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By Editor Morten B. Reitoft 

On April 27th, drupa published the newest update of confirmed exhibitors at drupa 2024. Unfortunately, it's still not possible to see a floor plan over drupa, which is anticipated by many to understand the size of the 2024 edition. The published list of the exhibitors only indicates which country the exhibitor comes from and, unfortunately, not the size of the exhibitor's booth. Many of the exhibitors we have spoken to in the past months have said that they are exhibiting with fewer square meters, less equipment, and almost all with less faith in the format. Some have even said that the drupa 2024 will be their last. The post-pandemic shows, like FESPA, LabelExpo, PRINTING United, etc., have all expressed success. Still, some organizers offer significant discounts, barters, and tickets that generally have a price tag given away or discounted. Ensuring visitors is essential for an exhibition to be justified.

With the pandemic, many OEMs didn't see the feared and even expected decline in sales, and many OEMs invested in new technology to present products virtually. At the same time, many realized that customers are way more educated before making investments and that education doesn't necessarily come from tradeshows!

OEMs have learned that product launches can't depend on tradeshows. The time OEMs developed products to follow the 4-year cycle of drupa is gone forever - new times, new opportunities, and for sure, OEMs want to market their products sooner if possible. Now products are launched when ready, and development has developed incredibly since 2016. The printing industry has changed, and it's interesting to see how OEMs and PSPs will use shows like drupa in the future.

The cost of travel, hotels, etc., has sky-rocketed, keeping many away from drupa. Most hotels are already WAY beyond the €200 per night mark, and if you want cheaper rates, you have to stay in cities far away from Düsseldorf. The result; visitors are planning their trip in detail to be in Düsseldorf as short time as possible. In the past, drupa used to be for the entire company; most PSPs today have as few people as possible for as short a time as possible.

With the latest exhibitor update, drupa has booked more than 1,000 exhibitors. Of these, 22% represent Chinese OEMs, vs. 21% in 2020, but of 1,660 exhibitors - and again compared to 2016, drupa had 1,823 exhibitors - so, for now, quite a significant decrease!

The actual numbers currently mean a drop from 347 Chinese exhibitors to 253. Though we rarely see Chinese products and consumables in European printing companies, it's interesting to see how Chinese companies continue to exhibit in Europe. Do they sell anything? Or is it just something they do as part of the Chinese five-year plans? I have checked out 15-20 of the companies - and none of them have websites even close to the standards we are accustomed to; some don't even have English websites, and some don't have a website. I also looked for CE certificates on Chinese products, and though I found one website with copies of CE-Certificates, they all expired in 2019.

You may think of the number of Chinese exhibitors as a strange measure. Still, maybe you remember from previous drupas that some of the smaller Chinese exhibitors are put in a hall by themselves (almost), and the few times I've been there, the hall is virtually empty. The Chinese government subsidizes the Chinese exhibitors as part of the China 2025 plan, but Chinese products are NOT seen much with PSPs in Europe, and remember, 68% of the visitors are from Europe (according to drupas 2016 numbers).

A more severe issue to discuss - which is not often discussed. Drupa often speaks about standing together as an industry, but if an exhibition like drupa focuses so much on bringing Chinese exhibitors to Europe, you can argue that this is not an advantage for the European industry. In particular, since the only weapon the Chinese use is price. Subsidized Chinese businesses competing in the free market on price is not a good cocktail in our minds! Further, big brands, like Koenig & Bauer, HP, Xerox, and Landa, attract many visitors, and then visitors are exposed to no-brands. This is NOT an advantage for the industry in Europe - and still, 68% of the visitors in 2016 were from Europe.

Drupa has a section from 2016 called Facts & Figures on its website, where they share data about 2016. The numbers underscore that drupa continues to be a mainly European event, with 68% of the visitors. Asia is more significant than America's 9%, which covers both North- and South America, with 19%.

When the Chinese subsidize their industries, they often do this to ensure their workforce, and right now, the unemployment rate for young people is more than 20%. So this does, by all means, deliver an UNEVEN and UNFAIR competition, and the Western tradeshows support the Chinese agenda by pushing exhibitors and products into the markets and on products no one really has a demand for!

