Fakuma makes space for more exhibits, more visitors in 2017

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Photo by Plastics News Visitors exchanging business cards at Fakuma Friedrichshafen, Germany, 17.10.2017. Photo: Plastics News/ Caroline Seidel

The Messe Friedrichshafen is busting at the seams thanks to plastics.

The 25th Fakuma trade show is the largest ever, with nearly 1,900 exhibitors throughout the fairgrounds covering an estimated 85,000 square metres (915,000 square feet) of display space.

They come from near. And they come from far. And they come from in-between.

The show, dating to 1981, started as a regional gathering. And Fakuma remains a strong pull for exhibitors in Germany, which has 1,102 companies taking space this time around. Italy sends 144 and Switzerland adds another 114. A total of 73 companies from Austria also are on the grounds this year.

Bettina Schall, owner of Fakuma organiser PE Schall GmbH & Co. KG, has a simple answer when asked why the gathering continues to grow. Fakuma's continued expansion over time mirrors that of the plastics industry.

"They have a lot of work because the demand is very great," she said about plastics companies.

Fakuma does not meet when the larger K plastics show gathers every third year in Düsseldorf. So while Fakuma has been around since 1981, this is just the 25th gathering.

And that's been a strategy that has worked well for the exhibition company.

Staying away from the K show behemoth, Schall said, has helped Fakuma continue to expand over time.

"It was good because we had the chance to grow up over a lot of years, and the competition was not there because Fakuma was an unknown flower and she could grow up," Schall said.

This year, exhibitors from 37 countries are on the show floor, including one company each from Israel, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Ukraine.

The United States, for its part, shuttled more than 10 exhibitors. And China chips in 118.

Fakuma was last held in 2015, when 45,721 visitors made their way to Friedrichshafen to see 1,784 exhibitors.

This time around, however, show organisers said they shoehorned another 100 companies on site by taking space previously not used, including foyers and a previously used entrance.

But the waiting list for exhibitors only continues to grow, said Fakuma Manager Annemarie Schur. Managing that growth presents its own set of unique challenges.

"This year we have fully booked out all spaces, the foyers, completely," Schur said.

Finding extra space around helps increase the number of exhibitors. But it also is more difficult to provide services, such as electricity, to those booths located in spaces not originally designed for displays.

"Two years ago we had also a waiting list, and this year we have a bigger waiting list," she said. "I don't know what will be next year."

Schur's job as Fakuma's manager would be easier if she could simply tell every potential exhibitor where they could set up. But with more demands for space than space available, her job becomes more challenging to try to satisfy as many exhibitors as possible. Not everyone gets space.

"It's not very easy," she said. "At the moment, it's not possible to grow here."

Having that problem is a nice position to be in for the show, Schur agreed, "but it's very complicated."

Fakuma's beginnings were certainly humble, at least compared to what the show has become. That first show had 60 exhibitors, 4,000 visitors and 4,000 square metres (43,000 square feet) of exhibition space. By 1990, the number of exhibitors had jumped to 620 in 34,000 square metres (366,000 square feet) and the number of attendees reached more than 21,000.

By the turn of the century, there were about 1,300 exhibitors, 35,000 visitors and 55,000 square metres (592,000 square feet) of space. By 2011, those numbers had grown to 1,672 exhibitors, nearly 45,000 visitors and 85,000 square metres.

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