The SPESA show is no more

You should know this entry has been redacted substantively because it was one long rant. You can find the original entry if you’re a forum member.

The big news is that the SPESA show is no longer. It will be taken over by Messe Frankfurt Exhibition, a German firm specializing in textile related industry events. While I do not like change, this is good news. First, they’re very professional, I could write reams about that. They had their own show held in conjunction with SPESA but their section was stellar. It had its own identity and footprint, the booths were clearly marked by number. Their section was brighter, livelier and more heavily trafficked -probably because you could find things there- unlike SPESA. Upon my return, I received several follow up emails from show management, one of which was an excel file that listed all the exhibitors and included their contact information. This is a valuable service for exhibitors and attendees alike. Sometimes bigger is better because bigger is better. They have their act together.

The only barrier I see in retrospect is branding the new show in the US. It’s well known abroad (Messe Frankfurt currently runs the largest apparel tradeshow in the world) but not so much here. The name for the US show to replace SPESA is Texprocess Americas. Also, the show will be held every two years rather than three. The next event will be April 24-26 2012 in Atlanta GA.

I was very dissatisfied with how SPESA ran their section of the event and based on private conversations with several exhibitors, they were less than enchanted too. SPESA is a small family business of which most if not all employees are family members. That may seem like a good thing since we love family businesses but [rant redacted]. Again, sometimes bigger is better because bigger is better. They have their act together. Techtextil (managed by Messe Frankfurt) gave us press credentials and directed us to the amenities we needed to work the floor. At SPESA, we were repeatedly stopped by security because of our cameras. [rant redacted] Worse, many SPESA member stalwarts completely ignored us once we said we weren’t manufacturing, they didn’t care to talk to press. Just who do they think is in a position to broadcast their products and services? It’s not as though they were doing me any favors, this show couldn’t be described as the hottest ticket in publishing. I felt like I was catty corned parked midway into the Twilight Zone. And you think I’m old school? I’m a comparative infant.

Messe Frankfurt (Techtextil) was the polar opposite, they held a press breakfast and maintained ongoing contact before and after the show. Sure, it was a branding op to get their message out but it was also intimate with close proximity to direct frank questions and comments. I still haven’t gone through all of the material and notes but I’m optimistic and pleased. SPESA staff were not accommodating to the press. Or maybe they were if [long rant redacted]. SPESA as a membership organization will live on even though the show won’t.

The biggest problem with the SPESA show was something so basic you never question its necessity until it is lacking. There were no booth numbers. Anywhere. Not on individual exhibitor booth headers nor along the floor. I can only imagine that SPESA itself arranged for the making of the booth headers, nothing else explains the uniform lack of booth numbers. Each aisle of the show floor had an overhead banner listing the range of booth numbers contained within it but this was largely useless. Imagine trying to find a given business or address in a long densely populated city block where each location looks the same only there are no address numbers on each door and you’ll get an idea of what I mean. You have to walk the entire block peering into each window to find what you’re looking for -on both sides of the street. Worse, because there were no floor plan maps in the SPESA show guide you couldn’t navigate to a given booth based on its proximity to a large flagship exhibitor. There were some maps halfway down every third or fourth aisle but none at the entry points meaning you had to walk halfway into the length of the show to find anything. And even then, many maps didn’t have “you are here” indicators. Mr Fashion-Incubator and I used guerrilla tactics and applied fluorescent star stickers to the maps and hand wrote “you are here” on them. If anything to make it easier for us when we passed by the sign again.

Ugh, this has been one long complaint, sorry about that. The long and short of it was that due to non-existent signage, I couldn’t find vendors I’d met in 2007 except accidentally nor could I find vendors I’d wanted to see this time. If I were an exhibitor, I’d be angry. We were reduced to going up and down each aisle [rant redacted] and also hoping we didn’t overlook a booth that was foreshadowed by a more prominent neighboring booth. One thing that was really surprising to me was that many booths were scaled back from 2007, some didn’t have the people in attendance that I expected, a skeleton crew of sorts. I don’t know if this was because the exhibition fees were higher (I don’t know if they were) or because of the economy or whether the management of given exhibitors were displeased with SPESA show management. All three could have been a reason but I don’t know.

Now that I’ve vented my spleen, I’ll write more productively about other exhibitors we did visit in follow up to my earlier entries. Until this happened, I had no idea to the extent I navigate by numbers so I was utterly disoriented. It had a very significant impact on my coverage and enjoyment of the show.

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  1. The shows I’ve attended only have the aisle numbers on banners hung high. Some booths put their booth number inside. We all get signage in our booth with our name and number, but most people take them down and use their own logo-ed signage. I never thought about any other solution except look down the odd & even sides in an aisle and count from the few vendors who use the provided signage. Good idea to have numbers somehow unobtrusively labeling the booth.

    I’ve attended Texworld (Messe Frankfurt show) and do remember high banners, but can’t remember booth numbers (maybe because I’m not used to looking for them).

    Your rant was interesting, restrained, and fair.


  2. Mark Miller says:

    While I cannot comment on this particular show…our company is a 6 year exhibitor at ISPO in Munich. this show catering to the Winter Sports business is held in February and is another show run by the Messe… While every show promoter has it faults and mis-steps, (this year ISPO Management brought in an outsider to “merchandise” the show in particular the ISPOVISION hall – a venue for HIGH END High Fashion…this woman did not know what she was doing, did not know the brands, and looked to create an entire knew philosophy …that DID NOT work)…but otherwise they have always been very organized and have done alot of online registration LONG before any US shows came on board with that. They just “get” alot of things and continulally strive to use technology in their trade show “back end”.

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