Here Marco A. Guerritore, editor in chief of Italian Fasteners, focuses on the impressions and opinions from exhibitors he collected at the recent Fastener Fair Stuttgart, as well as adding his own distinctive perspective.
To understand just how much commitment and dedication exhibitors put into participating in a fair, it helps if you look at what happens during the days leading up to the event, when the stands are being set up in a quasi-frenzy – with operators, craftsmen, carpenters, electricians, and architects, working side by side yet managing never to get in each other’s way. Then, out of the total chaos of the day before, comes the miracle of the opening day, with all the pavilions bright and shiny, ready to welcome the visitors.
Taking part in a fair is not just a huge physical undertaking, it is also a big investment in terms of cost. You could, at this point, ask: ‘In this IT-dominated world, do we still need trade fairs?’. The answer? Over time, the very nature of fairs has changed enormously. These events used to have a strictly commercial bent, focused solely on the acquisition of orders. Today, taking part in a fair means primarily getting a chance to meet clients and it is an important opportunity for dialogue.
This applies to all fairs in general but takes on particular value for sector events such as Fastener Fair Stuttgart – the international exhibition for the fastener and fixing industry at the Stuttgart Exhibition Grounds from 19th – 21st March 2019. This was the 8th edition of the show, which saw an attendance of 12,070 visitors from 90 countries, all there to see the latest new entries showcased by fastener producers.
In a net exhibition space of 22,200m², a total of 987 exhibitors from 48 countries presented their ranges of screws, bolts, industrial fastenings, fixings for building, installation and assembly systems, and machines for the production of screws and bolts.
According to the results of a survey, 70% of visitors were from the EU, with Germany in the lead, followed by Italy and Great Britain. Then Poland, France, the Netherlands, Turkey, and Spain. There were also large numbers of Asian visitors and exhibitors, especially from China and Taiwan. Most visitors were wholesalers of screws, bolts and fixings in general, followed by producers, technicians and builders.
Predictably, participants’ opinions on the fair are quite varied, even if they generally agree that Fastener Fair Stuttgart is the most important sector event in Europe.
“This fair in Stuttgart,” highlights Paolo Dell’Era from Dell’Era Ermanno e Figlio Srl, “is very important for us producers and therefore we must take part. The first day was yesterday, and things were a bit quiet compared to our expectations and also to past years. Perhaps due to the difficult phase the market is going through, which is not one of the best”.
“In fact, a brilliant January to June 2018 was then followed by a moment of deceleration in business that seems to be continuing into these early months of 2019. Forecasts are for a real recovery in work during the back end of 2019. The bottom line is that I am staying optimistic even though there really is a visible slowdown in trends.”
There was quite a different outlook from Martin Welp, CEO of Dörken MKS-Systeme GmbH & Co KG – a leading company in the surface treatment sector. “First of all, I have to reiterate that this Fastener Fair in Stuttgart is one of the most, if not the most, important events for the European fastener sector. Having said that, I can say that we have a very good first day of the fair. We had many qualified visitors on our stand, interested in our products.”
“The economic situation in general is currently critical due to a series of reasons: Difficulty in the automotive sector due to the pollution problem and, as a consequence penalisation of diesel engines; then there is the economic-political debate with China, not to mention others. In general, however, I am still confident because, even if we are not in an excellent position today, I am certain we will see the economy recover before the end of the year.”
Another optimist is Mario Caracciolo from NOF Metal Coatings, who said: “From when I set foot on our stand, clients and potential clients just kept on coming. I have to say that we have had very interesting, qualified contacts.”
“This time round,” says Laura Missaglia from Scob Srl, an Italian leader in the production of heat treated screws, “the Stuttgart Fair has been disappointing for us. Compared to other editions, I noted a definite slowdown in visitor flow and during negotiations you could feel the weight that is holding down the current economic situation”.
A visit to the exhibition pavilions, situated on the mezzanine floor in hall 1, reveals large numbers of exhibitors from Asia and, above all, from China and Taiwan. Grouped together in rows of standardised stands, the fact that the various Chinese producers showcased similar ranges to visitors was the cause for some bad feeling.
“Too many Chinese manufacturers are offering very similar products,” complained Bruce Yan from Halyan Gete Hardware Co Ltd. “We are all together in this pavilion at the fair, resulting in increased competitiveness, whereas more strategic positioning of the stands would have been more opportune. This is the third time we have taken part in this event, but at past editions the layout of Chinese exhibitors was different and more satisfactory.”
After talking a while with exhibitors from the Republic of China, I moved on to chat with those from Taiwan, who, on par with their Chinese counterparts, have set-up a whole series of standardised stands.
I spoke with David Tsan, president of Wa Tai Industrial Co Ltd, and asked him: ‘Doesn’t the huge concentration of Asian producers at this fair, especially from China and Taiwan, mean that you end up competing with each other and therefore much less with the European manufacturers?’
“I have to agree,” said David Tsan, “the crowding of Taiwanese stands here is due to the limited space at our disposal and was therefore necessary. We couldn’t improve the situation, given that all Taiwanese producers want to take part in this fair, which they consider very important”.
I asked him his opinion on the current economic situation in Europe. “We get the impression that the European economy is headed towards a slowdown, but what is important for us is to continue to keep our work trend high and therefore, if European demand drops, we turn to other markets, such as America, Canada or others.”
Will joined Fastener + Fixing Magazine in 2007 and over the last 10 years has experienced every facet of the fastener sector - interviewing key figures within the industry and visiting leading companies and exhibitions around the globe.
Will manages the content strategy across all platforms and is the guardian for the high editorial standards that the Magazine is renowned.