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Exhibition Stand Systems

As the exhibitions industry continues to grow, Summer Brooks discovers the most popular systems on the market that can really make your stand pop

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The exhibitions industry is lucrative – but demands are changing for brands seeking sustainable solutions

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Brentford-based Octink began its life as a sign-making company in 1962, then called AllsignsGroup, a name which no longer fitted as the firm expanded its offering. Richard Bicknell, events project manager at Octink, comments: “Octink has a heritage for producing quality signage, and it was a natural progression to step into the events and exhibitions markets. We have a dedicated team looking after all events branding, with a strong client list. Many of our events-based clients are agencies who deal directly with individual commercial markets. We also have a list of direct clients who we work with, in the financial, retail and sports sectors.”

By producing its work in-house, Octink can offer an end-to-end service for brands looking for a solution for an event or exhibition. The firm can produce systems for pop-up exhibition stands, trade shows, art installations and exhibition campaigns, with a focus on using sustainable materials. “Octink is certified with the ISO 14001 standard, with full environmental processes embedded into our culture here,” explains Bicknell. “We continue to monitor and mitigate energy and waste consumption, with a huge emphasis on using materials which can be recycled.”

Octink designed and built this stand for Italian insurance company General

Bicknell adds that for Octink, the main challenge is matching client expectation when opting for sustainable, modular stands. “In order to meet client budgets and address the concern of sustainability by using reusable systems, Octink have seen an increase in the use of modular stands,” he says. “The main challenge is client expectation in terms of finish – i.e. to deliver a stand which looks custom built but is actually modular in functionality.” Other trends Octink has spotted include the use of textiles in exhibition stands, presumably as the quality of printed fabrics continues to grow, as well an increase in the use of AV and LED signage.

Belgian firm Aluvision specialises in the manufacture of high-end modular stand construction systems. The firm won Best Design at the Integrated Systems Europe 2019 awards for its immersive cube design, made completely from Hi-LED tiles.

Aluvision’s winning stand design at ISE 2019

Aluvision says: “The Aluvision frame system offers solutions for straight and curved walls, LED videowalls, hanging signs, displays and retail environments. Durability, reusability, precision, flexibility and modularity are the core features.”

The Aluvision frame system offers solutions for straight and curved walls, LED videowalls, hanging signs, displays and retail environments

Aluvision agrees that the need for environmentally friendly solutions in the exhibitions industry is of utmost importance for its clients. “At Aluvision, we are convinced that only ecological solutions are sustainable in the long term, which is why we have developed all our systems with durability and efficiency in mind,” the company says. “From the early stages of the design process onwards, we pay the utmost attention to aesthetic and functional design elements to help guarantee that Aluvision products provide the best long-term solution.”

Aluvision adds: “The trend towards more sustainable solutions will continue to grow. More and more people are aware of the impact. Exhibition stands used to be wooden constructions, good for one single use, ending up in the trash after the show, making the exhibition market very polluting. To change this cycle, Aluvision looked for a way to build stands, without leaving a large amount of rubbish behind. The solution they found: an original modular stand building system, that can be reused endlessly and build up completely tool free. Thanks to the plug and play feature, many different set-ups can be made with the same building units.”

Image Group began life as a digital printer with its early experience of exhibitions involving creating graphics for shell schemes and bespoke exhibition builders, later moving into signage and delivering its own exhibition with the addition of its own joiners and fitters.

O Factoid: Every year there are approximately 32,000 exhibitions featuring 4.5 million exhibiting companies, attracting over 303 million visitors, according to the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry O

Now, Image Group serves a number of clients from local level expo events to the larger trade shows, even going as far afield as New York and Florida. Dan Fleming, studio manager at the firm, comments: “From the very beginning we were never happy with the waste that goes into putting on exhibitions that might only be used for a few days. In addition to making sure our waste is recycled we also try, where possible, to design and build our stands to be used again. For example, we have worked with a company called Silva Timber who have several exhibitions over a 12-month period. With this in mind we created a bespoke stand with modular components that could be re-engineered to suit the different floor spaces they had booked at each show, cutting down on cost for the client and unnecessary waste.”

Fleming adds that whilst sustainability is a huge issue for the industry, as more emphasis is being put on greener solutions like soft signage and recycled materials, Brexit is another issue that could impact exhibitions. “Your readers will probably have guessed that Brexit would be mentioned at some point, but I think it’s going to present some difficult challenges over the next few years,” he says. “This doesn’t just affect overseas exhibitions, but it will likely impact on UK events and we may see a reduction in international events being hosted this side of the pond, attendee numbers and oversea exhibitors and we could also see it impact on our operating and material costs.”

