By Andy Slawetsky – For the first time in a while, I spent some time at this year’s ITEX held at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. I remember when Marc Spring started it years ago, where he had legends like my dad Lou, Dick Norton and Bob Sostilio on the cover of an early magazine as super heroes (sorry Avengers, it was done years ago!). Well, Marc took his money and ran and the show slowly declined in attendance and popularity. Flash forward a few years and he’s back, re-acquiring the show he started in an attempt to bring it back to its days of grandeur.
The show itself consisted of a smaller floor than past events, with fewer Chinese aftermarket companies hosting booths than the last time I attended (several years ago). I hope ITEX continues to minimize these types of exhibiters in the future; they’re interesting but really not the kinds of companies that dealers work with.
There were tons of “relevant” booths, with printer OEMS, MPS companies, “legit” aftermarket vendors, leasing companies and pretty much everything a dealer might need to improve their profitability, find new products and services or just touch base with current suppliers.
The floor looked great and reminded me of a smaller NOMNDA. Instead of the smaller rooms of intimate regional shows we generally see today, companies like HP, Epson, Muratec and OKI Data had plenty of room to show off their hardware with full size floor plans.
In one afternoon, dealers in attendance were able to check out OKI Data’s wide format printers, see Epson’s new 100-PPM inkjet MFP, get a demo of Muratec’s label printers and play around with HP’s new A3 products. Clover Imaging even had a Harley Davidson they auctioned off to a customer on the floor! Where else can you do this? Nowhere.
What other kinds of companies were there? There were some managed services companies on the floor, BEI was there touting their service metrics programs, GreatAmerica had a space age theme with flight jackets for their booth staff as they showed their new scan submission app, ACDI and PaperCut had a nice booth where Lexmark had a device placed and Digitek and DocuWare both showcased their services at nice booths. There were plenty of others.
The Keynote was apparently excellent (I missed it) with Adam Fish of Google giving a speech titled “Growing Your Business with Digital in a Mobile-First World. I heard great things from people who were able to attend.
The education track for the show was pretty substantial, providing dealers with sessions on MPS, managed services, business inkjet opportunities and even a fun panel that I ran on Next Generation Leaders, chatting with three dealers that have moved into leadership roles at their family business. In all, I think there were 30 sessions, something for pretty much everybody.
The exhibition wasn’t just busy during the day. There were plenty of social events surrounding the show. Muratec started things off with Label University, where over 100 people attended demos and presentations on their label printers. Following that was a party hosted by MPSA at a Mexican restaurant, a short walk from ITEX. Clover held a party the following night and ACDI closed out the event with a well-attended after party at Top Golf.
Logistically, there were some issues. The event PA blaring during the show was extremely disruptive to presenters conducting sessions. There were other hiccups as well, but it’s the team’s first time back in the saddle and I’m sure they’ll fix these issues going forward.
Logistics aside, this was a pretty good show. They’ve got some work to do but it was better than the last one I attended a while back in Washington DC (tied to On Demand I think). It’s the only show I know of where a dealer can come see multiple vendors showcasing larger products – multiple machines, not just a desktop printer on a table. The space afforded to exhibitors provides them with the real estate they need to show products they can’t display at the smaller shows.
ITEX did a great job trying to increase show traffic by timing it around other events, like Muratec’s Label University, the Pros Elite event, etc. Moves like this going forward are providing ITEX with an opportunity to rebuild itself into the event of the year that it used to be. Even vendors that weren’t in booths were represented as I ran into people like like Mike Stramaglio from MWA and Chris Polek of Polek and Polek.
This was a pretty good couple of days for vendors and attendees. Personally, I met a lot of new people and was able to spend time with many familiar faces. I know many dealers aren’t looking at yet another show to attend and who can blame them. They’re already traveling to vendor shows, association shows, customer events, etc.
But this one offers something the others don’t; it’s agnostic. You can see everything under one roof. Looking for another brand? You can see the hardware from Epson, OKI, HP and Muratec right there. Going forward, I’m sure more brands will show product here, it’s too good of an opportunity not to showcase product if you’re in recruitment mode. And then there are the seminars, given by your dealer peers and by industry experts such as Infotrends and others. And this isn’t just a couple of sessions; there were 30!
ITEX is a valuable show to this industry. It’s the only show of its kind with this scale. While I think it has slid in past years, I’m encouraged by the new ownership and thoughts on how they plan to bring it back to it’s days of glory. It was a good week in Las Vegas.