British DM Show Attracts Visitors from 40 Countries
Deck: Record Attendance Reflects Booming DM Industry
By Thomas Weyr
LONDON - American direct marketers at the British DM fair last month uniformly praised the event as the best ever, both in terms of the number of attendees and the high quality of contacts they made here.
Although organizers had expected a crowd of 20,000, the 12,500 who actually attended set a new record, and clearly more CEOs and other top executives came than in years past.
The number of exhibitors totaled 312, about 30 more than in 1997. Close to 35 exhibitors were from outside the UK or foreign companies with British subsidiaries. Far more French and German DM companies exhibited than in the past.
A much larger number of foreigners, including many Americans, streamed through the aisles, almost 350 on the first day alone. And they came from 40 countries including Barbados, Khazakstan and Iceland. Organizers counted 87 Americans, by far the largest contingent.
USPS organized a US pavilion at the show which provided booths for half a dozen US companies. The post office used the show to push its "Gateway" concept to attract firms interested in the US market. (see p. TK)
The amount of business done at the show also surprised exhibitors and visitors, although they agreed that it reflected the robust growth of the DM industry in the UK, whose economy has been pacing Europe's recovery.
The British have been reaping a double benefit from this trend - first, more Americans than ever now look to the UK as a lucrative market on its own merits, and second, more of them are using it as jumping off base for invading the continent.
"It has been phenomenal," David Krahn, Solar Communications marketing director, said. "There is just no comparison to the volume of business we did last year. I'm glad when conference sessions start; they give us a break."
"I'm surprised at the traffic we've seen ," Solar's CEO Frank Hudetz, whose company sells card decks and enhanced packaging, said. "I had no idea we'd get that kind of reception. And all the other stands have had a lot of business. This is a very alive place."
Max Bartko, Direct Media International's Executive VP, said the pickup in business this year was nothing short of amazing. "The last six or seven months have really seen a business surge and it is reflected here at the show."
"I have been impressed by the number of requests we have received and by the high level of the attendees," Group1's CEO Robert S. Bowen said. "This is an exciting show in terms of opportunity.
"We have seen excellent traffic in both quality and quantity and a high degree of interest in our products shown by people coming into the booth." Group1 is a major developer of postal and other software.
Bowen said he came to London because "I wanted to get a feel for the international scene. This is a major thrust for our company and we are devoting large resources to making sure that our international growth continues. We see this as a very important part of our future."
Ralph Stevens, president of Knox-Stevens a New York list company with a London office, noted that his European business has improved markedly in the last year, and he said that his initial impression of Wembley 1998 was of "a much busier place" than it had been last year.
"We've had a very good impression,' Gregory E. Gaito, marketing manager of Webcraft Technologies, a Pennsylvania-based integrated DM company, said.
"Traffic has been good with folks who came by eager to learn more about our capability, and the traffic was much larger than we thought it would be.
"People know us in the US, but nobody knows us here yet those who came by asked good questions on how we do things in the US and how our capabilities could fit into this market."
"This was an incredible show," Rene Dallaire of Database America said. "We couldn't handle the traffic. This is a gold mine. We got a lot of leads and opportunities."
"We had 200 leads on the first day," Neil McCarthy of Worldwide Media, which has just concluded a strategic alliance with the Lake Group in the US, said. "Last year we had 60. That's a lot of people in one day."
Peter Kempsey of Printronics, another major UK DM company said much the same thing. "Major industry players came by our stand for serious conversation." He also noted that DM budgets were rising across the UK.
"This was an excellent show," Jerry Messer, the CEO of Data Services, a Maryland-based DM company, said. "I've been coming here for seven years and there were more people crowding the aisle than I have ever seen before. We did some good business."
Dutch list company owner Jan Evers of EDM may have summed it up best when he said, "this is the first show where we are going to make some money. Before we were just investing."