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Exhibitors beginning to target 'niche fairs'

Fair organizers are not up to dealing with the chaos that such numbers cause. But most exhibitors are delighted with the sales opportunities that fairs offer, and say trade shows are among the most important marketing strategies available in Slovakia.
Martin Gartner, a representative with the advertising agency Image s.r.o., felt that major brand names had little choice but to attend industry fairs. "If you are a serious market brand, you have to organize an exhibition at the fair for your industry," he said. "It can't be cheap, because it's a question of building up your image in a very competitive market."
Gartner, a former advertising representative for the car manufacturer Daewoo Corporation, said that auto fairs offered much more than just a chance to wow consumers with a flashy exhibit. "You have the chance to meet and talk to experts from your branch of industry," he said.

Fair organizers are not up to dealing with the chaos that such numbers cause. But most exhibitors are delighted with the sales opportunities that fairs offer, and say trade shows are among the most important marketing strategies available in Slovakia.

Martin Gartner, a representative with the advertising agency Image s.r.o., felt that major brand names had little choice but to attend industry fairs. "If you are a serious market brand, you have to organize an exhibition at the fair for your industry," he said. "It can't be cheap, because it's a question of building up your image in a very competitive market."

Gartner, a former advertising representative for the car manufacturer Daewoo Corporation, said that auto fairs offered much more than just a chance to wow consumers with a flashy exhibit. "You have the chance to meet and talk to experts from your branch of industry," he said. "In the auto industry, these would involve top-level contacts with new suppliers of car cosmetics, accessories, leasing partners, new dealers - the works."

Iveta Verešová, Communi-cations Manager of IBM Slovakia s.r.o., agreed that some Slovak electronics industry fairs were vital opportunities for her company. "We will continue to attend FINEX (in Banská Bystrica)," she said. "It is a network-oriented fair, dedicated to the financial sector, in which we are particularly strong, so it made sense to go."

But Verešová confessed that she was less happy with general-appeal fairs like COFAX, held at Incheba Congress and Exhibition Center in Bratislava. "Our experience at COFAX from previous years was not positive enough that we had a strong reason to come again," she said. "It was too overcrowded with unspecialized and unqualified visitors, and when we received very important invited guests, there was no room to move around. Besides," she added, "we had to pay a very high price to attend."

Verešová said that IBM Slovakia, along with competitors Microsoft and DAC, had in fact "given up general trade shows this (coming) year," preferring instead to focus on "special marketing activities approaching selected sectors of the industry with our message, products and programs." General fairs, she added, just weren't bringing the right kind of consumer. "We are targeting decision makers in various sectors," she said. "Children are not our target group."

Viera Janatová, director of fairs and exhibitions at Incheba a.s., confirmed the trend towards specialization in exhibitions in Slovakia. "It is something that can be seen all around the world," she said. "It's a more effective way for businessmen to present their companies, and a way for customers to use their shopping time more efficiently."

But Janatová questioned the logic of firms who decided simply not to attend fairs. "It is often young people, the future of the economy, who have the greatest interest in new technology, even though they may not have the money to spend," she said. "If firms are only making special presentations to invited clients, young people are excluded from the market."

Alexander Škurla, marketing director at Incheba, said that his firm had made changes to the layout of general fairs to offer exhibitors some of the advantages found only at specialized fairs. "The general building trade fair CONECO is our most successful," he said. "What we now do is to divide exhibits into different halls - one, for example, might display roofing material exhibits, the next one windows and frames, the next doors and so on."

Škurla speculated that this new kind of exhibition layout, in combining the advantages of both general and specific displays, represented the future of the fair industry in Slovakia. "I predict that in the near future we are going to see a consolidation of exhibition firms on the domestic market," he said. "There was a boom in the beginning, after 1989, but the current development of the market is not sufficient to support so much competition. And exhibitors are becoming much more serious - they are not just going to continue throwing money out the window if they don't get the results they are looking for."

But for Gartner, general industry fairs were still a source of immense satisfaction. Statistics provided by Incheba show that fully 54 percent of Autosalon 1997 visitors intended to purchase a car within the next three years. "Every father is interested in a good car for his family," said Gartner. "At auto shows you can see all new car brands in your country without having to go from showroom to showroom. Children can have fun, and since cars are still very much lifestyle symbols, these all-in-one fairs are very important."

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