Evidence that the world is rapidly changing was before our very eyes at Ipex 2014, which was missing a host of big name exhibitors, and replaced them with a full-on print business development programme.
The big trade print shows originated in an era when manufacturers could go and meet new customers and printers could go and see the latest developments.
That world has gone, any manufacturer worth its salt must know virtually every potential customer, in the Western world at least, and new product launches are now zipped around the world courtesy of the internet the second they are ready – so the prime reasons for going are not there for many manufacturers.
[Related: Full Ipex coverage]
Trade shows also need money, and lots of it. In the pre-GFC era when printers had access to cash and when the industry was on a growth trajectory the money was there, and actual sales and orders were taken at the show – repaying the monster investments the manufacturers made.
These days it is a different story, capital expenditure has plummeted, particularly in the heavy metal area, and the former heavyweights of the industry are far from cash rich. In fact most of them are financially on the floor.
Ipex 2104 then could be called Lite – however those that did decide to exhibit had the biggest smiles you will see, because they had the field to themselves.
The Konica Minolta stand was packed all week, and with no Xerox, Ricoh or Canon at the show it was a double bonus. Similarly Xeikon was there without its nemesis HP and busy all week long.
There were some new technology launches, notably by Aussie outfit Impression Technology which had a super-quick digital promotional products printer, and by UK outfit LumeJet which has developed a digital printer that outputs laser onto silver halide creating incredibly high quality print.
The only offset press stand was Chinese manufacturer Hans Gronhi, which bought a bankrupt Shinohara last year. It was more than pleased with a non-stop stream of visitors. It sells its presses on price, claiming to be 30-50 per cent cheaper than its rivals.
Komori had one of its new H-UV B1 presses at the show, but as part of the Ipex Eco-Zone.
Chinese stands were there in abundance, but part from Hans Gronhi which was manned by its UK arm, how they got on is anyone's guess. They were often empty of printers and there may be just too many cultural and perceived quality barriers to overcome.
The non-stop seminar programme including the World Print Summit was mostly well attended, not surprisingly the Benny Landa/Guy Gecht/Frank Romano event was packed, standing room only spilling out into the aisles. The trio are all brilliant expositors, reassuring the crowd that print has a bright future.
Will there be another Ipex? Well the dates have been set for 2018, but that decision, which will be made by the exhibitors, has yet to be made.
There were still 400 exhibitors at this year's show, but more than a few of them were only there because pulling out would have meant losing their deposit, which effectively covered their floorspace, so they figured they may as well be there as not – but told me they wouldn't be back.
The era of multiple broader print trade shows may be coming to a close. Vertical market shows such as LabelExpo and Fespa are booming because they are so focused.
China Print and Print China will continue to grow because the market is huge, untapped, and manufacturers will find new customers and sell plenty of kit. There may be a print show in Latin America for the same reason.
It is impossible to imagine the mother of all trade shows drupa will struggle, but as for Ipex 2018, don't book your hotel rooms just yet.
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