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So, hands up those businesses that went to the Sydney sign show last week.
Clearly I have no idea who did and who didn’t, but I do know a lot of small sign business owners that wanted to and didn’t due to someone’s decision to only have the show on weekdays.

Apparently, statistics provided by the marketing guru’s showed that Saturday visitors were generally tyre kickers and not worth worrying about.

From the conversations I’ve had with many small businesses, it was a dud decision. In the minds of many, proof yet again that these shows are catering toward the big end of town, and show little regard for the smaller operators.

It’s a hard argument to dispute.

Printex_2011I actually had no plan on going either. My wife and I usually fly down on Friday night, take in the show on Saturday, then spend our remaining time in Sydney having a relaxing time in the big smoke.

But, at the last minute I won a contract for a Sydney based job, and my client paid my fare. I was finished with enough time to spend a few hours at the show.

My first impression was that the show was smaller than other years. I don’t mean that to be a controversial statement, its just an observation. The show only took up half the hall, so it was physically smaller in that sense.

The ‘problem’ was the co-location with Printex.  Not that it was a real problem because Printex was huge and well supported, clearly having the bulk of the attendance as well as the big players in the print industry displaying their wares. Some of the machines were massive, with a price tag to match. If you had to ask the price, you probably couldn’t afford it.

Agfa for instance didn’t have a stand on the Viie show, but did have a sizeable display at Printex. Colourgrafix, an Agfa reseller was left to fly the Agfa flag at their viie stand, even though they didn’t have a machine to display.

Speaking to the exhibitors, the reactions were mixed to say the least. Some said that Friday was the best day by far, others said that the decision to exclude Saturday made the show less attractive for them if they went down that path next year.

Some also complained that the strict requirements for the stands display was also a negative.

I don’t pretend to fully understand what the stand requirements actually restricted, but I must say that some of the displays were not as good as I‘ve seen in previous years.

That said, most exhibitors were clearly trying to remain upbeat with the overall attendances, but I’m not sure too many supported the notion that Saturday was less attractive with the tyre kicking assumption.

Personally, I went to the last show on a Saturday to research or ‘tyre kick‘, and a few months later purchased two Roland VS640’s as a result. So to assume tyre kickers don’t eventually buy, or are not ‘real’ buyers is slightly demented in my view.

Several larger exhibitors that asked to remain nameless, were also very disappointed with the lack of interstate visitors this year.  

I did see the likes of Lee Attewell, the GM from industry leader Grafficjam in Western Australia at the show, and I know others from Victoria that were planning on going, but I don’t think it was the influx of previous years. One exhibitor said that our New Zealand cousins were not there in the numbers like previous years either. That could of course be attributed to their string of disasters they’ve had this year at home, but I’m not sure it would have a major bearing on the bulk of sign shops to be honest.

Anyone that has been following this online magazine would know that a survey asking if ‘you are going to the show’ taken in April had 68% of responses saying no they wouldn‘t be going.

It was equally surprising not seeing the exhibitors that weren’t there, something that didn’t go un-noticed by the exhibitors that were.

But, for those tyre kickers that did make the effort, there were some things that made the visit interesting.

Anthony from Soyee Australia P/L was once again offering excellent sample packs on his various printer maintenance products, his swabs being probably the best I’ve used.

Halifax Vogel had samples of their latest 3M product, the new 1080 carbon fibre wrap material. Something I’m looking forward to getting my hands on as well.

Show stalwarts, Roland, had their new 64” VersaUV Hybrid flatbed printer on display. Very impressive, and typical of Roland quality.

Hayley Vercoe from SAS accessories also had their latest patterned composite aluminium product, specially flown in to release at the show. Resembling the pattern typically found on caravans and mobile homes, I’m sure it will be a winner. I believe they are still testing its effectiveness for direct printing properties. It will be interesting to see how that goes.

Another head turner was the banner finishing machines on offer. Probably way too expensive for the average shop, but interesting and impressive all the same.

So, would I go to a Sydney show again?

It used to be that the Sydney Show was the biggest and best in the country. I don’t think this show lives up to that hype.

As one sign shop owner said to me yesterday after expressing his own disappointment at the Sydney Show… “we can only hope that the regional shows are better than this, because if they aren’t, the shows are going to die a natural death.”

I’m not sure if I subscribe totally to that view, but I certainly hope that my local show on the Gold Coast is better than this one appeared to be, otherwise I think I’ll be going to every second or third show in future.

I know I’m not alone in that view and that should be ringing some alarms with the organisers of these events.

Last year I was rather critical of the main players that stopped supporting these events, and I must confess it strained some relationships for a few months. They cited poor return on their investment as being the primary reason. Whilst I still think that they should be giving something back to the industry by way of support, I have had some fairly in-depth discussions with exhibitors this year, and their views were argued with a lot of passion, and in one or two cases, a little bit of aggression. Some are clearly not happy.

I must confess I probably dismissed their arguments last year without giving it due consideration. For that I apologise.

When all is said and done, I really don’t envy the job the organisers have to make these shows more attractive to both the exhibitors and the client base. But one comment I’ve heard consistently over the last few years is “they are becoming a bit narrow in their demographic target“.

They may as well call it the print, cnc and sublimation show.

The best sign show I’ve been to was in Europe. They had everything from drills, drill bits, composite aluminium saws, blades and tools to sign fixing items and all the associated paraphernalia. They had canvas frames and canvas stretchers, paints through to brushes, as well as printers and routers.  It covered all aspects of the industry rather than a select few.

Might be worth a thought?

Shane Drew