By Melissa Donovan
At press time, several trade shows had just finished up in both the U.S. and internationally. There was certainly a collective feeling of optimism across the board. It was great to be back in person and really experience the energy of peers and prospective buyers on the show floor.
We polled many of the vendors who shared insight about the state of the industry in our August issue about trade shows and what we can look forward to in the future.
Recent ISA International Sign Expo
The International Sign Association (ISA) held its annual ISA International Sign Expo in May. Based out of Atlanta, GA, walking the floor you certainly got a sense that the attendees were serious buyers.
“The show was very busy and full of energy. We had many conversations that were driven and precise as opposed to the usual trade show conversations of ‘just looking’. People came with a purpose in mind and it was refreshing to be a part of,” admits Kylie Schleicher, director of product development and product manager, Ultraflex Systems, Inc.
Tony Caruso, VP of sales, Advanced Greig Laminators, Inc., experienced a similar energy at the ISA International Sign Expo. “The turnout was great. I’m optimistic going forward because the show wasn’t an excuse for many to just get out and walk a trade show. For the many people I met at the show, it was about improving their business.”
Mutoh America, Inc. also exhibited at the show. “We hesitated for a bit when planning last year for this year because of the unknown of COVID-19, but decided to attend in 2022. It was a great show and we were greeted by customers and partners with open arms and smiles. It was a nice sight to see. Everyone seemed excited to be there and more importantly, we sold a lot of equipment at the show to make it worthwhile. It seems the shows are back and it is nice to be able to show our products in person allowing customers and prospects the experience to see and touch our new printers in person,” reflects Brian Phipps, president and GM, Mutoh.
Brian Gibson, wide format specialist, GBC SEAL, attended the show and felt a sense of optimism. “As events open up and the world returns to the new normal. Events, trade shows, and other communal activities are returning, invigorating large format print and advertising.”
“Companies are definitely ready to move beyond the challenges of the past couple of years and invest again in their future,” agrees Martin Thornton, business segment manager, Zund America, Inc.
David Stevens, technical development manager, Trotec Laser, feels that the event helped reenergize the industry. “Attendees seemed ready to learn new skills and discover how to take their business to the next level while exhibitors were anxious to share their knowledge and provide equipment and material solutions.”
Both returning and new attendees were out and about at the ISA International Sign Expo. “I feel very excited about the future of the sign industry as we saw not only the normal customers that stop by from year to year but a bunch of first time attendees. It was a blast showing our material to newbies per say,” says Walter Gierlach Jr., president, Photo Tex Group, Inc.
Jessup Manufacturing Co. experienced a record number of booth visitors. Mike Richardson and Bob Rick, business development managers, Jessup, saw first hand how important it is for people to sell to and then buy from a person they directly interact with. “From the stone ages to the digital age, people want to deal with people.”
“Suppliers and customers were happy to see each other in person again and I think overall an optimistic mindset prevails,” adds Darren Claassens, head of sales and marketing, NUtec Digital Ink.
Canon U.S.A., Inc. also had a great turnout at its booth. “The general atmosphere was positive and upbeat. Attendees were excited to be back in person and able to talk to vendors, see new applications and technologies, and share ideas,” explains Sal Sheikh, senior director, LFS marketing, Canon.
“The foot traffic and attendance in our booth at the ISA International Sign Expo was absolutely welcomed and appreciated after these past years while shows were canceled or moved to a virtual setting. The desire to learn new ideas, experience new products and materials, and all important face-to-face networking, continue to be important for our customers and shops to grow their business,” notes Daralyn Baldogo, senior marketing communication specialist, Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions.
Beyond U.S. and ISA
Of course, many other events have occurred besides the ISA International Sign Expo. Across the board, “the energy of being in-person after previous show shut downs is exhilarating and welcoming providing a sense of optimism in the market,” says Maureen Damato, senior director of channel sales, Colex Finishing Solutions Inc.
For example, Kornit Digital held its Kornit Fashion Week London over in the U.K. back in May. Robert Zoch, global content manager, Kornit, describes it as “a fantastic celebration of empowering creativity and diversity with sustainable on demand digital production—which included, among other things, world-renowned designers bringing their collections from ideation to runway in mere weeks, which would’ve been unthinkable with more traditional analog means—and anyone involved in that exhibition, as an organizer or attendee, will tell you the future it portends is bright indeed.”
Attending shows in Europe, LATAM, India, and Dubai, Sarit Tichon, senior VP international Sales, SAi, notes that while foot traffic may have decreased, the overall experience is positive. “Over the past couple of years, we have become accustomed to working behind a computer screen so it was really nice to see people in person again, something I think everyone has been longing for. Unlike shows pre-pandemic time, customers are more purposeful and focused.”
“There seems to be more purpose with show attendees, which typically is a great indicator for a positive show,” agrees Michael Johnson, VP – North American graphic and industrial sales, Nazdar Ink Technologies. Not only did Nazdar exhibit at the ISA International Sign Expo and witness this, but Johnson says he experienced similar feedback at smaller shows prior to the May event. “The attendees were excited to be there and ready to discuss their business and how Nazdar and others can help them address their challenges. This being a bit of a step change, where in the past a portion of the attendees were there to walk the floor and see what’s new.”
Jodi Sawyer, strategic business unit manager, retail and advertising, FLEXcon Company, Inc., picked up on a sense of optimism and joy of learning at shows like the GEOPATH/OAAA Out of Home Media Conference & Expo and the Retail Innovation Conference Expo.
“The energy was palpable with the feel of a ‘reunion of old friends’ and an openness to welcoming new ones with a commitment to learning, innovating, and working together to move the industry forward. I do feel a sense of optimism going forward because the conversations, the sharing, and learning have moved beyond surviving through the pandemic and pivoting to growth, evolution, innovation, and preparing for the future in a global world that is more connected and changing at a faster pace than ever before. There’s a strong sense of collaboration and willingness to challenge ourselves personally and professionally, to think differently and hold ourselves accountable for how we are going to be part of that change,” continues Sawyer.
Trade shows are a necessary element to our industry—and many others. Without them, we did indeed survive, but there are benefits of meeting and seeing products in person. The positivity that yielded from the ISA International Sign Expo as well as countless other shows that have taken place in 2022 alone is a great indicator of an engaged community.
“People are optimistic and excited to get back to normal. They’re excited to see what is new, to touch and feel the products, network, learn about new ways to grow their business, and want to understand the applications of different products in person,” concludes Michael Aldrich, product manager, FDC Graphics Films, Inc.
To learn about more trends in the graphic arts, be sure to visit digitaloutput.net and read our August issue.
Aug2022, Digital Output