Industry Insights: Looking Back, Going Forward

Firstly Happy New Year! I always appreciate the chance this time of year gives us to reflect on the past year’s successes and challenges, and to consider the opportunities ahead.

2013 was a busy year of firsts for FESPA. The inaugural FESPA Brasil, FESPA Eurasia and FESPA China events took place, with resounding success in these fast-growing markets, and glowing feedback from exhibitors and visitors. We also entered into a partnership in southern Africa to launch FESPA Africa, which will take place in Johannesburg in Summer 2014.

Our flagship European show moved to London for 2013, with the addition of the new, co-located European Sign Expo. The British capital attracted the most international audience we’ve hosted to date, with over 22000 individual visitors from 125 countries. We welcomed more than double the number of visitors from North America compared with the last main FESPA event in Munich. Overall the USA was the eighth highest country for visitor attendance. Of course the real ‘first’ in London was that the sun came out in FESPA’s honor – a rare event for us Brits!

A year ago, we were making preparations for our fifth Global Summit in London. These leadership events are important landmarks in the FESPA calendar, creating a valued opportunity for printers to network with brands and agencies and shape our community’s agenda. More than 130 delegates from 21 countries traveled to London for the Summit, which addressed key topics, challenges, opportunities and threats for print service providers. Now we’re planning for the FESPA Global Summit 2014, which will take place in Munich, Germany, on March 6-7, as a prelude to our FESPA Digital 2014 event. These Summits bring FESPA’s Profit for Purpose philosophy to life – not just staging events, but sharing vital knowledge, best practice and inspiration with our community.

FESPA Brasil in Sao Paulo was an incredible first show, welcoming 13,184 visitors, far exceeding our expectations for a launch event. Senior decision makers made up 50 percent of the total visitor attendance, illustrating the need for an exhibition of FESPA’s caliber in the region. FESPA Brasil was co-located with ExpoPrint Digital and due to its success, over 40 companies, including leading international manufacturers, reserved their stand space for FESPA Brasil 2015, two years ahead (March 18-21)! The Latin American fiesta continued in August with our sixth FESPA Mexico exhibition, which welcomed 8,314 visitors and 125 exhibitors in Mexico City, 60 percent of whom immediately re-booked for the 2014 event, which opens from August 21-24, 2014.

Back across the Atlantic, it was the turn of FESPA Eurasia in Istanbul, our first event serving this developing region, delivered in partnership with our Turkish national association ARED. It was a lively show with busy exhibitor stands across the three days. For me, it absolutely reinforced our perception of the dynamism and creativity of the Eurasia region. The show attracted 7,000 international visitors from 98 countries, positioning it as a truly regional exhibition, and we’ve confirmed FESPA Eurasia 2014 to take place in Istanbul from October 27-29, 2014.

Our last event of 2013 was the launch of FESPA China, a market which has been in FESPA’s sights for some time. Working with CSGIA, our national association, we were able to replicate a model which has served us well in other developing markets, taking a successful, existing event with a loyal visitor audience, and enhancing it with the addition of new international exhibitors, a renewed focus on digital technology, and some fresh visitor features. We firmly believe that it’s better to improve the wheel than to reinvent it! The second edition of FESPA China will take place in Guangzhou in autumn 2014.

2013 was undoubtedly a whirlwind year, in which our global expansion strategy for FESPA bore fruit. There’s tremendous satisfaction in seeing ambitious plans come good. Looking back at these events, there are many positive conclusions for our community too. The sense of optimism in our market is palpable wherever I travel. Of course, printers face well-documented challenges. But this community is creative, resilient, and open to innovation. It excites me to see what FESPA can bring to developing markets in terms of know-how, experience and best-practice. But the ‘developed’ markets can also learn from the entrepreneurialism, open-mindedness and appetite for knowledge that I see when I talk to printers in Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.

Across the board, the profile of visitors to FESPA events is increasingly that of high-level business owners and decision makers, who are attending events to make critical business choices, and who are ready to invest in the right technology to support their business plans. They tell us that our exhibitions and educational programs underpin their planning and decision making.

We’re confident that we’ll encounter the same vigor and dynamism when we open FESPA Africa in July 2-4, 2014, incorporating our partner Practical Publishing’s established Sign Africa and Visual Communications Africa shows. Like these other developing markets, Africa is experiencing rapid economic progress, dramatic social movement, growth in property, retail, leisure and tourism, and increased disposable income among an expanding middle class. These factors will stimulate the market for print in all its forms.

Predicting the future is usually a fool’s game, but as our new ‘Dive Deeper’ campaign for FESPA Digital 2014 shows, looking ahead we certainly see an ocean of opportunity for printers the world over, and for FESPA.

I hope to meet many of you at one of our events in 2014.