What is next for IPEX?

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Mar 28, 2014

Much has already been written about the show and its history, see Frank Romano’s blog yesterday for a good recap. Ralf Schlozer also wrote about IPEX earlier in the week.

While it’s still too early to tell if IPEX 2014 is going to be a success for the exhibitors and visitors, I’d like to present my observations and a couple of thoughts on what may happen next.

My observations include:

  • The show never looked busy in terms of visitors but it was certainly not deserted. A number of vendors told me that attendance was slightly better than they were expecting. Some booths, e.g. Konica Minolta, Xeikon and Fujifilm were actually pretty busy when I visited them on Monday and Tuesday. Also EFI and Chili Publish (opposite each other and next to Konica Minolta) attracted good crowds.
  • A good amount of international trade press and analysts made their way to London, which must have pleased Konica Minolta and Xeikon whose press briefings on Monday were very well attended. Konica Minolta gave an update on its KM-1 (beta units in 2014, with a commercial launch in 2015) and the launch of its European bizhub user group Prokom, while Xeikon announced that French-based TagG Informatique will become the first customer for its new liquid toner Trillium line in 2014.
  • One of the rationales behind changing the location from Birmingham to London was the ability to attract more agencies and marketers to the show. Co-located with IPEX ran the Cross Media Production show, where in three theatres various educational sessions took place on brand management, 1:1 direct marketing, and digital publishing. The sessions were well attended on Tuesday (its first day).
  • EFI was the largest software company to exhibit and its CEO Guy Gecht presented alongside Benny Landa at the IPEX World Print Summit, hosted by Frank Romano. They discussed how print is declining in volume but should become more valuable and of course explained the Landa-EFI partnership in front of  a European audience.
  • Previous IPEX shows had a strong pull on visitors from  Asia and the European continent but it seems that the loss of big vendors as well as the rise of regional/local shows has caused many international visitors to stay at home. Still the attendees had a far more international background than what would be expected from a national show.
  • With so many digital and offset press equipment vendors not exhibiting, what remained was a large representation of used machinery and finishing equipment vendors, many of them who showed very mature technology. This made the show less cutting-edge than in previous years.
  • The London ExCel Centre is a nice place for an exhibition. The location is much brighter than the NEC (Birmingham) and having it in London makes travelling a bit easier but also costlier. If IPEX evolves into a more regional show, then having it in a more central UK location makes more sense.

Now that IPEX is over, Informa (the IPEX organizers) will face the incredibly difficult task to figure out what to do next. Clearly, the industry is migrating from large-scale trade shows to smaller focused events. There are three possible scenarios in my opinion:

  1. Keeping the print focus but evolving into more of a regional show (UK, Ireland). I think having a pan-European show will be difficult because there is a lot of competition from local events.
  2. De-emphasizing its print focus and becoming more of a digital marketing & publishing event. It’s doubtful there is a large enough vendor community for this to make the event as big as IPEX once was; certainly not initially although it is a fast growing market. Besides, there are already some very sizeable marketing & publishing shows locally and some of the top vendors in this market (Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce.com, etc.) all organize their own customer events.
  3. Becoming much more functional and industrial oriented. This would make a lot of sense, looking at the investments that digital equipment vendors are making in textile, décor, laminate and packaging printing. 3D is another area where IPEX could focus on in the future.

While there are various opportunities to expand to, it is pretty certain that IPEX — as so many businesses in the printing industry – will have to evolve. It did announce that IPEX will return in 2018 (March 19th to 24th) but no location has been announced. This will depend heavily on the chosen strategy.

At InfoTrends, we are evolving as well. We have launched a Digital Marketing & Media service to study the digital marketing and digital publishing markets, and have launched a Functional & Industrial Printing Advisory Service to help vendors understand critical trends in emerging digital packaging, decorative and functional printing applications.

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