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An interview with Robbie Blumenfeld, President and CEO of Abex Exhibit Systems

MOD-08: Robbie, where do you see portable modular headed in the coming year?

Robbie: The biggest losers will be the biggest winners in portable modular exhibit systems in the coming years.

MOD-08 Biggest losers, how?

Robbie: The exhibit industry has made a tremendous comeback since 9/11. Companies recognize the value of one on one and relationship marketing and have been increasing their efforts in the trade show and events portion of the marketing mix. At the same time through, they are facing increasing pressure to increase profits and improve the bottom line.

MOD-08: So how do you get those two things under the same roof?

Robbie: Exhibitors want to maintain the impact and the results while reducing their cost. One way to do that is by reducing the non-visible trade show expenses like transportation, logistics, and I&D. Another way to do it is by getting more use out of your exhibit properties by making them more flexible so they can be used at multiple venues.

MOD-08: Sounds like that is already happening

Robbie: More and more of our distributors are coming to us with reconfigurability as a part of their design brief to us. I would say that three years ago, one out of five exhibits we were asked to develop a concept, CAD and quote in multiple configurations; today it's more like two out of three.

MOD-08: So these customers are looking for ways to get more out of that new property.

Robbie: Absolutely, and they also want to know what it's going to cost to get that property to those different venues, get it into the hall to their booth space and set it up and take it down again.

MOD-08: That's where the weight loss program comes in, right?

Robbie: The weigh in is becoming more important. The design that utilizes weight saving materials like aluminum, fabric, and molded cases versus wood crates is going to be the biggest loser---and winner. According to our good friend Simon Burton of the Exhibiting Show UK, in Europe we're even seeing "build and burn" or semi-disposable exhibits built using cardboard and other recyclable and high post consumer content materials.

Think about it. If you can "lose" 2,000 pounds on a ten show schedule you can save upwards of $20,000 on drayage alone. Not mention simpler set up, reduced transportation, and less impact on the environment. Everybody wins.

MOD-08: So that's the direction Abex will be taking in custom modular?

Our new Studio Abex program is designed to deliver custom modular solutions that are reconfigurable and as lightweight and easy to set up as we can possibly make them. We are also moving ahead to use as much renewable and recyclable content in our exhibits as possible. That way our clients can win by being the biggest loser.

Green is the new black
Simon Burton, The Exhibiting Show UK

It’s easy to generalise – so I will. Exhibition stand design in Europe is a world apart from stand design in the US.

The American writer‚ Tony Judt‚ describes the difference between America and Europe in terms of coffee. “Consider a mug of American coffee. It is found everywhere. It can be made by anyone. It is cheap and re–fills are free. Being largely without flavour it can be diluted to taste. What it lacks in allure it makes up for in size. It is the most democratic method ever devised for getting caffeine into human beings. Now‚ take a cup of Italian espresso. It requires expensive equipment. Price–to–volume ratio is outrageous‚ suggesting indifference to the consumer and ignorance of the market. The aesthetic satisfaction accessory to the beverage far outweighs its metabolic impact. It is not a drink‚ it is an artifact.”

There’s certainly a tendency to see Europe as a melting pot of wonderful design‚ artistic flair and sophisticated message. This of course is sometimes true. It’s also regularly not true. When it comes to the business of exhibition design I think crass national stereo types are a million miles from the real picture.

Europe is big. Really big. Really big and really diverse. I mean‚ you might think it’s a long way down the road to the drug store but that’s just peanuts to Europe. So exhibition design for major international trade fairs in Germany is very different to exhibition design for a niche event in the UK.

There are trends however‚ and the trends in Europe are strong and they are widespread. In exhibition terms the biggest trend is a colour. Green. Green for sustainability and minimal environmental impact. Recyclable materials are the order of the day and reusability and reconfiguration a must. Minimum carbon footprint for the stand‚ its creation and transportation is increasingly being written into the project brief. System stands are thus in vogue and there is even a move towards stands made entirely from cardboard or other recyclable materials.

Purely custom stands are being supplanted by custom modular. Designers are using the flexibility‚ easy assembly and reusability of modular to create frameworks for more elaborate stand constructions which can be reconfigured multiple times at different events.

This drive towards a more environmentally friendly exhibition stand is being felt most keenly in one of the most noticeable differences between US and European stand designs – flooring. Platforms are de rigeur for any “space only” stand in Europe and as carpet and flooring have traditionally been significant sources of waste they have been the areas which have seen the most attention with regard to recycling and environmentally efficient products.

