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“Flexo’s focus is its strength”

When Pauline Covell caught up with show director Andrew Furness in December, he was convincing about the value of a dedicated show for flexography

“The great thing about Flexo is that there is no confusion there,” said Andrew Furness. “Our whole thrust is to keep it as a dedicated show. After the 2001 event, the people we canvassed gave a very clear message – keep it as a dedicated event for the flexo industry.”

He is, however, realistic about the times we live in. “The hot issue is undoubtedly the business climate. Six months ago a better quarter was forecast for the beginning of 2003, but people are very cautious. They are delaying decisions to see if they can get a better handle on things – so that’s skewed the cycle.

“And yes the space will be down on last time, but there are very good reasons for that.” It is understood that the total will reach 2,500m2 net, about 20 per cent less than in 2001, and 150 companies will exhibit.

Optimism

“We do have many companies committed to booking space after the last event, but where the second quarter of the year before the show is usually the main bulk booking period, that has shifted to the six months before the exhibition. In fact we have seen in the region of 25 per cent of sales in the past two to three months,” he said honestly. “Esko and Creo have signed up recently,” for example.

“The plus side of this is that following these decisions a lot of thought goes in to what they are planning to show. They are well focused on that front,” he added.

“Of course we have seen amalgamations and more evident partnerships. We are also seeing more companies exhibiting on a single stand. And the budget restraints do make it all more challenging.”

Results from a survey conducted amongst the 2,916 visitors from the last show have provided some optimism for the 2003 exhibitors. From over 200 replies from flexible packaging (41 per cent) label (39 per cent) and carton converters (15 per cent), some 21 per cent said their company had not used flexo printing, but 68 per cent said they would be investing in flexo, 10 per cent at the same level and only 14 per cent that they would not be investing more in flexo.

“The response to the survey was very good – around eight per cent – and it did look like we were hitting on people who hadn’t used flexo,” said Andrew Furness enthusiastically.

On the overseas front he has seen some real interest from Eastern Europe as well as China. “Russia, the Ukraine, Poland and China are planning delegations to the show.” Overseas visitors represented some 13 per cent of the total in 2001 and he “would be pleased if it stayed at that percentage.

What is the organizer doing to encourage more visitors to the show? One initiative involved the survey, which allowed the respondents to nominate their colleagues to receive information. “This has upped the size of the database and increased the penetration rate of our email news,” he explained. “We saw a slight downturn in visitors in 2001. The challenge has been to ‘drill down’ into the organizations to get to the people at buyer level. That has been opened up by the improvements in information technology.

“Instead of one catchall message we have advertisements attacking the label, flexibles, cartons and corrugated sectors. And we have the packaging databases through our TOTAL (Pakex) show. In other words we have a very strong database in house. In addition we will have a direct mail ticket campaign through our currently combined database of 32,000 names.

“The survey and the e-bulletin have been well received by exhibitors. It has shown that we are engaging the audience.”

To sum up, just what are the USPs of Flexo 2003?

“First and foremost it is a dedicated event for the flexographic industry. Exhibitors and visitors are really interested in flexo. Therefore the quality of visitor is very high; they have direct questions to ask,” he enthused. “We work very closely with EFTA and have the EFTA Awards displayed inside the halls, which will draw visitors in and of course, the awards dinner on the second night.”

He stressed: “Flexo 2003 is not optional – there is too much good stuff on show here. Even if visitors are not investing at the moment they should be there to see what it on offer and what they need to be more efficient. I don’t know of any other exhibition in this field in the world like this.

“And we intend to keep it that way.”