Sweden: Trade fairs on the up again

Stockholmsmässan expects 2016 to be a strong year for fairs simply because more non-annual fairs are scheduled. In addition, the company is developing new event formats and improving its digital offerings.

In April the biannual construction fair Nordbygg will take place in Stockholm again. (Photo: Stockholmsmässan)
In April the biannual construction fair Nordbygg will take place in Stockholm again. (Photo: Stockholmsmässan)

Executives of the company based in the Swedish capital are currently very satisfied. “2015 went pretty well for us. The trade fair market appears to have slowly recovered,” says Patric Sjöberg, Stockholmsmässen’s CEO, who goes on to talk about positive signals. Prior to that, there had been a number of years in which restraint was required. Many exhibitors responded to the economic situation by adopting a cautious approach. The Stockholm-based trade fair company has taken advantage of the more favourable recent circumstances to establish new events on the market. At the end of last year, a series of trade fairs was launched with a common theme: “Fit for Life”. Each of them is a combination of beauty fair, health fair and fitness festival. The mix has proved very popular with visitors. 

 
 
“We know how to deal with a fluctuating event calendar now,” says Patric Sjöberg. (Photo: Stockholmsmässan)
“We know how to deal with a fluctuating event calendar now,” says Patric Sjöberg. (Photo: Stockholmsmässan)

It’s not just trade fairs that have been going well, however; the convention segment also recorded a number of high points last year. “We again hosted a number of important international medical conventions,” enthuses Patric Sjöberg. “They included the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, which was attended by around 17,000 delegates.” There have also been plenty of developments in terms of the services provided. The leading Swedish trade fair company has introduced “responsive” web pages, which are presented differently depending on whether they are viewed on a PC, a smartphone or a tablet, for example. In addition, there is a new digital portal where exhibitors can find all the information they need. They can also use it to place all their orders at one go. “These online initiatives make life much simpler for everyone involved,” emphasises Sjöberg. “Both exhibitors and visitors.” They save time and are able to work more efficiently. The digital services are to be further developed in tandem with a Swedish startup company – with the aim of replacing existing apps with modern ones, including indoor visitor guidance.

Some of these will certainly be used increasingly in 2016. As in every even-numbered year, the calendar in Stockholm is full to the brim. In addition to important annual industry get-togethers such as the Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair, further major events are held every other year. The Nordic Building and Construction Fair Nordbygg and GastroNord for the hotel, restaurant and catering trade are taking place in April. But by no means is Stockholmsmässan resting on its laurels: “Business development is a high priority for us,” declares Patric Sjöberg. “We will be focusing on the further development of our ConfEx events.” These are new event formats that are neither typical trade fairs nor conventions. The Stockholmsmässan boss describes them as “event-style conferences” with customers, who are integrated as sponsors, exhibitors or both. 

“The positive development of Stockholm as an attractive location is a key trend.” (Photo: TFI)
“The positive development of Stockholm as an attractive location is a key trend.” (Photo: TFI)

He has a further reason for believing in the company’s success in 2016 and beyond. “Three years ago we underwent a painful streamlining process,” reports Sjöberg. “As an organisation, we have now learned how to handle an event calendar that varies in intensity.” Increased adaptability and much greater cost flexibility are the secret. The outcome is that the company is very well positioned for the near future. At worst, the current uncertainty in the global economy could put a slight damper on its progress. However, there are also reasons for thinking there may be further vigorous growth. One key trend is that Stockholm is developing well in terms of attractive leisure offerings and as a business hub. By way of example, Sjöberg mentions its strength in music, design, information and communication technology, the biosciences and environmental technology. 

GastroNord is always hosted in the even years. (Photo: Stockholmsmässan)
GastroNord is always hosted in the even years. (Photo: Stockholmsmässan)

The recent Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair illustrates how well the city works as a trade fair host and lifestyle destination. “It’s one of our largest, most international trade fairs, and it’s of huge importance to our company and the city,” explains Sjöberg. The fair is held during Stockholm Design Week. Consequently, the exhibition halls are filled with designers, architects, interior decorators, artists and developers during the day, while at night they head for the city centre and its design-related showrooms, restaurants, theatres and other attractions. “It becomes an all-encompassing design experience,” says Sjöberg. “And it’s an experience that proves extremely popular with our visitors”, culminating in a win-win situation: “On the one hand, the city of Stockholm is promoted as a centre for business. On the other, it also bolsters the event’s position as the world’s number one trade fair for furniture and lighting design” (www.stockholmsmassan.se).

Author: Peter Borstel

This article was published in TFI issue 1/2016

 
 

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