Surprisingly positive despite the economic gloom and nervousness going into 2012 As the world’s largest marine trade show came to an end last Thursday afternoon and exhibitors broke down their stands, there was a certain sense of relief.
Business had been decent for some, even brisk in some quarters, and though the mood in some halls was sombre at times — winner of the overall DAME award SCM’s business development manager Gianluca Silvestri felt the need on accepting the award to give a rallying call to his fellow Italians in light of the dispiriting headlines of his country’s economic demise — by far the overriding sentiment was that despite the market turmoil outside the RAI exhibition centre, inside the wheels were far from falling off our industry.
Though pretty much everyone canvassed by IBI was nervous about 2012, there were positives to be taken from the event – not least the 270-plus new products being launched at the show – and the fact that METS is perhaps one of only a handful of shows in the industry that can claim an increase in visitor and exhibitor numbers (19,232 and 1,331 compared to 18,861 and 1,320 respectively last year).
“I’m not surprised by the attendance, METS has become a place where we get together on an international level and talk and learn about each other’s markets and difficulties, but also opportunities. What did surprise me is the positive buzz about some actual movements in the marketplace,” Erlend Prytz of the Norwegian boat association NORBOAT told IBI after the show.
The opening day felt quieter in terms of foot traffic, but that was made up for on the Wednesday, traditionally the busiest day of the show. Thursday tailed off a little toward the end, understandable perhaps as the show began to pack itself away and the taxi ranks swelled with visitors headed for Schipol hoping to beat the bank of fog that would later envelop much of Northern Europe.
There is no doubt that visitor habits changed – a growing number decided to attend the event for just one or two nights, rather than the customary three and businesses were sending filleted down teams to cover the event to keep overheads to a minimum. The organisers confirmed that hotel bookings had been down.
“Our focus was to meet new potential dealers and I think we have achieved that,” said Nick Griffin, director at Ultrasonic Antifouling in the UK. “In comparison to last year, visitor numbers to our stand increased considerably.”
"Wilks has been exhibiting at METS for 20 years and the first two days of this year's show was as good as any that we have experienced during this time,” concurred Chris Berry, joint managing director at the UK synthetic deck manufacturer.
“I thought that the numbers were similar, but with more SY yard personnel on the floor,” Ned Wood of New Zealand anchor manufacturer Manson Anchors told IBI. “I would say that we had far less from the production boatbuilders and almost all our contacts were superyacht related or distributors/retailers. The show was busy for us, and consistently so. Wednesday was the most busy day in terms of new interest but we still had meetings on most days.”
That attendance was up by a couple of per cent on 2010 would normally be of little consequence — the organisers have always been first to acknowledge that it’s quality rather than quantity that matters when it comes to visitors at METS — but this year in particular the numbers hold extra significance and should give the industry heart. When the macro-economic picture outside the RAI looks so glum, it’s reassuring to see that on some level inside the halls, business was still ticking over.