizio D’Urso, HSM’s new Sales Manager Italy, as the shredder manufacturer steps up its efforts to raise its brand awareness in the Italian market.

Communication tool

Senior executives from Avery Europe Mark Cooper and Jonathan Smith flew to Bologna as the manufacturer looks to re-energise itself following the acquisition by CCL earlier this year. They joined up with the local Italian team at Big Buyer to meet with the manufacturer’s sales agents and reseller partners in order to communicate the company’s strategy and outline the benefits – including product assortment expansion – that being in the CCL fold will bring.

German writing instruments manufacturer Schneider is hoping for more inroads into the Italian market after recently signing a distribution agreement with Caimi Luigi.

Schneider’s Export Director Klaus Baumgärtner told OPI he is hoping that Caimi Luigi’s reputation and wide network will provide the Schneider brand with a fresh impetus in Italy.