In his capacity as Managing Director, Michael Freter personifies the face of the PSI. In an interview with eppi magazine, he drew his personal balance of the 52nd PSI Düsseldorf, described the new “look & feel” of the show and expressed the wish that the promotional products industry should close ranks.
Mr. Freter, were you satisfied with the outcome of this year’s PSI Show?
Michael Freter: There are always a few details that could be improved, but overall I am very satisfied. I was already pleased about the changes we have implemented in the run-up to the event, but the success of a trade fair is ultimately measured in hard figures. In this respect, the attendance figure particularly gives me cause for optimism. The economic framework conditions for the entire industry have been rather difficult over the past years and the show suffered as a result. We are not exactly experiencing a boom phase now, but we have evidently emerged from the trough of the crisis.
The attendance figure increased by 18% compared to the previous year and thus matched the level of 2012 again. What do you think is the reason for this increase?
Michael Freter: On the one hand, this is due to external reasons that we benefitted from. The framework conditions showed positive development. The European promotional product business started to pick up again in the last quarter of 2013, especially in the crisis markets of Southern Europe. We also carry out surveys on economic forecasts at the fair: The mood in the Southern European markets has improved significantly and with the economic expectations lying at 50%, they are now on a par with the Central European countries. On the other hand, the increase in the attendance figure is attributable to our internal efforts. Our newly-introduced initiatives “PSI First”, “Gusto”, “Catwalk”, the expanded technology centre and the “Lunch & Learn” programme as well as the further developed “Hall 13” concept, which focuses on inventors and start-ups, went down very well with both the exhibitors and the visitors and aroused curiosity in the PSI Show in the run-up to the event, which in turn attracted additional visitors.
The PSI also changed its admission policy inasmuch that on the personal invitation of an exhibitor promotional products distributors were allowed to visit the PSI Show free of charge – even if they were not yet PSI members, as long as they fulfilled the membership criteria. What effect did this measure have?
Michael Freter: In the past, the exhibitors engaged in relatively few own marketing activities. We introduced this measure in order to further motivate the suppliers to invite their customers to the PSI Show. This was very labour-intensive for us and it tied up a lot of our staff resources at the end of last year, because each individual visitor had to be checked manually, but it certainly paid off: We distributed just under 1,900 tickets to distributors, who are not yet PSI members. One of many further positive effects: A number of companies brought more employees with them to the show than in the past. That is a good development, because the exhibitors are also very keen to speak with the sales staff as well as the executive directors. Based on these positive experiences we will repeat this admission concept in 2015.
You tried to make the fair even more attractive and position it as a lifestyle show by introducing various new attractions such as “The Mall” in the lobby or the promotional products fashion show, the “PSI Catwalk“ . Which initiatives proved to be particularly successful in your opinion and do you see any room for improvements?
Michael Freter: All of these innovations are part of our image campaign, which aimed to attract attention. For example, our aim behind the “PSI First“ was to give the PSI back its character as a premiere platform. This format went down so well among the industry that we had to increase the originally foreseen circle of “PSI First“ participants from 20 up to 50. We consistently implemented the PSI First idea at the show, the exhibitors were extremely enthusiastic and the visitors looked out for the correspondingly labelled novelties, so we will certainly repeat this concept in future. “Catwalk” and “Gusto” also met with a positive response and we have already received enquiries for next year – in both cases we will, however, reconsider the respective locations in the hall.
How did the “Lunch & Learn” lecture programme go down?
Michael Freter: This is a project that has yet to establish itself, but which improves from year to year. The lectures on the themes design, marketing and sales met with great interest. The lectures held by our cooperation partner, the Swiss agency Promofacts, were very well-attended.
A get-together held in the foyer of the exhibition hall on the first two evenings of the show replaced the PSI Club Night as a networking event. What experiences did you make here?
Michael Freter: The After-work Party in “The Mall” has to be considered in the overall context of our initiatives and its aim is to keep the industry at the show. This concept paid off. The halls stayed full until late in the evening and it offered the distributors and the suppliers a fantastic networking opportunity, which many people evidently took advantage of: On Wednesday evening, approx. 3,000 people were present.
Some of the renowned suppliers were missing from the overall appealing exhibitor mix. The number of exhibitors was also slightly down compared to last year. What measures will you undertake to make the PSI Show more attractive again for those suppliers, who didn’t exhibit this year?
Michael Freter:The show speaks for itself. Several exhibitors who weren’t present last year or the year before returned this year. 852 exhibitors in total is certainly nothing to be ashamed about. Most of the companies that didn’t exhibit attended as visitors and were able to convince themselves that the PSI Show is still Europe’s biggest and most important platform. A statement we heard from many of the exhibitors and visitors on this issue: The majority commented that they would be pleased to see those companies who didn’t exhibit this year, back on board again next year. Because only then is it possible for the show to reflect an overall picture of the industry, which is having to counteract growing fragmentation, and demonstrate solidarity. This is the aim we are working towards and I am confident that we will succeed as long as no serious economic problems crop up.
After Turkey, this year’s PSI partner country was the Netherlands. How do you evaluate this cooperation?
Michael Freter: Extremely positively. We maintain a friendly relationship to the representatives of the Dutch promotional products industry. After Germany, the Netherland is the country represented by the highest number of exhibitors and visitors and they occupy the biggest country pavilion at the PSI Show. Several top-ranking politicians were present on-site and they were impressed by the professionalism and performance of our industry.
At the Press Conference, you talked about making the “sexiness of the promotional product” tangible. How would you describe the spirit of this year’s PSI Show?
Michael Freter: We wanted to show the industry, but also the media, who otherwise don’t have much to do with promotional products, that we work in an industry that is trendy, that follows fashions and which is colourful. Our campaign and the different components of the show enabled us to achieve this aim. In this way, we were able to create an upbeat mood for the category marketing of the promotional products industry. I am proud that we have successfully taken steps in this direction.