For German exhibitors, the numbers have decreased from 521 in 2016 to 442 in 2020 (canceled) to 226 by April 2023. This is also essential as 25% of the visitors are Germans.

The number of visitors is by everybody seen as the success criteria - and as you can read below, one thing is the number of leads, but what is the cost of each?

Drupa is most seen as the most important event in the industry, and by the size, 100% yes. Still, the visiting numbers are decreasing, and drupa being a super event with all disciplines under one roof, is maybe not so attractive to many? If you are a commercial printer, why should you consider looking at an exhibitor that doesn't support your business? I know exhibition companies believe in some cross-over between segments in the industry, but I am not sure if trade shows orchestrate that mechanism. I would think these decisions are made in the board rooms, and decisions are made on more enlighted findings, but I may be wrong.

Everybody is holding their breath to see how many will attend drupa 2024. Even with 200,000 visitors, most will focus on visiting the big exhibitors (HP, Heidelberg, Landa, Highcon, and a few more) and then be very focused on the OEMs they have already arranged meetings with before drupa. Nobody (or very few) will stay for 11 days and check things out end to end - and for individuals even more unrealistic as 11 days at drupa will cost you a minimum of €4-5,000 (travel, hotel, food, entrance!!!, etc.)

And when we talk about prices - for Europeans and Americans, the cost is maybe not the biggest issue, but for some people living in emerging markets, the price is out of reach - as an individual!

Drupa is seen as important because of its size, and it is great to see practically everything you can imagine, but when the day is over, everything is about business. Here customer acquisition cost simply must be possible to justify!

In 2016 drupa attracted 260,165 visitors over 11 days. As an exhibitor, you should ask how many visitors will stop by your booth, how many are real prospects, and how many are existing customers. When this has been accounted for, you have an idea of your customer acquisition cost.

Maybe the time has come when exhibitors and OEMs will realize that cost can't be justified as the market is well-known. If an OEM has good CRM systems, they should know every PSP/Converter in the market, and with the money spent on drupa, you can probably market your company and products in every trade media on the globe for four years and save money!

A company like Heidelberger Druckmaschinen said it spent about €50mio on drupa (which accounts, I guess, for staffing, hotels, marketing, pre-drupa, transport, and all the things, making them the second biggest exhibitor after HP) - I am not sure I would dare to calculate the customer acquisition cost - taken into consideration that BRAND new never heard-of-leads must be SO low. Some exhibitors have already started considering the cost of NOT attending vs. the cost of attending, which will lead to new considerations in the future, I believe!

Of course, drupa and exhibitions are also a showroom showing technology and marketing power/strength, and when the day is over, MAYBE the cost can be justified as part of long-term branding! I am not sure, and I strongly recommend OEMs consider their strategies in this respect and, as with everything else, view if the money can be spent better.

INKISH will cover drupa. We are planning extensive coverage in a LIVE format and will soon share our plans. We are - as usual, planning - coverage of drupa in multiple languages as a minimum drupa in English, German, French & Spanish. With various languages, we can reach a significant percentage of all the visitors and, more importantly, the PSPs and Converters NOT visiting drupa. INKISH is not an official partner - as drupa has already chosen to work with another trade media, but we continue to believe that our coverage is better, is more relevant, and reaches more people, and for the languages, remember German visitors account for 25%, and Europe in total 68% (which means that Spanish, French, and German are major important languages) and America only 9% - just to put the above in perspective!

We are, by the way, convinced that Latin America not being covered in Spanish will be a bummer - so with daily live coverage in, among other languages, Spanish, we reach a larger global audience :-)

Though we are convinced drupa will be considerably smaller compared to 2016, drupa will still play a role in the industry, and we will do our best to bring great stories from Düsseldorf to our global audience with engaging interviews, walkthroughs of machines, exciting debates, and as always on your side.

Many have asked for our judgment about drupa visitors - and as impossible that is, our guess is less than 200,000 visitors and a floor plan min. 50% smaller than the planned 2020. If we are right about both numbers, drupa is forever changed. Suppose the visitors from outside Europe will stay as low as in 2016 or decline (which I also expect). In that case, drupa will have outplayed its role as a global tradeshow and will have to consider its future role as a European mainly show. 

But let's see :-)

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