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The Decline of the Large Conventional Printing Shows

By David Savastano, Ink World Editor | 02.07.13

When it comes to printing shows, drupa is obviously the leader. Typically a 14-day show with more than 400,000 attendees converging on Messe Dusseldorf, drupa showcases everything there is about printing.

Interestingly, drupa 2012 showed a significant fall-off in terms of attendance, with a nearly 20% decline to 314,500. There can be little doubt that the troubles surrounding the conventional printing industry played a major role, and the growth of digital printing cannot make up for that loss.

The major players in the ink industry have long been a fixture at drupa, but in 2012, Sun Chemical, Flint Group, Siegwerk and hubergroup all eliminated their exhibits. The reasons cited by the people I spoke with at the time were the economy – it is hard to tell customers that prices are going up when you have a million-dollar commitment in terms of booths and personnel at a show – as well as a sense that money could be spent much more efficiently at niche shows.

Drupa is on a four-year cycle, running the same years as the U.S. presidential elections. Over the years, the largest conventional printing show in the U.S. has been Graph Expo, with its Print show, its feature program, running the year after drupa. Generally speaking, its attendance has been on the decline over the years

Also in Europe, Ipex, which is held in the UK, also runs every four years, during the even years when drupa is not on the schedule. Ipex is a smaller show in terms of length and attendance, but it has fared well…

…Up until the upcoming version.

In the last six months, some of the major press manufacturers – Heidelberg, HP, Xerox, Komori, Agfa and now Landa and Kodak – have announced that they will not have booths at Ipex. At Ipex 2010, Heidelberg and HP had the two largest booths.

Landa is the most interesting. A start-up led by Benny Landa, the leader behind the Indigo presses, Landa pretty much dominated drupa 2012 with its showmanship and promise of new technology.

Landa cited the need to focus on perfecting its technology for its already large order backlog of 400 presses, and does not wish to add to its backlog.

Previously, HP cited the benefits of doing more local, application-specific shows. Heidelberg officials said that the benefits of going to two European trade shows would not be the best way of maximizing its resources. Xerox spoke of focused regional conferences and social networking. Komori said it will still exhibit at other major shows.

I believe this news tells us two things in particular. First, major suppliers to the printing industry see regional, specialized conferences as being a more efficient way to spend their money. Second, the idea that having two major printing shows in Western Europe may be seen as being outdated. To its credit, drupa’s organizers have decided that two weeks is too long for a trade show, and have cut it down to 11 days. It remains to be seen how Ipex will respond to its challenges.