Virtual Aussie print expo tops 10,000 visitors

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The world's first virtual print expo has now broken the 10,000-visitor mark, little more than two months after the launch of the show by suppliers' association Visual Connections.

Come on in: Virtual trade show opens virtual doors 
10,000 visitors: Virtual trade show 

The Print Sign & Graphics Virtual Trade Show was the first virtual show to get up and running anywhere in the world when it opened on 1 June.

With 1600 visitors on its first day, and a steady stream ever since, the show has been a surprising success in what has been a bleak few months for print.

Peter Harper, CEO at Visual Connections, said, "Passing the 10,000 figure of visitors to our Print, Sign & Graphics Virtual Trade show has certainly exceeded our expectations.

"It was a hard sell at first, with many of our members having their marketing budgets cuts. However, many stepped up to support our industries. They saw the value of being able to reach thousands of printers and sign manufacturers, and staying connected for three months.

"More importantly, it demonstrates that businesses are still looking to innovate and create opportunities and are keen to access the information and that will help them review, rebuild and renew their businesses into the future."

Currie Group has the largest booth. A host of other local suppliers also at the show, including Ball & Doggett, Epson, Ferag, Fujifilm, Hexis, HP, Mutoh, Roland DG, Screen, and Starleaton. Clicking on a booth leads you to a rich resource of videos, photos, explainers, information, and contacts.

Proposed virtual events are springing up all over the world as suppliers and exhibition organisers scramble to deal with the fallout from Covid-19, which has seen virtually all trade shows, conferences, exhibitions, and open houses pushed back to next year. Pack Expo in the US is the latest to fall, cancelled this week for the first time in its history. Fespa has been moved twice. The Australian virtual show was though the first to get up and running, with the local industry and its ability to work together gaining kudos.

Open 24 hours a day through to the end of September, the local virtual trade show is an initiative of Visual Connections, the suppliers association which also organises the PacPrint – now scheduled for September next year – PrintEx, Visual Impact and Label & Packaging Expos. It was created “to provide important opportunities for suppliers and trade businesses alike in the current Covid-impacted situation.”

With exhibitors across the board reporting positive flow-ons, genuine leads and some early sales driven by participation in the show, indications are that businesses are genuinely planning for the future, even in these uncertain times.

Unsurprisingly, EOFY activity drove a surge of activity towards the end of June but the instant asset write-off in particular is now set to continue until Christmas. And while commercial printers in particular have been hit hard by Covid, many printers in the sign and display sector are seeing strong workloads with high demand for Covid graphics, and the virtual show has strong representation from exhibitors in the sector.

Ben Eaton, CEO of Starleaton, reported an uptick in activity and enquiries, particularly related to the Zund cutters that featured at the show, saying it had "absolutely" contributed to the company’s sales pipeline, while Luke Wooldridge from Fujifilm also reported strong interest in "show specials".

So, is it as good as a physical trade show? Kelly Tam from Epson said it’s difficult to compare an online show with the "face-to-face" interaction available at a traditional trade show but, like many others, she said Epson has seen a noticeable lift in enquiries, especially immediately after launch, and has validated those as genuine leads.

Ian Parsonson from Hexis reported strong activity and sales right from the start of the show, with a particularly good response to show specials, as did Michael Smith from Eurotech, who said the virtual show was a welcome initiative. “It’s good to see the trade thinking in terms of innovation,” he said.

With the show set to run until the end of September, the story is far from over. Exhibitors continue to refresh their content and offers to keep interest levels up, and new seminar and workshop sessions are to be launched every couple of weeks.

Visual Connections CEO Peter Harper said the long-term strategy was quite deliberate in the face of a rapidly changing economic and regulatory environment and uncertainty around the pandemic itself.

“Together with our exhibitors, who have their finger closely on the pulse of the industry, we took the view that any resource we created had to be available in the longer term – so businesses could come back, time and again as their circumstances dictated, to find solutions to help them recover, rebuild, and create new opportunities into the future,” he said.

Harper is already looking ahead, he said, "And we're not finished yet; we are now looking at more offerings to keep our industries connected and informed as we moved towards PacPrint 2021."



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