Fabric is only just starting to make an appearance in Europe and has nothing like the prevalence in does in the US. Why? Well despite the success of many US brands and concepts throughout the western world‚ materials handling hasn’t ever caught on in Europe. The economic drive towards lightweight is much less strong therefore but the creative possibilities fabric offers means that it is starting to appear in more and more stands and the designer and client’s desire to be different should ensure that continues.

Creative design is at a premium but whereas historically good exhibition stand design has focused on the aesthetics the impact of experiential and event marketing concepts means ever more desire to make form and function combine in cutting edge exhibition stands.

The pressures from clients to deliver a creative‚ effective exhibition presence‚ cost–effectively and with minimal environmental impact are driving a new breed of exhibition stand in Europe.

There are undoubtedly differences across the pond but I think the difference is more akin to pizza than coffee. Does a pizza in New York taste different to a pizza in Naples? Not really‚ but if you’ve not visited Naples before it might feel like it does. Come on over to sample the different flavours of European stand design for yourself.

Studio Abex Design wins:

QSC Audio Products‚ a globally recognized leader in professional audio‚ needed to impress a very tough audience of audio professionals in an industry known to pull out all the stops with custom builds at big shows.

The problem was that QSC needed an exhibit that could reconfigure to four different sizes and travel halfway around the world to venues that included California and Germany. Studio Abex came up with a solution that was music to their ears.

Utilizing a double deck construction and two 16 foot high fabric structures to attract attention‚ the Studio Abex solution included a variety of flexible product display and video presentation stations‚ and allowed for adaptation to the customers 30’ x 50’‚ 30’ x 30’‚ 35’ x 33’ and 20’ x 20’ show schedule.

Music to their ears.
Client: The Rental Advantage, QSC Audio Products
Designer/Builder: Studio Abex

Not your everyday promotional products company! Not your everyday 20’ x 20’ modular exhibit! Sourcery is not your typical promotional products company. And they wanted to project an image that was anything but ordinary at the January PPAI Show in Las Vegas.

The objective was to create a space which would evoke attendees’ curiosity of what‚ was inside while underscoring the company’s innovative and high technology image. Mission accomplished.

Studio Abex created a breathtaking hybrid enclosure consisting of Octanorm framework‚ smoke PolyGal panels‚ and custom product showcases to show off the new Sourcery product treasures and create interest while adding value. Company staff and attendees alike said the Sourcery exhibit was magic.

Show: PPAI
Client: Sourcery
Designer/Builder: Studio Abex

Every three years Euroshop is held in Duesseldorf‚ Germany and attracts the world’s best in exhibit‚ showroom‚ and store design. In order to compete with the best of Europe‚ Abex knew it would need both a great concept and impeccable execution.

Teaming up with the our design team at Ethos Design (the driving force behind Lounge 22)‚ Studio Abex developed the idea of Club LAX– to underscore our Los Angeles roots and create a club like atmosphere which would provide an oasis to which Euroshop attendees could escape. Ethos executed to perfection. Soaring fabric panels (provided by Dazian Fabrics)‚ illuminated bars‚ Lounge 22 furniture‚ and DJ station pumping out cool sounds all came together to create the hottest destination at Euroshop 2008. And the coolest place to be seen.

Show: Euroshop 2008‚ Duesseldorf‚ Germany
Client: Abex Exhibit Systems
Concept: Studio Abex
Designer: Ethos Design‚ Los Angeles‚ CA
Builder: Abex Exhibit Systems

Elegance Exotic Wood Flooring was faced with some big competitors. Their objective was to create a high end image‚ draw attention to their new wood floor products‚ and create an inviting atmosphere where show attendees could relax and see what the company had to offer.

Studio Abex developed a hybrid utilizing an Octanorm framework and walnut clad Abex 900 panels to create a soaring freestyle shaped superstructure to attract attention.

The client’s wood floor product samples were embedded into a 50 ounce K&S plush carpet to draw attention to them unlike the hundreds of exhibitors with solid wood flooring. Product samples were also interspersed between graphic lifestyle shots hung from the Octanorm frameworks.

Over 70 light fixtures were used to draw attention to the product samples and a backdrop of metallic chain with the client logo woven into it by Dazian was highlighted with Color Kinetics LED fixtures from ELS Lighting.

Needless to say‚ the client was floored.

Show: Surfaces, Las Vegas
Client:Elegance Exotic Wood Flooring
Distributor: Impresse Marketing
Designer/Builder: Studio Abex


©2005 Abex Display Systems • All Rights Reserved •

©2005 Abex Display Systems • All Rights Reserved •