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The Print Show and IPEX: the stand-off continues

Brendan Perring sticks his head above the parapet and analyses the competitive tension that has now built up over the date clash between The Print Show 2017 and IPEX.

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The International Centre will play host to The Print Show 2017 and the co-located SignLink Live exhibition

The large town of Print Show has just had its annual festival, which has again exceeded expectations—with fun had by all and kit flying off stands large and small. The show's organisers, Link Exhibitions, has also just unveiled a brand new show for 2017, SignLink Live, that will be co-located with it in 2017 and run from October 11th to 13th.

Just a handful of examples demonstrate just how much kit was sold at The Print Show 2016, which beat its year one footfall figures by some margin after drawing in attendance of 5,916.

One exhibitor quick to pay tribute to The Print Show this year is Duplo, which announced just a matter of hours after doors closed at the NEC that it had signed deals topping £400,000 at the event.

Bristol-based Latcham Direct invested in an iSaddle PRO Digital System, print healthcare specialists Jones and Brooks opted for a Duplo DC-646i system, while Quadgraphics, which also went home with a new Epson printer in the show’s grand prize draw, purchased a Duplo 600i Booklet System. In addition, Duplo’s PFi DI-CUT 300 die cutter, which was given its UK launch at the show, proved a hit with visitors, with the model featured on the stand sold off at the event.


The show has certainly lived up to expectations. We’re delighted at not only the quality of leads, but the real interest in our market-leading systems

Sarah Crumpler, Duplo UK marketing manager, says: “The show has certainly lived up to expectations. We’re delighted at not only the quality of leads, but the real interest in our market-leading systems that have provided the perfect opportunity for UK printers to come and get hands-on with live application printing. All our systems are designed to enable customers to work smarter, faster and more efficiently.”

Another company that has confirmed a number of sales at The Print Show 2016 is Intelligent Finishing Systems (IFS), which was operating on one of the largest stands at the event. The company signed deals for three Foliant laminators, while reporting plenty of interest in the Horizon Smart Slitter, which was also handed its UK launch at the show.


The Print Show attracted an attendance figure of 5,916, with exhibitors large and small also praising the very high quality of visitors who came directly to source equipment and services
 

Bryan Godwyn, managing director of IFS, says: “We had a great show. We signed a number of deals for our Foliant laminators and there was a lot of interest in all of our solutions including the foiling attachment for the laminators. The Horizon SmartSlitter also drew a lot of attention.

“We had a good number of visitors and it was a great opportunity to meet so many existing customers. We were also able to start some very good new conversations and relationships. There was some great positivity at the show and we hope this continues to grow throughout the industry.”

Pistols at dawn

With positive endorsements ringing in the ears of The Print Show’s organisers, it now has to contend with a veteran gunslinger, which is set to face off with the sheriff of this frontier community.

The classic metaphor of the Mexican stand-off has never been more apt as The Print Show and IPEX now set themselves to face-off in 2017, with the former kicking off again on October 11th and the latter scheduled for October 31st.

Indeed, the dictionary definition of a Mexican stand-off describes the situation perfectly: “A confrontation between two or more parties in which no participant can proceed or retreat without being exposed to danger. As a result, all participants need to maintain the strategic tension, which remains unresolved until some outside event makes it possible to resolve it.”

Now in this stand-off we have on one hand a much-lauded exhibition, backed by a print industry publisher with 24 years under its belt, that has delivered for its exhibitors two years in a row and has managed to create something fresh, sustainable—and most importantly—profitable for the UK print industry’s supply and manufacturing sectors.

A confrontation between two or more parties in which no participant can proceed or retreat without being exposed to danger

There is no denying though that its organising team are not backed by a massive corporate giant, rather the publisher of this very magazine, which had the entrepreneurial vision and bravery to found Link Exhibitions in 2014 to service the UK print industry with a nationally-focused right-sized exhibition. And it is the very fact that Link Exhibitions is run by the exact same team as Print Monthly (SignLink's sister title), that has made The Print Show a success, as its staff have a deep understanding of the UK print market.

Indeed, owner Page Tuck started Reprolink in 1992 with a grant from the Prince’s Youth Business Trust. Rebranded as Print Monthly in April 2006, it has now gone on to broaden its horizons substantially and can also boast a broadcast video wing under Print7 News, the UK print industry’s own video sharing hub—print7tv.com, and even a commercial filming wing—Link Digital Media.


The Print Show is run by the same team as Print Monthly, which started in 1992 (then called Reprolink), by managing director Page Tuck with a grant from the Prince’s Youth Business Trust

On the other hand, we have Informa Exhibitions, a goliath of the worldwide publishing, exhibition, and finance world—with a parent group that can boast offices in 43 countries and 6,500 employees. There can be no doubt about its reach, leverage, and professionalism. Its experience in the print industry is significant, as it ran IPEX very successfully on behalf of the Print Industry Confederation (PICON) for several of its editions, before buying it from PICON.

