A tale of two (trade) shows

???????????????????????????????I’ve been to two trade shows this month. The first was InterPack in Dusseldorf and the second just last week was the Chelsea Flower Show. I’ve been to InterPack several times which is sad but this was my first visit to Chelsea which is also a little sad.

InterPack is of course all about industry, manufacturers of packaging and packaging line related machinery and materials showing off their wares to potential purchasers. And as they do that of course they also show them off to the competition. At first sight you’d think that Chelsea would be different but not so. Forget the show gardens for the moment, the rest is suppliers showing off their wares just like they do at InterPack.

Of course it’s all done in a rather more genteel fashion but whether it’s the suppliers of equipment etc outside or the exhibitors of plants inside the Great Hall it doesn’t matter; they’re just showing themselves off to potential customers.

There’s little to differentiate the traders along Eastern Avenue from those at InterPack. There’s the same in your face displays of product and the same enthusiasm to get browsers onto the stand. There was also, sometimes and disappointingly, the same disinterested body language and the same disregard for the professional principles of selling. And that of course is one of the big differences: at Chelsea the traders are actually selling, they’re not just trawling for leads.

Inside the Great Hall it is of course different with every exhibitor out to earn itself a medal and the best ones are gold. Many are serial winners and some of the stands boggle the mind in terms of their specific focus and the breadth of colour and variety within it. Thankfully manufacturers of carton assembling equipment and the like at Interpack cannot come close.

Fair does it doesn’t seem to matter that much what sort of medal you’ve got in terms of how many people come to your stand but I guess it’ one of those criteria which allows you to claim a higher price or to come out higher on the potential customer’s mental search engine.

I left out the show gardens because they don’t seem to correspond to anything at InterPack but maybe I’m wrong. I didn’t look for them this time but in addition to smaller stands with operating equipment I have seen enormous stands with complete yoghurt lines in operation, I’ve seen entire 6 colour presses in action and I’ve seen bread being baked and sold at the show. No prizes of course but it’s the same scale.

Trade Shows in Germany are big, I’ve been to the Kunstoffe (plastics) show as well as InterPack in Dusseldorf and I’ve been to CeBIT (the IT show) in Hannover, and they’re as big as the biggest ones at the NEC. They are incredibly well organised and when you buy a ticket you also get free rail travel within Germany. Contrast that with the NEC where most people come by car and leave just after lunch if not before to get home before the queues build up on the M6. Fortunately Chelsea is a little different, train to London then the tube to Sloan Square and just follow everyone else.

There’s a bit of a difference in the clientele. At InterPack it’s all engineers and purchasing managers who read Packaging Week and who come from all over. At Chelsea it’s no less international, the main foreign language I heard was German and the best show gardens seem to have been designed by Italians, but the visitors read the Guardian and the Telegraph and probably shop at Waitrose.

Whichever show you go to it’s exhausting and lunch is never satisfactory. At InterPack it’s OK if you like Wuerst and Pils and enjoy eating standing up. At Chelsea you could fork out£70 at the Rock Bank Restaurant otherwise it’s take away food balanced on a tray on your knee. Not totally bad but dinner at home was a pleasant reward for the day out.



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