The eagerly awaited 50th edition of the PSI Show was staged in Düsseldorf from January 11-13. The jubilee event also set a new record in terms of exhibitors: 993 suppliers presented their products. However, the organisers registered a 5.6% decline in attendance figures. The PSI 2012, which once again underlined its position as the leading European promotional products trade fair, was characterised by a professional image and an overall positive mood in spite of the current difficult economic situation in several European countries.
D – For many people a 50th birthday is an important milestone that they celebrate with a huge party. This is perhaps why this year the expectations set in the 50th PSI, which was held in Halls 9 to 13 of the Düsseldorf Exhibition Centre from January 11-13, were extremely high. Nevertheless, there was neither gold nor glitter and there was no reminiscing about the successful history. Instead all attention was focused on the future and on the theme that interests all of the market participants the most: the promotional product.
993 exhibitors presented their products – which corresponded to a record participation in the 50 year history of the PSI. The ambitious target of 1,000 exhibitors that PSI Director, Michael Freter, had set himself in the run-up to the show was almost achieved. Freter was quite rightly “proud” of his team that had not only managed to persuade numerous first-time exhibitors, but also several old customers who hadn’t exhibited for several years to participate – in spite of the difficult economic climate. As in the past years the format of the individual exhibitors was extremely varied: The spectrum ranged from small start-up companies through to big players, from specialists for niche products through to full-range suppliers, from no-names through to brand-names, so the entire breadth of the industry was represented comprehensively. As usual there was a high level of international companies among the exhibitors, whereby the extent of the different nations‘ participations was closely associated with the country’s corresponding overall economic situation. Whereas for example fewer Spanish promotional products suppliers exhibited than three or four years ago due to the economic difficulties, the number of exhibitors from Turkey has constantly increased over the past years – Turkey has in the meantime become an interesting alternative to the Far East for many product segments. The intensive collaboration between the PSI and a number of international associations and institutions also had a noticeable impact. Several country pavilions offered predominantly smaller suppliers the opportunity to present themselves at the PSI while maintaining a lower budget, in total over 30 international associations were represented at the show.
The organisers also couldn’t complain concerning the amount of exhibition space sold – a financially crucial factor for trade show organisers. After all they even managed to fill the gap left behind by the Nuremberg-based import company, Macma – this year Macma chose to exhibit exclusively at the RemaDays trade fair in Nuremberg, which was more or less scheduled simultaneously. This was all the more remarkable considering the fact that in general the trend of the so-called “biggies“ is to “downsize“ their stands. The massive stands of the past years have almost completely disappeared. However, this certainly didn’t have a negative effect on the appearance of the show. The industry put in a very appealing appearance in Düsseldorf, many of the exhibition booths had been redesigned, a number completely revamped. The ASI-President, Timothy Andrews, who held a speech at the Opening Ceremony, seemed to be impressed and praised in general the quality of European design reflected by the first-class stand presentations. However, the show wasn’t merely a treat for the eyes, the distributors’ were also able to enjoy a wealth of culinary delights. As in recent years many of the exhibitors provided their visitors with free refreshments over the three show days, in some cases this came in the form of excellent catering services. In order to attract new customers to the stands, magicians, professional chefs or Wii entertainers had been hired. However, they tended to stay in the background and drew attention to themselves in a more subtle fashion than five or ten years ago. As far as evening events were concerned the suppliers were also much more reserved than in former times. You could count the big events on one hand this year. Instead many of the suppliers dined with a few selected customers and exchanged ideas in a more intimate atmosphere.
Decline in visitors
In the face of the excellent exhibitor figures, the PSI would have been a superlative event if it hadn’t been for the slight decline in the number of attending trade visitors. After the pre registrations Freter had still been optimistic that he could match the record crowds from the years 2008 (19,200 visitors) and 2009 (18,600). However, ultimately over the three exhibition days a total of 16,167 visitors were recorded, i.e. a good five percent less visitors than in 2011 (17,122). Inevitably therefore the visitor quota per exhibitor dropped. Many exhibitors registered a lower frequency of visitors at the stands: Whereas exhibitors in Hall 11 – i.e. right in the middle of the two entrances of Hall 9 and Hall 13 – particularly on the first exhibition day didn’t have much to do until the afternoon, several regular exhibitors noticed that even the traditionally popular Thursday, also attracted less visitors than usual. Especially big import companies, who rely on new business, weren’t able to distribute as many catalogues to the PSI visitors than in former years – there was much less passing trade than before. However, those companies that value qualified dialogues more and who had carried out an intensive invitation marketing in the run-up to the fair and used the show as a platform to reinforce existing customer contacts, really reaped the benefits. The fact that the aisles were obviously much emptier on the Wednesday than usual, didn’t have a lot to do with the rival event in Nuremberg – especially the Wednesday was poorly attended at the RemaDays too (see report on page 30 et seq.) – but indeed this was due more to the circulation of the visitors. The buses drove to the two entrances at Halls 9 and 13 at constant intervals so that no queues formed at the entrances and the crowds could disperse evenly. Since, as previously announced, the frequency of the buses had been increased, it was possible to almost completely avoid queues of visitors and the related waiting times – a fact that was highly appreciated by many distributors. In general the show organisation and logistics was almost unanimously praised. The organisers put the lower attendance figure down to the difficult economic situation in several European states: “A factor that is due the still weak demand in several Euro countries and which cannot be compensated for by the leading states, Germany and France, alone,“ stated Michael Freter. Indeed several distributors from Northern, Southern or Eastern Europe have axed the trip to Düsseldorf due to reasons of cost, deciding instead to gathering information on promotional products at one of the many national events that take place shortly after the PSI Show – from Jönköping to Milan, Coventry and Warsaw through to Lyon. Thus one of the PSI’s main tasks in the near future will be to win back the international clients that they have lost. Namely, it is precisely this international flair, that makes the event in Düsseldorf so unique and – for many market participants indispensable. The organisers seem to have noticed this. Distributors from Southern and Eastern Europe were assigned a quota of 700 free hotel rooms this year in order to tempt them to visit the show for the first time or after having stayed away for several years.
