The announcement of a new European label show has predictably set the cat among the pigeons in certain quarters. The three-day show, named Interlabel 2004, is projected to open at the Messe Stuttgart next December. The organizer says it will cover the latest industry trends in everything from new press technology to materials, converting equipment and flexible packaging. Many will see it as competing head on with the Labelexpo Europe series of biennial shows, although Interlabel’s organizer refutes this.
Obviously, there is a limit to how far marketing budgets can be stretched to fund further public outings in these challenging times. More to the point, Labelexpo Europe and its related seminars are generally seen to deliver the goods. The last one, the fifteenth no less, was held in September 2003 in Brussels — the usual venue — and attracted around 400 exhibitors. Furthermore, it posted an all-time record of some 20,000 visitors from around the world, so reversing the trend for all types of recent print-related shows. Underpinning the Brussels event are the other biennial Labelexpo shows organized by the Tarsus Group and held in Chicago, Singapore, Shanghai and now Mexico.
Mack Brooks Ltd., the UK-based organizer, argues that Interlabel will be the only dedicated label show taking place in Europe in 2004. Besides being a “gap” year to that of Labelexpo Europe (the next takes place in September 2005), the Stuttgart location is an important point of differentiation, since it is located in a key industrial region of Germany and is served by good transport links. “It may be perceived that we are launching against Tarsus, but we are really catering for the German market, as well as the growing Eastern European economies,” says Mark Bridger, exhibition manager. He expects that 50 percent of visitors will come from a radius involving up to three hours’ traveling time. The rest are expected from established Western European markets, as well as Asia and the USA.
The $64,000 question is whether an untried show can attract some of the industry’s big hitters. The comparison with Labelexpo is inescapable, since this series of shows is supported by both the recognized industry leaders and FINAT and the TLMI. In its defense, Mack Brooks Exhibitions Ltd. was founded in 1965 and has promoted many shows in Germany and the USA. According to Bridger, the company will release lists of exhibitors nearer the time, but claims an “excellent” response to initial mailings.
However, it is already known that some key crowd pullers will be absent, including Mark Andy/Comco, Gallus and Nilpeter. Jakob Landberg, sales director of the latter, refers to the brand strength of Labelexpo. “It has our full support. In fact, rather than attending any more shows, we would much rather invest in the one key event that helps our business and gives us a clear picture of what is happening. The Interlabel people have no real contacts in our industry.”
Loyalty is an important factor when it comes to gaining and retaining the support of key exhibitors, but they are not necessarily closed to new promotional ideas. As Mary Sullivan, a marketing executive with Mark Andy/Comco, explains: “The new show was discussed and reviewed among many in our global organization. Many years have been spent building the Labelexpo trade show brand around the world to become this industry’s premiere event. When you consider the consolidation taking place among narrow web suppliers and label producers, the need for another show becomes unnecessary. Attempting to re-create what already exists in this industry seems fairly risky, in my opinion. Therefore, Mark Andy has declined any participation in this event. After speaking with several other suppliers and many other press manufacturers, they are all weighing in their opinions with an absolute, ‘No, we do not need another show’.”
Klaus Aarestrup, sales and marketing director of Gallus, stresses the pragmatic angle: “How many shows can a niche market like labeling have? We would rather invest a lot in a few shows, than invest a little in many shows. Compared with selling ink for example, all shows represent an extraordinary extra cost from a press manufacturer’s viewpoint, especially when installing and running equipment that may have to be moved out of a regular demonstration facility.”
Clive Smith, a co-founder of Labelexpo with Michael Fairley, dismisses any challenge to the show’s hegemony: “I would have thought the label industry needs another show in Europe like a hole in the head. Anyone launching a show in Germany in December in a Drupa year is either highly misinformed or badly researched. The technological cycle of the labeling industry is actually well served by the biennial pan-European series of Labelexpo events.”