Its most recent edition was hosted at the Excel in London, where it was a victim of a still lingering financial crisis, a loss in exhibitor confidence due to the location change from the NEC, an international print industry that was still very sluggish, a lack of marketing spend, and a UK national audience that were deterred by the logistics and time to reach the venue. The exhibition worked very well for some firms, especially some major international brands, but many other UK-based operations were heavily critical of poor footfall and sales figures given the cost of exhibiting.

The only question that remains is: what will be the ‘outside event’ that resolves this strategic tension? Well, perhaps first we should also try to understand the background to this situation before we can try and proffer an answer. Before we go any further, it is important to acknowledge my own personal bias in this situation. But what I can say is that I have restricted my observations to those that are factual and evidentially provable, and that my motivation for penning this article is that this issue needs opening to the wider print industry for debate.

The stand-off between The Print Show and IPEX began on October 13th 2015, on the first day of the show, when after a series of communications between our two organisations and the NEC about preventing the very situation we now find ourselves in, IPEX pulled the trigger

“The stand-off between The Print Show and IPEX began on October 13th 2015, on the first day of the show, when after a series of communications between our two organisations and the NEC about preventing the very situation we now find ourselves in, IPEX pulled the trigger,” explains Chris Davies, event director of The Print Show.

He continues: “Just two days previously we had sent out a major press release, that was carried by Print Monthly and several other titles, that due to the massive interest in the show we would commit to the event being annual, that we had paid for exhibition space in 2016, and were in the final stages of securing 2017 at the NEC. This is something that had also been previously communicated to IPEX, and the major suppliers and manufacturers in our sector.

“On the first day of the 2015 show we were expecting to meet with IPEX and the NEC to work out the details of a solution, when they sent out a press release that it was coming back in 2017, in our recently published date slot, with a nationally-focused agenda, and marketing language that strongly reflected our own.”

Passion for print

Fast-forward to today and The Print Show has since surfed a wave of goodwill across the last two years—seeing it now move to The International Centre and revealing the launch of a new event SignLink Live, which will be co-located with it from October 11th to 13th 2017.

Davies continues: “A final sting in the tail for us is that I was quite disappointed to see IPEX sales people and its event director touring the hall with flat plans and marketing to sway our customers. It is also disappointing to hear from several of our major exhibitors that the IPEX representatives were saying that we had actually cancelled our event next year and so should sign with them—which of course is not correct.”

This latter comment points towards the differing philosophies between the two exhibition organisers.

“We are a UK-based and focused entrepreneurial company that is not just servicing the print industry, but is part of it, and has been for 24 years,” explains Davies, who adds: “Our motivation and drive, like any company, is to run a healthy business. We would of course will not pursue this aim at the expense of the industry we work in. We have a keen passion and interest in playing our part to build up the UK print industry, forming a self-sustaining community of like-minded entrepreneurial firms.


The Business Seminar Theatre returned to The Print Show this year, with a special presentation by BBC Countryfile star and environmental-advocate Julia Bradbury on the financial benefits to printers of ‘going-green’

“It is my opinion, and I would like to emphasise that it just an opinion generated on speaking to several ex-employees of Informa that left after IPEX 2014. But, Informa’s philosophy is more of a pure financially orientated one. As is right for such a large and prestigious organisation with so many different wings.”

He adds: “The Print Show’s future success is of course not based on the actions of other organisations, but rather its fortunes are based squarely on the hard work, passion, and creative energy of our team at Link Exhibitions.

“The Print Show will happen each year, every year, as we promised to way back in 2014 and again in October 2015, a few days before Informa’s infamous announcement.

“We have a responsibility to our customers that have done so well out of our event, and the long-term health of UK print, to get our heads down, and work even harder than this year. Our success in year one and two was not down to it being at the NEC, its success was driven by our immensely talented and hard-working team and the support of our fantastic customers.”

We have a responsibility to our customers that have done so well out of our event, and the long-term health of UK print, to get our heads down, and work even harder than this year

A word from this writer, that is also opinion, is that if IPEX had remained in its historic spring date slot with an international focus, then this would have left enough breathing space for both events to co-exist and even benefit from each other’s support.

So, back to answering the ‘outside event’ question posed at the start of this article that will end the stand-off.

Davies concludes: “That of course is a difficult question to answer, I don’t have a crystal ball. All I would say is that we did not cause this problem, and our approach is simply to deliver the same great event we have done for the two years, which is the culmination of hard work over the last 24 years in print. Yes, there is a something of a stand-off, but I do not think it is an us or them situation at the end of the day. We have a great model, loyal customers, happy visitors, and a fantastic venue for 2017.”


If you have an interesting story or a view on this news, then please e-mail news@signlink.co.uk

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