Largely driven and accelerated by the pandemic, the past few years have seen the business supplies industry massively evolve, and it will continue to do so. We have witnessed a contraction in the number of resellers but also the emergence of new opportunities with non-core suppliers entering our market sector.
Amid this transformation has been a sea change in the exhibitions scene. Once upon a time, we all flocked to Frankfurt for Paperworld – now part of Ambiente – and various UK shows such as Statindex. However, now we are left with the London Stationery Show and numerous industry channel events from the wholesalers, dealer groups, tech providers, etc.
While the London Stationery Show retains its appeal for a retail-oriented audience, its location in the capital and the associated accommodation, meals and travel costs render it a prohibitively expensive affair for many.
Established players at the exhibition predominantly encounter their regular customers, while smaller companies struggle to capture the attention of the larger resellers that are selective in their visitations. Meanwhile, at some industry events, it can be a battle to incentivise dealers to engage with all the suppliers that have taken the time to set up a display and attend the show. Then there are the not-so-insignificant costs borne by the vendors.
Moment of truth
Manufacturers are now standing at a crossroads, grappling with the weighty consideration of cost and time when participating in trade fairs. There’s a hefty price tag attached to the significant investment required to achieve a favourable cost versus time-with-client ratio.
There is undoubtedly still a big appetite for manufacturers to engage with proactive and interested resellers and dealers – not only to showcase new products but to explore efficient and beneficial avenues of reaching customers.
Sadly, hybrid working has made online meetings and virtual training the norm, yet the value of face-to-face interactions, product showcases and shared experiences remains undeniable. This begs the question: can a viable solution be found that reconciles these objectives at a reasonable cost?
Enter the proposition of a united front and an audacious departure from competitive concerns, with a large-scale event held in the North or South, perhaps even in the Midlands. By defying conventional notions of trade fairs, a fresh format could be fashioned.
Picture the traditional exhibition stands alongside a stage where resellers and dealers engage with Dragons’ Den-style pitches interspersed with entertainment. An innovative approach such as this would surely create a distinct and memorable show.
Why does everything need to be the same? Let’s have some out-of-the-box thinking, come together with an acceptable cost framework, and create an event that’s fun, engaging and beneficial for all involved.
Chris Deighton is Managing Director at COLOP UK