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Industry convergence drives end of SGIA show – Andy McCourt …and birth of Printing United

Suppose you’d just put on a trade show for the Sign and Display industries in ‘showtown’ Las Vegas, USA and it was a sell-out – needing a wait-list for exhibitors to get onto the floor. Over 25,000 visitors flock to it, it is a resounding hit with many sales conducted and new products released. You’d want to do it all again next year, surely?

 

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Not the Speciality Graphics Industry Association of the USA (not to be confused with our SGIAA). The blockbuster show that ended on Sunday was the last one as the SGIA. Instead, in Dallas, TX, from October 23-25, 2019, will be the PRINTING United show, still run by the SGIA but with the help of NAPCO Media – publishers of Printing Impressions and other trade titles. The SGIA has already purchased the Graphics of the Americas show – first reported here last week.

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PRINTING United already has a floorplan up on its website and, while the majority of stands are regular SGIA exhibitors, one of the six halls is very offset/commercial with Heidelberg, Müller Martini, Screen and RMGT already listed on sizeable stands It’s fair to assume this might represent the GOA effect.

So, it’s another trade show – so what? I think it’s the positioning that is important; identifying print convergence as the driver – and that applies just as much, if not more, in Australia and New Zealand. The organisers say: 

“The printing industry is buzzing about the convergence of technologies and capabilities, the blending and blurring of market segments and specialties. These aren’t trends — they’re market drivers and they’re changing your world faster than you can say “I’m in printing.”

What I like about this initiative is that the SGIA and NAPCO Media are unafraid to proudly extol ‘I’m in Printing.’ In recognising convergence as the driver and not just a trend, they can deliver some powerful medicine to both established commercial print businesses and new digital ones. Convergence needn’t be a collision course – ‘co-mergence’ could be the portmanteau perhaps?

But hold on a minute – isn’t there another big US trade show on in October 2019? The answer is ‘yes’ and it’s PRINT at its traditional home of the McCormick Centre, Chicago, from October 3-5. PRINT is run by the Association for Printing Technologies, formerly the NPES. Can the market sustain two large printing trade shows within three weeks of each other? Perhaps the USA, with 326 million population, can sustain it but can the exhibitors? The answer remains to be seen. In the UK, IPEX was unable to compete against start-up The Print Show and is now trade-show history.

Interestingly, the main FESPA show has re-named itself as a ‘Global Print Expo’ since the Berlin event this year. Again, this indicates a recognition of convergence. If the same workflow from the same supplier can be made to output to wide format, textiles, digital A3 presses and CtP for offset (not forgetting uploading to online apps) – why can’t they exhibit their wares all at the same show on the same stand?

What this means in Australia, New Zealand and Oceania

Well, at the risk of appearing smug, we are ahead of the game in our region. Since the GAMAA and VISA trade associations merged to form Visual Connections about four years ago, our trade shows have to some extent recognised convergence and put forward strong showings of both ‘conventional’ printing and digital technologies. I refer particularly to PacPrint and PrintEx but even the Visual Impact Image Expos have attracted both sides of our converging industry, with Currie Group exhibiting alongside sign and display booths.

PrintEx of course is next year, moved from July to August to avoid collision with a couple of hundred thousand evangelical chanters and clappers who had also booked the Homebush site. Nothing against them of course; it’s just that when a printer thinks: ‘saved’ it’s usually in the form of lower costs of power, raw materials and capital expenditure! Mammon rears its ugly reality.

Which brings me to our Associations. The American PRINTING United show mentioned earlier has no less that 15 trade associations behind it. PacPrint and PrintEx are put on by our PIAA and Visual Connections, with the ASGA and SGIAA supporting, and the National Print Awards are usually held alongside these Melbourne and Sydney events. So, printing industry associations are capable of uniting, but I note a new one has popped up called the Real Media Collective.

While I applaud the work of the three associations that created RMC, particularly in catalogues, direct mail and factual information about paper and its benefits to the environment; I do wonder – was there something wrong with having the word ‘Print’ in the new name?

Because, in the words of the ‘Liberty Song’ of the American Revolution: ‘United we Stand, Divided we Fall.’

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 The message is clear – even America’s founding fathers knew it.

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