A stand-out project for Fleming is the ongoing relationship Image Group has with Allied Glass, a bespoke glass bottling supplier, which exhibits at a trade show in Monaco every year. “To start with, we had to overcome the fact that there is a large supporting pillar in the space that we had to work around,” Fleming explains. “Rather than see this as an obstacle we used it as an opportunity to build in some functional storage with a high gloss curved wall that wrapped around the pillar. This also allowed us to incorporate product displays and a stunning bespoke graphic to catch visitors’ attention. To finish the stand, we built in some high gloss LED-lit alcoves to display the gorgeous array of glass products and printed a striking floor graphic. The mixture of high gloss finish, premium product display, bespoke details and the way the stand has evolved over the years has made this a project I look forward to in the event calendar.”

Image Group works with premium bottle manufacturer Allied Glass to create stands for a trade show the company attends in Monaco each year

Fleming has seen an increase in demand for digital solutions and technology requirements across all budgets, as businesses look to make their stands as attractive as possible. “There has also been an increased requirement in promotions or attention-grabbing activities and competitions on stands,” he adds. “In recent years we have used VR displays, touchscreen quizzes, fastest kick/throw competitions with digital speed traps and we even ran a competition for Etihad Airways outside Manchester City Football Club on a matchday with winners announced at halftime inside the stadium. This has led to us diversifying not only our skill set in the design studio but also in delivering personnel to help with the stand promotions on the day.”

Freeman has had stand design and build at its core since the UK business was formed, whilst its American parent company has been doing so since 1966. David Fisher, sales director at Freeman EMEA, comments: “Broadly speaking, the exhibition environment is moving in two directions – at many exhibitions there’s a drive for efficiency with shorter build times being provided by organisers, whilst exhibitors are keen to get more for less. Meanwhile, at the top end of the exhibition environment there’s a need for innovation and creative, new ideas. At a really big show like ICE or MWC (Mobile World Congress) there is so much audio-visual technology and so many big, impressive stands that it is hard to cut through. So, the challenge is being able to satisfy both ends of the market. Often the same client needs an economical presence one month and a show-stopper the next.”

David Fisher heads the custom build systems at Freeman

Fisher emphasises that the firm focuses heavily on being sustainable and has a dedicated operations team which continues to improve Freeman’s sustainability. “We’ve achieved zero-to-landfill; we’ve invested heavily in low-voltage lighting; we recycle our plastic graphics waste which by no means all companies do; we use modular walling systems whenever possible,” he says. “We are ISO 20121:2012 certified. We recognise how important sustainability is and we continuously work to improve.”

Commenting on the exhibitions market, Fisher says Freeman is finding clients increasingly presenting long-term schedules of events across multiple countries and continents. “We’re finding that our clients are more sophisticated than before and we are more often being asked to design customer journeys and brand experiences rather than simply to design stands,” he explains. “There’s an ongoing and accelerating need creatively to integrate audio-visual into stand designs rather than just plonk 55” TVs on the walls.”

Leicester-based Very Displays manufactures trade-only stand systems including banners, flags and lighting. The firm has positioned itself to offer an end-to-end solution for businesses looking to add exhibition systems to their portfolio, offering advice and guidance on how to provide the best solutions. Very Displays has also been working on its environmental credentials, as Andrew Burdett, managing director, explains: “We’re constantly improving the quality of our products to become more sustainable, so that they last years, if not a lifetime. We have recently released a roller banner made from recycled plastic, as well as a cassette banner that allows you to change your graphic without throwing away the base. Our design engineer, Gary Parker, is currently looking for new, innovative packaging solutions too which do not contain single-use plastic; this is likely to be replaced with a recycled paper solution and more information will be available in the near future.

“But it doesn’t stop there,” Burdett adds. “We’re also in the process of working towards our ISO 14001 – a joint venture with our sister company, Trifibre. This will show our efforts to becoming a cleaner, greener business.”

Burdett adds: “We’ve recently seen a surge in sales of our generic pop-up, which we think this has a lot to do with price but also the cross-compatibility of the product. All of the accessories that go with these products can be used across competitor products, which can be very desirable to a lot of companies as it means they don’t have to throw out an old system to start using a new supplier, there can be a nice cross-over period before making the switch. Lightboxes are becoming an increasingly popular product as they’re something new and refreshing to the industry. What better way to catch somebody’s attention than with bright, bold LEDs that illuminate a seamless fabric graphic?”

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