Britain's Interplas 2005 plastics industry show was a pale shadow of its former self in size, reflecting the severe contraction the United Kingdom market has seen in the last three years.
The country's main plastics show, held Oct. 4-6, barely filled one hall at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, compared with three halls in 2002.
A number of major equipment suppliers were absent and many more had downsized their booths.
This year, the value to would-be exhibitors was diluted as Interplas faced competition from a new event, Emap Maclaren's Plastics Design & Moulding show, or PDM 05, in Telford, England in April.
Even so, leading exhibitors that remained committed to Interplas were pleased with the volume and quality of visitors. Some reported securing machinery orders and a string of serious inquiries at the show.
Injection press maker Sandretto was kept busy at one of the largest machinery booths. Sandretto (UK) Ltd. Managing Director Terry O'Reilly reported two firm orders on the event's first day. ``We can always do with more volume. But we had an excellent first day.'' he said. ``We are committed to this exhibition. We get a great deal of value out of it although, of course, we have scaled down [our booth].'' O'Reilly said Sandretto's U.K. market in 2005 has been ``quite flat.'' His firm was emphasizing its capacity to deliver turnkey packages, including automation.
Another satisfied exhibitor was Peter Kirkham, managing director of press maker Billion UK Ltd. of Milton Keynes, England. Billion displayed its new fast-cycle Chronoma presses. Kirkham reported the firm's visitor count was up 50 percent over the last show. He admitted to cutting down booth space but said, ``The days of big stands and lots of people to set them up are over.''
Kirkham reported sealing a deal the first day for a 200-ton, locking-force, twin-shot injection machine and is beginning to attack a good number of inquiries from the show. ``Interplas is where the U.K. market comes to see what's available,'' he said.
One exhibitor expressed disappointment at the changes at Interplas 2005 and serious visitor interest. Roger Underwood, sales and marketing director of thermoforming and ancillary equipment supplier Irwin Research & Development Inc. of Yakima, Wash., said he had expected Interplas to mirror the 2002 event.
Irwin signed up, as required, about 18 months in advance but the firm cut booth space by three quarters and whittled staffing to just three people when the show was downsized to one hall and three days, instead of five.
``We lowered expectations a little bit and lowered expenses a lot. But the first day was an extremely slow day, with traffic pretty low. We only talked to each other and had two ex-customers come by, but not a single inquiry,'' Underwood said. The second morning went likewise, he said.
Underwood said running a machine draws people to a booth, but bringing a machine that is not pre-sold is very expensive. Irwin showed only a granulator at its stand. But Europe still represents an important market for Irwin, with 15-20 percent of the firm's overall capacity shipped there, Underwood said.
ATM Automation Ltd. of Blaby, England, was pleased with the show's outcome. ``We were pleasantly surprised by the number of visitors and also the quality. We actually took five orders on the stand, two of which were from new customers,'' said technical director Sabir Hirji.
At Negri Bossi's booth, Carl Futcher, general manager of the Warwick, England, press maker, reported quite a bit of positive interest on the show's first day.
``Two industry shows [in the United Kingdom] is ridiculous. Interplas has the best chance of success as the industry show. The U.K is still an extremely good market for Negri Bossi,'' he said.
Futcher, whose firm netted three orders, observed cautious optimism among customers, in what has become a fiercely competitive marketplace. Negri Bossi is building up new business on the strength of its electric machine and is winning turnkey package orders, thanks to a recent agreement to supply auxiliary equipment and automation.
Futcher expected success soon in two larger deals: one for 10 machines for a packaging application, and the other more than 10 replacement presses for construction sector work.
Another satisfied injection press supplier was Arburg, which displayed the biggest machine, a 400-tonner.
``Interplas has been a fantastic show for Arburg,'' said sales director Colin Tirel. ``We have taken a lot of leads from companies that we haven't dealt with before and have sold a good number of machines on the stand.''
Interplas organizer Reed shocked the industry with an announcement during the show that it switched its next show date from October 2008 to May 15-18, 2007, just five months before K 2007. The event will last four days, rather than this year's three. That news is bound to give already well-stretched and cost-sensitive supplier companies a fresh headache.