Rain poured down, day after day. Flights, domestic and international, were delayed and canceled. Guangzhou wasn't exactly in top shape for world's second largest plastics trade show in late May.
While topping the K fair on the number of exhibitors, Chinaplas 2015 logged 128,264 of visitors over the four days May 20-23, slightly lower than the 130,370-visitor record it set last year in a sunny and breezy Shanghai.
2015 marks first decline of Chinaplas attendance since 2010. In 2009, the number also took a slight dive, due to the global economic crisis, before resuming the upward trend in 2010.
All things considered, however, the organizer is pleased with the turnout and said it exceeded expectations.
“We had a lower expectation on the visitor number than the actual turn up. So to say, it is a pleasant surprise to us,” Stanley Chu, chairman of Adsale Exhibition Services Ltd., told Plastics News.
Adsale's pre-show projection for attendance was quite conservative at 120,000 upward, about 8 percent lower than 2014, even with the record number of exhibitors. That estimate was largely based on the macroeconomic conditions.
“Adsale has been organizing Chinaplas since 1983. For the past 30 plus years, most of the time, China's plastics industry was in a fast track. Chinaplas was backed strongly by the growth of the industry,” Chu said. “The most important challenge facing Chinaplas today is how to maintain a healthy growth of the exhibition against the overall slowing down of China's economy.”
As China's main economic drivers — infrastructure investment and exports — slow down, the world's factory is struggling to maintain its growth rate.
“The GDP growth of the first quarter of 2015 just reached 7 percent year over year, which is China's worst quarterly result in six years,” Chu explained. “The March 2015 data was particularly worrisome. Exports slumped by 15 percent year-on-year and industrial output growth at 5.6 percent, dipping below the GDP growth level — a phenomenon almost unheard of in recent years.”
“It seems we have to bear with this ‘new normal' for the coming years. That is, slower exports, higher production costs, strong RMB, lack of workers in the coastal industrial zones and an urgent need to upgrade its industry for China in general,” he added.
Chu and his Adsale team responded to the stark reality by stepping up marketing promotions and presenting a variety of concurrent events that tackle the hottest topics in the industry — design, automation, “greenovation” and medical plastics.
“Adsale has to keep innovation on the run,” Chu noted, “Chinaplas will have to come up with meaningful value preposition for its exhibitors and visitors taking into accounts of their current needs and problems.”
He believes these efforts are paying off.
“Despite the unstable weather condition in China during the time of Chinaplas 2015, which caused flight delays and cancelations, we had a very good turn up of visitors,” he said.
“The most pleasing comments from the exhibitors were not on the visitor numbers but on its good quality. Exhibitors were busy handling serious purchase enquires throughout the fair time,” he added.
He emphasized that Adsale will focus on improving the quality of the show in the coming years, instead of focusing on numbers.
That being said, Chu expressed strong optimism for the next show. “We are confident that Chinaplas 2016 — the 30th edition of the show, will reach its historical height.”