Going On ... Without the Show
What a difference a month makes. Last issue, fresh from attending the Inkjet Summit, I wrote exuberantly about being in Austin, Texas, with scores of in‑plant managers and other industry friends, mixing and mingling just like in the old days. Social distancing and masks seemed like distant memories. (Watch the excitement in this new video.)
Then I got home from Texas and read the news about the Delta variant, and dread started creeping back.
That dread was apparently shared by many in the industry, and they began scaling back their earlier enthusiasm for attending PRINTING United Expo in Orlando next month. As COVID cases in Florida rose to record levels, in-plant managers emailed me to say they had decided it wasn’t worth the risk to go to Florida and attend the expo, which is produced by PRINTING United Alliance, IPI’s parent company. Other printers were making the same decision, and show exhibitors started to rethink their participation. They told us they would send less equipment and fewer staff to the expo.
Though we made a valiant attempt to reassure the industry we could hold a safe event, as several other industries have done with shows at the Orange County Convention Center, the reality was, we knew it was not going to be the blockbuster expo we had anticipated; exhibitors would be disappointed with attendance, and attendees would not get to see all the technology they were looking forward to checking out.
We consulted with dozens of exhibitors and regularly monitored attendee sentiment; the weight of opinion supported the tough decision to cancel this year’s show. It’s been extremely disappointing to all of us, especially after our successful Inkjet Summit seemed to demonstrate that the industry was back on track. I had been deep into planning a full-day In-plant Forum, to take place the day before the expo opened, in partnership with the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. I was looking forward to seeing in-plant managers again in October, after so many months apart. Now we’ve all got to wait a little longer.
There’s not much more to say. The decision’s been made, and we all have to move on.
By now, though, most of you already have. You’re back in your normal routines, with business returning and many remote employees back on-site. So the return of COVID precautions due to the Delta variant is a frustrating development, fraught with confusion. We all see those “masks required” signs on storefronts and office buildings, and wonder, “Do they mean it? Or is this just an old sign from 2020?”
I had supposed that the safety signage flood that kept in-plants busy over the past year had dried to a trickle by now. Yet that doesn’t appear to be the case. When schools and businesses switched from mandatory to optional masking in the spring, they replaced their signage; when Delta arrived, many switched the message back. Each time, their in-plants were busy printing new signage. Some continue to boast record volumes. Several expanded their wide-format capabilities because of the ongoing demand for graphics.
For many in-plants, that COVID signage work has led to additional wall, window, and floor graphics jobs. These include graduation yard signs, a pandemic-inspired product that some managers say has grown even more popular this year. One told me his shop has done 10 times as many yard signs in 2021 as it did in 2020.
Clearly, in-plants are moving forward, and so will we, despite our disappointment over the show. Our mission to keep you informed has not wavered one bit. Likewise, our parent organization, PRINTING United Alliance, will continue to serve the industry with market research, economics, government affairs, human resources, training, education, and a host of other events. We will see you again soon.