Traffic Heavy as London DM Show Hits 1998 Stride

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LONDON--Business picked up substantially on the second day of the 20th annual British direct marketing show, according to leading U.S. DM executives attending the conference and exhibit.

"It has been phenomenal," Solar Communications marketing director David Krahn sighed at the end of a long day March 18. "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 little break."

"I'm surprised at the traffic we've seen today," added Solar's CEO Frank Hudetz, who attended the show for the first time in several years. "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."

Solar, which sells card decks and enhanced packaging, has been in Europe since the 1980s and opened a production facility in Brussels in 1991, which it closed in 1995.

"We pulled back because the business was too cyclical then, but we kept a sales office in Europe and David traveled a lot. If the volume picks up, we'd consider coming back with a production plant."

Preregistration figures released by the Reed exhibition company, which organized the show, totaled 17,300 compared to last year's 11,500.

Max Bartko, executive vice president at Direct Media International, 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," he said.

"I have been impressed by the number of requests we have received and by the high level of the attendees," said Group1's CEO Robert S. Bowen. "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.

When asked why he had personally come to the show, Bowen said, "We have been talking to a number of companies who would like to represent our products on international markets and 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 because we see this as a very important part of our future."

Code 1 Plus, a major company product introduced at the Wembley show last year, currently is being used in 204 countries "at the last count," Bowen added.

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 that his initial impression of Wembley 1998 was of "a much busier place" than a year ago.

Susanne Hornikel, international manager for Schober Direct Marketing, a leading German firm, said London has become an international leader and was much more important than the French SiMD show in January, which this year was "small and slow."

Even French direct marketers seemed to share her view with about half a dozen French companies manning stands. Traffic was so heavy it was difficult to get from one end of the exhibition hall to the other.

While nobody had a persuasive explanation for this year's growth, executives pointed to the strong economies in both the United States and the UK and pickup in growth in other parts of Europe. Finally, some said last fall's Asian meltdown and the continued uncertainty among the Tiger economies had refocused U.S. DM interest on Europe.

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