Show Preview: GRAPH EXPO’s Growing Role

If the printing company of tomorrow is going to look vastly different than it did even just five or 10 years ago, then it stands to reason that the printing trade show of tomorrow is due for an infusion that goes beyond Botox and a fanny implant. These changes will be more philosophical than cosmetic, and certainly more long-lasting.

Truth be known, the printing industry can’t go it alone anymore when it comes to trade exhibitions. Many industry observers have pointed to changing industry tides: Equipment manufacturers invite their client and prospect VIPs to their demo centers to see new or beta gear in action, far from the distraction of competing offerings. And, as the economic slump completes its third year, many printing companies—particularly those with tight travel budgets—simply cannot justify letting employees browse. If they’re not buying, then what’s the point in going?

Ralph Nappi has heard all the whispers and not-so-low murmurs regarding the state of GRAPH EXPO. The president of the Graphic Arts Show Co. (GASC), which produces the GRAPH EXPO and PRINT shows, endured the pain of a 2010 show without showcase heavy-
hitters Heidelberg and Komori (which opted out instead of scaling back their presence; both return this year). Nappi knows that there is strength in numbers and sees the value of making this country’s premier annual print show a Mecca for its membership, a Must See ’em pilgrimage in its own right.

More than Gear

While the U.S. economy will eventually improve and credit markets will loosen the purse strings—allowing for more robust capex investments—the changing face of the printing industry and the alternative sources for equipment manufacturers to allure clients to their new wares dictate that in order to survive long-term, Graph Expo needs to be more than an equipment show. Nappi & Co. appear well on their way to transforming the exhibition, which will be held Sept. 11-14 at the venerable McCormick Place in Chicago.

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