EDITOR’S notebook

Drupa: End of an Era?

The kickoff for Drupa 2004—slated to run May 6 to 19 in Düsseldorf, Germany—is fast approaching. Last held four years ago, Drupa 2000 featured 1,943 exhibitors from 50 countries in 18 exhibition halls and a whopping 428,248 visitors from around the world. Expectations for this year’s rendition are more muted, given the state of the world economy and its impact on trade show and travel budgets. With more than 1,800 exhibitors filling 17 halls, Drupa 2004 organizers are hoping for about 380,000 attendees.

But, I wonder, would the exhibitors for this month’s event commit to the same square feet of exhibit space now as what they signed on for right after the 2000 show? Probably not. Sure, blame some of it on the bad economy and the negative effect it has had on capital expenditures by printers during the past four years.

That’s only part of the reason, though. I contend that this Drupa may very well mark the decline of the “international mega-shows.” The role of trade exhibitions, in general, seems to be changing, especially those that appeal to an international audience. As was once a Drupa tradition, manufacturers typically can no longer wait for a once-every-four-years event to wow attendees with major technology launches, especially with today’s short product life spans and narrow windows of sales opportunities. Likewise, manufacturers are beginning to question their return-on-investment in designing elaborate, often double-deck booths; shipping, setting up and then operating a plethora of machinery—even web presses by some manufacturers; and bringing in large numbers of employees from around the world to staff their booths. As an alternative, more suppliers are hosting open houses at either their own training/demo facilities or even at various customer sites.

Don’t get me wrong. A national trade show in a given country—like the annual Graph Expo and Converting Expo in Chicago—still holds appeal. And, partly because this is a Drupa year, Graph Expo in October should be highly attended, since this will be the first opportunity most U.S. printers will have to see products that debut at Drupa. Americans, even those from both coasts, are more likely to attend a centrally located, domestic event like Graph Expo. In general, they’re less prone to fly overseas unless, of course, their favorite supplier is footing the bill to send them to the show. As a result of 9/11 and subsequent terrorist attacks, Americans, especially, are also concerned about their safety when traveling abroad.

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