drupa – Is It Still Relevant?

drupa, the very big elephant in the printing trade show room, is only two months away. As such, I need to ask a question—one that is particularly important in this time of economic depression. With printers struggling and the print industry in great disorder, is drupa still relevant?

I would argue that drupa, as it is today, has run its course and that a more interactive, technology-based effort needs to be developed.

Trade show events are still viable, but they need to be of a controlled size and in a controlled environment. drupa can continue to co-exist with the evolving graphic arts industry, but the industry needs to be given options to see, view, test, touch and feel the equipment on display.

Forget the fun of a trade show. I have been to drupa four times, and each time I had a blast. However, does that justify the event itself?

Most industries have seen trade show attendance and exhibitor numbers decline by double-digit figures. Some have experienced slight increases, but at the end of the day, again, I have to ask—Is drupa relevant?

Only a small segment of the American print industry ever attends a drupa. Most Americans, instead, choose to attend GRAPH EXPO in Chicago in the fall—which, by the way, should no longer be an annual event. A once-every-four-years schedule works for me.

The print industry needs to rethink every aspect of its existence, from the equipment it sells and products it offers to the level and type of services provided and, yes, the way it is perceived in the new world of one-to-one and integrated communications.

I have noted in this blog before that print needs new ambassadors, along with a futurist who is linked to other industries—industries that use print and turn a profit from prnt commerce. drupa seems like an island in time that, well, is stuck in the past.

Thad Kubis is an unconventional storyteller, offering a confused marketplace a series of proven, valid, integrated marketing/communication solutions. He designs B2B or B2C experiential stories founded on Omni-Channel applications, featuring demographic/target audience relevance, integration, interaction, and performance analytics and program metrics.

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  • Brad Emerson

    You make an excellent point. I have been to Drupa’s before, and am currently struggling on whether to make a quick trip to this one. I am focused on some very specialized bindery equipment, and as you probably know, you often see equipment at Drupa which is not sold in the USA. I will make up my mind in the next few weeks.

  • Tom Jones

    Approaching irrelevance. All of us have to take a holistic approach to what is now the communications business. If you’re a one trick pony – ink on paper – you are in deep poo or will be unless you specialize in something like packaging which will never go away. Everyone is in a race to the bottom and declining margins will make offset less appealing as a primary revenue stream.

  • Larry Corwin

    We as exhibitors constantly ask ourselves the same questions. Is Drupa still relevant as the sales opportunity it was in the past? On one hand we have seen the decline in attendance one would expect with the industry change, yet the cost of participating has continued to rise. Hotels are 5x the normal rates, booth space 3x that of national shows in the US plus utilities, set up, tear down, transportation etc. etc. all make this show a very risky proposition.

    When attendance is strong and buying occurs, everything is relative. Our European counterparts all seem very optimistic about the vibe this year but will that translate into results? I think the promoters of Drupa really don’t want to upset the status quo as their customers are the exhibitors. As long as they are selling floor space, all is well by them.

    As we have witnessed here in the US, that thinking runs tremendous risk as once a show begins a decline, it is very difficult to reverse the downward direction.

    The best thing Drupa has going for it is it’s 4-year schedule. It is based on exhibitors having short memories of the recent past and longer memories of the glory days of the 80’s & 90’s.

    Is Drupa relevant? Maybe

  • Darren Gapen

    I think you all bring up many valid points.

    Who actually wins when it comes to drupa? Is it the OEM’s peddling their goods, the vendors building their potential client base or is it the promoters of the show itself?

    I was fortunate in my past life to of actually had the opportunity to not only operate the press but also give the presentation during the largest drupa that ever was. This was the fourteen days of drupa 2000. Life was great, the business was booming and money was falling from the skies. No matter where you lived on the planet!

    Unfortunately, those are no longer the times we live in.

    However, it is important for all manufacturers to have the benefit of a captured audience once in a while. The customers are present for their individual interest and at a time that’s convenient for them. This lowers the stress level and heightens their attention span. If you’ve attempted to have a conversation with a business owner or management during operating hours at their facility, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

    I do know that most of the US printers that I have spoken with over the past few months do not have the cash for equipment purchases let alone the intention of spending the funds for the trip over the pond. However, it is “The Show” for the entire world to attend and not just us Americans.

    I personally know a few vendors that are going to, as they say, “wander around for a few days”. Just not sure if it’s more for business or pleasure…. But I guess the money’s in the budget, somehow.

    I’m certain we’ll see how important drupa really is when the final sales and attendance numbers are posted.

  • Hank Brandtjen

    DRUPA is like the Olympics for our industry. Held every four years, it is a gathering of equipment manufacturers as well as customers to not only sell equipment, but, to exchange ideas that will shape our future. As a supplier, it is also an opportunity to meet with our dealers from around the world which is a cost that has to be factored in.

    Do not mix DRUPA comparisons with Graph Expo. In my opinion, this deserves its own discussion.