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Vinexpo 2009. Less Visitors. Good Contacs.

Vinexpo 2009 closed its doors at the Exhibition Centre of Bordeaux Le Lac on 25th June 2009. Was this internationally renowned wine fair a success? A resume by Petronella Salvi.

Vinexpo 2009. Less Visitors. Good Contacs.
Petronella Salvi (Foto: Joe Haider)

Vinexpo 2009 closed its doors at the Exhibition Centre of Bordeaux Le Lac on 25th June 2009. Was this internationally renowned wine fair a success? Indeed, it was – for some! The hopes and aspirations of the organisers and those who participated were fulfilled. But to what degree?

On Wednesday, certain local Bordeaux news media esteemed the tendency and the overall atmosphere to be morose. Was it therefore really a lukewarm success?

Figures disclosed by Vinexpo in their final press communiqué state the attendance of 46,621 visitors from 135 countries, of whom 34% were foreigners – 15,851 persons; thus creating a new record of non-French presence. In 2007, 50,433 people (3.1% up from 2005) visited the fair, of whom 33% from outside France.

The smaller attendance was expected due to the internationally unstable economic situation. Therefore, it seems that the crisis is responsible for a drop of 7.56% in attendance. This appears to be a less important downturn than expected against the background of the currant business atmosphere. There were more visitors from the United Kingdom than in 2007 (1.5%), but the most noticeable growth in a specific market segment was the presence of 63.31% (growth over the 2007 fair) more people from China and Hong Kong.

Apart from the Far East, 24.32% more Norwegians, 37.25% more Brazilians, 92.86% more visitors from Thailand and surprisingly, only 3.2% more Japanese, visited Vinexpo. In spite of the economic suffering on the North American continent, the attendance was stable, according to the organisers, with 1,660 visitors – two thirds American and 1/3 Canadian. Europe shows a growth of approximately 4%, with Norway being the pleasant surprise. The largest part of the absentees were from South Korea (less 51.5%), Taiwan (- 33.8%) and Russia (- 35.34%).

1,367 journalists from 54 countries covered the event and were present.

The relatively new concept, Marketers by Vinexpo (46 companies from 11 countries), enticed 12,597 visitors to walk across the waterway in order to reach the “Palais de Congrès”. The various events, conferences and presentations organised in the different meeting facilities were very popular and 10,000 persons participated. The 70 tasting events were also very well attended.

In 2007, 2,400 exhibitors from 45 countries occupied 41,000m² (French exhibitors covered 23,687m²). 2009 was nearly similar.

The President of Vinexpo, Xavier de Eizaguirre, announced during the closing press conference that, “The mood is no longer morose: there are signs to prove that confidence is resurfacing, buyers are buying and the morale of both wine merchants (négociants) and producers has returned.
We rejoice in the fact that this 15th Edition of Vinexpo delivered very satisfactory quantifiable results and showed lively commercial action after several months of doubt concerning the international wine market.”

Vinexpo prides itself in reflecting the state of health of the world wine and spirits market and was characterised by a dynamic show, pointing to a turning point in the minds of the decision makers of this market segment. How realistic is this view of the economic fallout of the fair?

But what did some of the exhibitors, whether producers or wine merchants, themselves feel about the state of affairs and the prospects created, or not, by Vinexpo 2009?

Who were the visitors to Vinexpo in 2009?

Who were the visitors to Vinexpo in 2009?
Vinexpo opens again in June 2011.

Producers and wine merchants who wanted to meet with the large American buyers were decidedly disappointed that relatively few decided to attend and therefore, they will have to make more direct efforts to place their products on these markets.

Likewise, the majority of buyers from the supermarkets of Great Britain were noticeable absent. This was another blow to those who aimed at presenting their products to this very important market and hoped to create an economically viable opportunity to demonstrate their quality, expertise and business acumen. It was apparent that the buyers, who did attend, were present in reduced teams, or even alone, but some definitely had more decision making authority. Some admitted that they came to gauge the atmosphere, but conveniently left their cheque books at home!

Buyers from most countries came to Vinexpo with practically fixed shopping lists or they were set upon relatively precise projects. They remained realistic in their approach within the limits of both their budget and requirements. Particularly Oriental visitors are accustomed to work strictly according to a predetermined schedule of prearranged appointments. Those with more experience of working with Occidental clients, or prospective clients, have become more flexible in their approach.

Most visitors or buyers, and specifically those who had the pre-established intention to buy or to tighten ties or to prospect new markets or products, came well prepared. They did their business with singular concentration, moving on when they achieved their objectives. Those looking for new contacts or freshening up existing ones, or tightening up commercial relationships went about their hunting systematically and then left. One can sum up by saying that they came with firm intentions, rather than idly discovering and falling in love with a product or service!

And what was the feeling of the producers and wine merchants investing time and money to be present at Vinexpo 2009?

Those who did not do their homework and prepare their briefs were sorely disappointed and the world passed them by. The fair was not just about having a superbly attractive stand with beautiful hostesses and fancy packaging. Of course, all these elements still play a certain role and have fringe importance. The company with serious intention to do business, sign contract, prospect positively and enhance ties with existing customers, came armed with the right business strategy. The decision makers of the exhibiting company were present, and available with a carefully programmed agenda to handle any commercial contact that presented itself.

Roberto Bava of Bava, in Cocconota (Northern Italy), summed their experience up as follows: “it was not a bad fair and we were nicely busy. However, the “minus 30%” factor was as noticeable here as in restaurant attendance, hotel occupation, wine sales, margins … The solid reputation of Piedmonte and the brand knowledge of the region makes this less dramatic. But the problem exists. The main question is how long can we survive the “minus 30” factor ? We hope that summer will change the trend.” The stand was visited regularly thanks to prearranged appointments and the company hopes to turn the prospects of Vinexpo 2009 into solid business.

Allen Sichel of Maison Sichel in Bordeaux, was delighted to be so busy. “We were busy from Sunday to Wednesday and made a few, very good contacts. We suspect that there were fewer visitors, but those there made sure they made it worthwhile being there – they meant business.” In his view, the other exhibitors from the Bordeaux region felt basically the same.

Unfortunately, other exhibitors were left high and dry and felt that Vinexpo 2009 did not live up to their expectations at all. Some areas of the fair had a sadly deserted aura!

Obviously, the reactions and results are nuanced and the follow up to turn prospects into hard, and hopefully, lasting business in this time of crisis is what matters ! Overall, it was less morose than the local, “Sud Ouest” newspaper announced during the fair. But nobody was over optimistic about its direct effect either. The economic situation will have the last word.

An interesting recent piece of news. The organisers of the London International Wine and Spirits Fair, which took place in London during May, is considering having the event only every other year, as opposed to every year due to the slower pace of business and the less dynamic results of the 2009 edition. Perhaps alternate fairs would make more sense, both for buyers and producers, in the difficult, immediate future?
© by Weinspitz_Helmut_Knall
last modified: 2009-07-12 20:49:37

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