Viewpoint
December 2003
Trade shows still work
The “in” thing now is to say, “it doesn’t work any more.” We are being told almost everything in printing is going the way of the dodo bird, whether it’s annual reports, printed cheques, directories, direct mail, newspapers, magazines or quick printing. Some have even predicted the demise of offset printing over the next 10 years. The reality is that things are not dying, but changing and evolving.
Recent comments by a number of trade magazines in Canada and the U.S. to the effect that printing industry trade shows don’t work any more seem to fit the same “nothing works” fad. After the last Drupa show in 2000 some industry oracles predicted that we would never see a show that large again. It would all be down hill from there. Interestingly Drupa sold out all its floor space almost a year before the event this coming May.
Are things changing with industry trade shows? Yes, definitely. The number of printing companies is no longer growing in Canada and has actually declined in the States. The volume of printing is growing slower than the economy where it used to grow faster. In the economy, manufacturing and advertising is down, and these sectors account for much of printing purchasing. The real cost of equipment has climbed dramatically and the life expectancy of a lot of equipment has dropped from eight or 10 years to three or four years. A wrong equipment decision can wipe out a printing company very easily now.
So why go to a printing trade show? The answer, more important now than ever before, is to learn. To learn what is coming down the pipe and what your future options will be. To learn what others are doing. And, to learn where not to go—you cannot be everything to all customers anymore.
With the printing industry being part of the information age, knowledge is becoming more valuable. It is interesting to note that attendance at paid seminars has actually increased at printing trade shows. At Print West in Calgary, almost 10% of the attendees came for the seminars.
Trade shows still have the advantage that you can compare vendors, ask each of them the same questions and see what different answers you get. It’s also a chance to meet your peers in the industry and exchange information. The number of printing deals that have happened by chance is legendary.

Is Graphics Canada still worth the trip?
The obvious question has to be asked. If Graphic Monthly believes in industry trade shows, why are we not exhibiting at Graphics Canada this year? Well, it was not our decision. At the time we went to press, and for reasons that have not been completely explained to us, Graphics Canada had decided to bar us from exhibiting, ostensibly because Print Ontario (owned by North Island Publishing, which also owns Graphic Monthly) competes with their show.
In fact, we have always supported Graphics Canada because we believe in shows. Graphic Monthly is the only Canadian publication to have featured Graphics Canada as its cover story for each show since we started publishing in 1980. Graphics Canada—back when it was known as Graphic Trade—even exhibited in Print Ontario.
I would not consider Print Ontario and Graphics Canada direct competitors, personally. Print Ontario is a specialized North American show for the small- or mid-size format, short-run market and Graphics Canada is a general show for the Canadian market.
So I still recommend going to Graphics Canada to learn everything you can. Like most printing industry trade shows it’s worth the trip. Have a great show.
Alexander Donald is the publisher of Graphic Monthly Canada.
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