PSI trade show for the promotional products industry, impressively kicked off the trade fair year in Düsseldorf on 7 January.
PSI on the upswing
Registering 567 exhibitors (2023: 463) from 29 nations, which meant the entire exhibition space available in Halls 9 and 10 was fully occupied, and 11,003 visitors from 69 countries (2023: 10,509) PSI marked the kick-off to the new promotional products year. “I am absolutely overwhelmed by our exhibitors’ and visitors’ positive response. It shows that we are on the right track with our vision of re-positioning promotional products,” delights PSI Director Lassahn and adds: “This is only achievable with such an extraordinary network of PSI partners and friends. ”It reflects the willingness of this sector to overcome crises together. “PSI has arrived in our day and age where business is no longer about higher, faster, further and more but about authenticity, innovation and cohesion,” sums up Michael Köhler, CEO of RX Germany, the organiser of PSI.
Debut: Partner country the Netherlands
Representative of this international cohesion was the Netherlands, partner country for the first time now and featuring at PSI amongst other stands with its own special area, the Dutch Pavilion. A pilot concept which proved a success in the opinion of Joop van Veelen, Chairman of the Dutch Industry Association PPP (Promotional Products Professionals). His verdict: “The strong international nature of the fair was a huge benefit for us. Especially with regard to such topics as sustainability as well as regulatory principles and regulations on a European level, we always have to be up to date to stay competitive. To this end, international partnerships and the exchange here at the trade show are of paramount importance.”
Mood barometer points to “optimism”
Beyond Germany and the Netherlands, the European industry also looks to the current business year with optimism. This is evidenced by the results of the PSI Industry Barometer which was updated for PSI 2024. According to this international survey within the PSI network, participants across Europe expect sales to rise by +4.5% on average for 2024.
Staff, prices, competition are the tasks that await us
On the other hand, the Barometer also flags up the biggest tasks to be performed. 70% of the participants polled stated customer price sensitivity as their biggest challenge, followed by excessively high ancillary costs (61 %), competition (49 %) and difficulties encountered with supply chains and logistics (42 %).
“Price sensitivity is an omnipresent issue in the ballpoint pen segment,” confirmed amongst others uma Managing Director Alexander Ullmann, though tempering his statement by adding: “But customers are prepared to spend more on sustainability. This means that the need for advice and assistance also rises.” This requires skilled staff, that, according to Marcus Sperber, Managing Partner of elasto, is harder to recruit by all means. “At present, we face the challenge of finding quality staff. As a result, we are dependent on automating and/or digitalising processes. These are our focal themes and we are already working towards automating orders completely.”
One topic debated in connection with sustainability, costs and staff as well as the transparency of supply chains was Europe’s future-proofness as a manufacturing location. This question is very close to the heart of Senator Managing Director Daniel Jeschonowski: “Germany as a manufacturing location with 300 employees is a strategy and mission rather than just a trend for us. We manufacture where our customers are: at the heart of Europe.”
Lobbying for the sector
However, there are also challenges that are specific to the German market. “We have major problems with the current political framework. The focus is on the most attractive product rather the cheapest one, and this is not available for under EUR 10; this means we are dropping out of the tax scheme so a corrective measure is needed here,” says Tobias Köckert, Managing Director at Mahlwerck Porzellan. “Germany is drowning in red tape,” confirms Steven Baumgaertner as CEO of Cyber-wear. He specifically demands less restrictions and more entrepreneurial spirit from policymakers.
Markus Herbrand, Member of the Bundestag and financial policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group, and Manfred Todtenhausen, Member of the Bundestag and member of the Economic Committee of the German Bundestag, took part in the discussion at PSI both as part of the opening and at a business talk.
Finance expert Herbrand showed some understanding for the discontent but also referred to initial steps taken in the right direction. “Some things have indeed happened since last year. We have initiated the Bureaucracy Relief Act, took measures in tax legislation and provided for relief totalling around six billion euros in the Growth Opportunities Act.” He admitted that more could be done, but also asked for understanding that problems occurring not just over the past two years could also not be solved in a short space of time. “PSI will continue to keep an eye on and promote the debate and exchange with politicians,” commented Petra Lassahn.
“Education mission” accepted
At the show PSI also helped its members to rise to these challenges by means of high-quality, tailor-made Education Formats revolving around the topics of Artificial Intelligence, Cyber Security, Counterfeiting Prevention, the new EU Product Safety Regulation, the EU Toy Safety Regulation and the Digital Product Pass.
Beyond this, Petra Lassahn announced the foundation of the “PSI Sustainability Academy”. Lassahn: “The topic of sustainability will continue to shape the future of the promotional products industry. We will support the industry in this endeavour.” PSI plans to offer exclusive masterclasses and workshops for members with international speakers from all over Europe. “As the next step, the PSI Sustainability Awards will also return in a new guise next year,” says a happy Petra Lassahn.
Looking back to the past and future
The Museum of Promotional Articles, initiated by Cybergroup International and opened on the eve of PSI by Düsseldorf’s Lord Mayor Dr Stephan Keller, was a monument to promotional articles. The special exhibition showed, among other things, historical football fan articles and items bearing political messages such as replicas of the suffragette umbrellas. “The MoPA is a testimony to the development of marketing and the influence of promotional items in our culture,” emphasised Dr Stephan Keller.
“PSI testifies to the resilience of the industry, which has overcome the challenges of the pandemic against all odds. The commitment to sustainability and initiatives such as the MoPA reaffirm the industry’s determination to recover.”
The next PSI show will take place from 7 to 9 January 2025 in Düsseldorf.
Read more about PSI 2024 in our Online Magazine.