Declining computer fair Cebit seeks rescue

20th December 2006, Comments 0 comments

19 December 2006, Hanover, Germany (dpa) - The glory days of the computer and consumer-electronics trade fair Cebit in Hanover, Germany are long gone, with the list of multinational companies that do not attend starting to look like a who's who of the electronics industry.

19 December 2006

Hanover, Germany (dpa) - The glory days of the computer and consumer-electronics trade fair Cebit in Hanover, Germany are long gone, with the list of multinational companies that do not attend starting to look like a who's who of the electronics industry.

Since the tail end of the dot-com boom in 2001, it has been death by a thousand cuts for a trade show which used to boast that it was bigger than anything the United States or Asia had to offer.

Cebit has been steadily shrinking, whether the count is by exhibitor numbers, visitor numbers or the stand space rented.

Among the big-name companies that have announced they will not be exhibiting next March are Nokia of Finland and Motorola of the United States. BenQ of Taiwan and Lenovo of China have also joined the non-attender camp. Philips quit the 2006 Cebit.

The organisers, the Hanover fair company, are now desperately looking for answers. Sources have told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that a completely new and more attractive structure is planned for the show in 2008.

In a letter to exhibitors, obtained by dpa, Cebit chief Ernst Raue has admitted organizers must act fast and said "intensive" work was being done to "reposition" the fair, improve its appearance and and make it a more "effective" event for the exhibitors.

The exhibitors, many from Asia, pay dearly to rent stand space and fly in staff to sweet-talk potential trade customers.

The unsold space - others to cry off next year include LG of South Korea and Konica Minolta of Japan - mean that the fairgrounds, a sprawling site covered with pavilions on the edge of the city, may lose as much as 15 per cent of revenue compared to 2006.

Sources say they expect sold space to come in at about 260,000 square metres, down 40,000 from 2006 and a far cry from the record 431,000 square metres of 2001, when 8,100 exhibitors took part.

Next year's tally of exhibitors will be about 6,000, relatively constant, but many big-spending exhibitors will be gone.

Some of the blame goes to the weak growth in Europe of Cebit's business sector, where the consumer-electronics industry now dominates what was once seen as a domain of computer specialists.

Pricing is extremely keen in the computer business, manufacturers must live off slender mark-ups and the pressure to save is heavy. So it is no surprise that trade-fair budgets are one of the first things to go at many companies.

Some big electronics manufacturers are also questioning whether they need to take part in trade fairs like Cebit at all.

Nokia, the world's biggest maker of mobile phones, says it can reach out to customers better with its own Nokia shows, adding that "customer-targetted promotion" is the area it wants to develop.

The rise of the IFA consumer-electronics show in Berlin, 250 kilometres to the east, has been a body blow to Cebit. Since 2005, IFA has been held annually instead of every two years, and consumer glitz is IFA's overt role whereas Cebit tries to be trade-oriented.

Despite the talk of repositioning, Cebit's organizers have not found the answers yet. Sources say the Cebit after next is likely to be promoted as a trade show for professionals, not enthusiasts, to stress that Cebit is not like IFA.

Also in store are efforts to cater specifically to core groups, arranged by applications, rather than trying to be an over-arching industry fair.

The same site hosts the Hanover Fair, Germany's classic general trade fair, which was in decline until it became more focussed on fewer industries and offered visitors a clear structure.

Another change that may appeal to customers would be to cut the duration of Cebit from seven to six days and do without a weekend.

While running through a weekend appeals to computer enthusiasts, the time is wasted for exhibitors because trade buyers stay away.

"Weekends also sharply push up the cost of exhibiting," one inside explained.

Copyright DPA

Subject: German news


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