Novelties & trend scouts
The trend among visitors of reducing the PSI from a three down to a two-day show is also a reason for the decline in attendance figures, this has a noticeable impact on the statistics. Namely, in the case of big shows like the PSI not the number of people, but in fact the number of visits are counted. So, a person who visits the show on all three days, counts as three visitors. Whereby one must ask oneself here, how the distributors can possibly manage to get round 993 exhibitors in one or two days. Many distributors, however, are familiar with the line-ups of their standard suppliers already and are themselves actually hunting for exceptional novelties at the PSI Show. One frequently hears from the distributors “that these no longer exist“, whereby this is in fact a myth: People who don’t just whizz through the stands, but instead take the time to let the trained personnel demonstrate their products, never cease to marvel at which innovations are offered in the classical products sector. It is obvious that neither the ballpoint, calendar or chewing-gum can be reinvented, but using new individualising and packaging the suppliers offer new customising options. It is therefore difficult to define something like the mega trend of the industry considering the diversity of the exhibits. The digital world takes up a lot of room on the agendas: Products for Smartphones and tablet PCs are just as much in demand as promotional products, which – for instance through the integration of QR codes – have built the bridge from offline to online. The previous year trends were also confirmed: “Made in Europe“ is continuing to march forward, green products on the other hand are not dominating the scene to the extent they were before, but they have in many cases been quite simply readily integrated into the programme. Materials such as silicon or felt are apparently continuing to triumph on the promotional products market. In the case of textiles – as usual one of the leading exhibition sectors – the trend is moving further towards the functionality and diversification of the product range. Another thing that stands out: More and more suppliers are relying on exclusive licensing for the promotional products market – from “Hello Kitty“ to “Tintin“ – and on own designs. Creating unique products to achieve a USP is evidently becoming more and more important for many suppliers.
The show organisers, the PSI, had also placed a strong emphasis on the theme of novelties, particularly by means of a changed concept for Hall 13. The PSI had installed a large lounge area in the centre and located several special pavilions in this Hall. Hall 13 was also upgraded by a cooperation with the inventions show, iENA. For the first time ever 30 inventors showcased their inventions at the PSI. Some of the exhibits are not yet ready for production, and on closer inspection turned out to be rather unsuitable for the promotional products market due to excessive minimum or- der volumes or prices – but the enthusiasm alone the inventors displayed in presenting their ideas added a refreshing touch to the everyday show routine. The integration of the inventor stands into the show was thus unanimously praised – as such Hall 13 proved to be a source of inspiration for the daily business of many distributors. A further newcomer to the exhibitor portfolio of the PSI was “The Wall” – an approx. 80 m long wall in Hall 13, which replaced the old novelty display cases. The products that were exhibited in “The Wall“ had been tested by a jury of experts in terms of their novelty aspects in advance – whereby not all of the distributors were convinced about the innovative character of each of the items exhibited there. And according to some of the exhibitors involved the announced “Shuttle Service“ for the visitors, who were specifically interested in a product exhibited at “The Wall“ and which was supposed to bring them to the respective exhibitor’s stand, didn’t work. Further services offered by the PSI – including the seminars programme or the Guided Tours – met with little interest or were hardly used by the visitors, if at all. Interests were obviously more focused on the exhibitors and their programmes than on accompanying activities, because time was simply too short. As in previous years the 50th PSI Show was a working show with no time for extra frills. Well organised and providing a wide variety of exhibitors, it offered all participants sufficient leeway to benefit from their own specific needs. The PSI 2012 may not have set off any fireworks, but it definitely was dynamic, practical and good – all in all a worthy jubilee event. Del