Ipex 2014

An Open Letter to Trevor Crawford, Director, Print Group, Informa Exhibitions

In response to the 'White Paper' published by Informa in January 2013

Download the White paper from the IPEX site


  • Dear Trevor
     
    Hope you are keeping well, we sure you are busy at the moment with the Ipex re-focus, which is the reason for writing.
     
    We have been watching the events surrounding Ipex with interest for a while now. We are very concerned by the change of focus of the show, and the message this sends to the industry - namely that digital should now be the industry's focus at the expense of litho and other non-digital technologies. In particular, the idea that litho is now irrelevant is not only contrary to the evidence we see every day, as we have enjoyed healthy and growing sales of Hans Gronhi litho presses in the past few years, we feel it is an inaccurate and dangerous message to send to the industry. It also alienates a huge and active sector within that industry, a sector which has made IPEX what it is.
     
    It appears to be your response to all the big name litho manufacturers pulling out from IPEX 2014, yet it is quite a surprising reaction considering that several digital manufacturers, including the largest, have also pulled out.
     
    As a litho distributor we find ourselves committed heavily to a different show to the one we signed up to, and a show whose marketing efforts are now targeted at undermining our potential success. I wonder how many litho printers - our potential customers - will now not attend when they see themselves brushed aside as irrelevant.
     
    You should consider that, as a media provider with your high profile, you have a responsibility to support the industry, or at least not to undermine it. There is a phrase "causing a bread shortage by saying there's a bread shortage" which we think applies here. Litho is still by any measure a huge part of the UK printing industry. The fact that most of the 'major' suppliers have pulled out is not indicative of a crisis in litho as a production method; it is still economically viable at most run lengths, with the right equipment; it is still the quality option; thousands of litho printers are profitable, forward thinking companies with a future.
     
    We are supporting them, and so should you.
     
    You should also consider that this is not just about the so called 'major manufacturers' of litho equipment. A whole industry exists which depends upon offset, from pre-press and software  through to finishing equipment manufacturers large and small. I wonder what they think about your 'refocusing'.
     
    You state that 24% of survey respondents are not offering digital - which of course also means that a quarter of the industry is managing to survive without it,  but further than that, you don't ask what percentage of digital users also have litho and what proportion of their print is produced conventionally. Gronhi's success, both in the UK and across the globe, not only shows that there is a demand for litho equipment, it shows that when the product is right, and priced competitively, offset can compete with digital - but our overwhelming experience is that digital and litho are complimentary technologies and most successful printers run them together. Any show purporting to represent the print industry, or at least attract printers, should focus on both - or at least not deliberately turn its back on one.
     
    Your figures on this subject require closer analysis. You say that litho has reduced by 7.3% since 2009 - a figure which does not seem to us to indicate terminal decline given the double/triple dip recession we find ourselves in. You say that digital is forecast to increase by 56% to $131bn in 2014 from $84bn in 2009. According to figures given elsewhere in your white paper, global print is worth $655bn, which, if correct, means that conventional print is still five times the value of digital. This is probably a conservative estimate.
     
    Benny Landa, who I am sure you would agree is regarded as probably the leading digital print guru, reported during his presentation at Drupa - 19 years after the launch of Indigo - that digital print only accounts for 2% (1 trillion)   of all printed pages  (50 trillion) . In his words, digital print only 'nibbles' at a print market still dominated by conventional print.
     
    We don't deny that digital print technology is here to stay, and likely to grow in importance, but most professionals in the industry agree that digital print and litho print will live in harmony and complement each other for many years to come. If today's printers were truly clamouring for digital presses, you have to ask why Digital UK have cancelled this years show…again. 
     
    We are forced to ask ourselves - and our Chinese manufacturer - whether is it really worth the considerable expense to invest in a show which seemingly dismisses litho as a credible commercial print platform. We always keep Hans Gronhi informed of current events, including developments surrounding Ipex, in the course of our normal business communications, and we have forwarded them your white paper which I am sure they will read with some alarm.
     
    We have always been a supporter of the show (even though the move to London was against what we felt was best for ourselves) and we are forced to conclude that your white paper provides more evidence of the decline of IPEX than the decline of litho print. We will be attending the Picon members Ipex meeting in March, which may be an opportunity to suggest that there may now be a need for a new UK printing exhibition correctly formatted to the 'real world' needs of UK printers and suppliers, one which is controlled by an unbiased and not for profit organisation.  Furthermore we will be asking BPIF, as an associate member, for their take on your new digital exhibition, and to see if they also agree that it is misguided.
     
    We appreciate that Informa is a business whose purpose is selling space at exhibitions, and whilst we recognise that they do have members on their Ipex advisory panel from the print industry, we suspect that the Informa board are driving Ipex towards a purely digital print show with a disregard for the side of the industry that is responsible for producing the overwhelming majority of printed pages.
     
    In the meantime we will let you know Hans Gronhi’s thoughts on the advisability of taking a 600 m2 stand to show litho products at a digital exhibition.

     
    Regards
     
     
    Richard McNeill and Graham Moorby
    Joint Managing Directors KMP/Printers Superstore

 

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