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Refreshed by a change in the sequence of days, Paperworld 2005 showed that there is still life left in the trade show format

Exhibitors and guests alike were unsure of how Paperworld 2005 would match up to those previous, the event having being shifted from its traditional Saturday starting slot to Wednesday.

But the trade show was once again dubbed a runaway success by its organisers Messe Frankfurt. And despite the uncertainty, numbers were up on last year, highlighting the survival of the fair’s quasi-sacred standing in the international paper, office supplies and stationery world.

According to the organisers, as many as 2,722 OP companies from around the world turned up to exhibit their wares this year (up from 2,518 in 2004). And these were aptly surveyed by about 66,000 buyers.

"Both the trade and industry made good use of the opening event of the year," said Dr Michael Peters, member of Messe Frankfurt’s board of management. "The large numbers on the exhibitor side confirm yet again that Frankfurt is the world’s most important venue for consumer goods fairs."

Out of 69 countries exhibiting (up from 65 in 2004), the host country was the heaviest represented, with 606 exhibitors. But around 78 per cent of exhibitors came from outside Germany – and perhaps unsurprisingly, countries from the Asian bloc exerted the largest geographical influence: China had 590 exhibitors; Taiwan 240; Hong Kong 175; and then from Europe there was Italy and the UK with 197 and 120 exhibitors respectively.

Such levels of internationality are impressive even by Paperworld standards. As were satisfaction levels on the event’s poll. As many as 94 per cent of visitors to this year’s show declared themselves "satisfied" with their visit (compared to just over two thirds last year).

But this figure is perhaps a mere reflection of the more positive light in which buyers view the market compared to a year ago. In fact, more than 84 per cent of visitors polled said they view the current business climate as "good to satisfactory" – 4 per cent more than in 2004.

But the proof of the pudding is in the eating – or better said, time means money. How did these figures translate to business on the Paperworld floor? The poll claims that one in two exhibitors were "very pleased with visitor quality and decision-making authority". Indeed, if the constant flurry and meeting-hop of people was anything to go by, it looked pretty optimistic.

Esselte, for one, which for the second consecutive year ran one of the show’s largest ‘camps’, seemed more than content. President/CEO Magnus Nicolin said: "It met our expectations in quality and discussions. We had a number of customers coming back and the change of dates has allowed us to spread our meetings out a bit more. We have had big customers during the week and have signed a big deal with Office Depot which we are really happy about."

The prize for sheer enthusiasm and energy, however, perhaps goes to Mark Farnham, president and managing director of Accentra, and one of the faces behind the new Paperpro stapler – undoubtedly one of Paperworld 2005’s star exhibits. "Out of the many years I have been here, this is the best Paperworld ever," he exclaimed. "We have already signed up over 200 customers and I haven’t had time to step out of the booth. It has exceeded all our wildest expectations."

As ever, each manufacturer had a ploy, and conquering new markets was a widespread theme. "Germany is our main concern," said French manufacturer Tarifold’s marketing manager Benjamin Baruteaud. "We would like to strengthen our presence there. We are also currently starting up in China, Hong Kong and Japan. We are hoping that Paperworld will drum up some publicity for us."

Eastern Europe was also an obvious target. Indeed, a spokesperson from Messe Frankfurt confirmed that "visitors from eastern Europe showed a high degree of interest in the printer and IT accessories segment this year".


Broadening ties with the big cheeses was another premise. Mark Beaumont-Thomas, marketing communications manager at John Dickinson Stationery, for example, claimed he was looking to broaden relationships with the big retailers such as the UK’s Tesco and WHSmith, as just 30 per cent of the company’s business is currently going though the consumer retail channel.

But it will likely be over the next few weeks, as visitors have the chance to digest the show, that resulting deals will be made.

And even if this is not the case, the OP spread certainly provided a feast for the eyes. From Swiss alpine chalets to galactic technicolour apartments, the ‘sets’ for product presentations were more imaginative than ever. "If dealers want to be successful in the long term, they must offer customers more than just a basic assortment," says Michael Reichhold, director of Paperworld at Messe Frankfurt. "Hence, it is the job of a leading trade fair to offer trade visitors orientation and ideas that enable them to attract customers by branching out in new directions."

As Wolfgang Graf von Faber-Castell, chairman of the board of Faber-Castell, said: "For us Paperworld is the international new-products venue. This is where we present our highlights for the year."

And true to form, visual stimuli abound. Colour and bold were the names of the game this year, as many manufacturers showcased new product ranges splattered with funky and retro patterns. Isaberg Rapid’s ‘Soon’ range stood out for one. And Smead had teamed up with well-known Finnish designer Marimekko to produce a new stationery and office furniture range that was as bright and ‘of the moment’ as possible.


Paperworld is also known to reflect trends currently at work within the industry. Paperworld Imaging, for example, which saw its debut at the fair two years ago, was bigger than ever, reflecting the fast growing segment of the printing supplies and IT accessories platform. And nowhere were trends more apparent then in the imaging area’s remanufactured products hall, which this year was bulging at the seams as the industry’s attention homes in on the importance of environmentally-friendly and recycled products.

"Having a whole hall set aside for remanufactured products this year is a sure sign that the industry is getting bigger," said Frank van Meenen, managing director of Dutch remanufactured cartridge supplier KVM Supplies and president of European organisation for remanufactured office products Etira. "The Benelux market is already very environmentally friendly, but the green revolution is happening there like everywhere else. There is a lot to do in the future."

But just as there were many satisfied customers, several exhibitors claimed that the show was quieter than last year and business had been slow. And the blame fell largely on the change in the fair’s Saturday to Wednesday sequence, to Wednesday to Sunday. The thinking behind the move was to allow three potent days of business at the start of the show and then open the weekend to dealers. As it generally turned out, Wednesday was quiet, Thursday and Friday were busy, and business trickled out a little over the weekend.

Viktor Jarosch of German dealer group Branion agreed that the change of days had made the event quieter. "The new positioning of the fair still has to prove its point," he said.

Others believed the date change worked well. "There were a lot of negative comments about the dates last year. It worked out for us this year," said Klaus Kemper, managing director of fellow German dealer group Büroring. "The first few days were very busy and crowded for us. And we invited 160 people to our party on Sunday afternoon which meant we could finish on a high."

Messe Frankfurt was in agreement that the dates were a success (although a quiet final day seems, unfortunately, to be an unavoidable reality). So it is already decided that the industry will reconvene once again on a winter Wednesday morning on 25 January 2006 for more Paperworld pandemonium. We look forward to seeing you then!