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Still thrilled about PRINT

Nov 1, 2005 12:00 AM

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Vinocur's Perspective

A couple of days after returning from PRINT 05, I read that 80-year-old R&B legend B.B. King still is performing. Referring to King’s 1969 hit, the Wall Street Journal headline declared, “The Thrill is Not Gone.” Though I’m a decade away from the 80-year milestone, I feel the same way about the recently concluded, massive exhibition at McCormick Place in Chicago. Being at a major industry exhibition was just as thrilling as it always has been. But it takes me a lot longer to recuperate, these days.

There were 954 companies exhibiting at PRINT 05, of which 150 were first-timers. I accumulated 130 business cards (23 were from people who had either changed jobs or titles), 22 receipts from cab drivers, 16 different name badges from various events, and 23 resumes. I traipsed every hall and every floor of McCormick Place in Chicago. If that doesn’t deserve a pat on the back for a guy my age, I don’t know what does. So, here’s my diary:

THURSDAY (9/8) | At the Heidelberg press conference, head honcho Bernhard Schreier advised that the company was again profitable and was returning to pre-9/11 levels. Said Schreier, “We are more confident of improvement at PRINT 05 than we were at PRINT 01.”

Then I was off to the Komori press gathering at the Renaissance Hotel, where Stephan Carter, president and COO of Komori America, reported that his unit grew sales by 30 percent last year, accounting for one-third of the parent company’s worldwide sales. He also advised that the company was again focusing on its web presses, noting, “Once you get to be a $20 million to $30 million printer, having a web press starts to make a lot of sense.”

FRIDAY (9/9) | At MAN Roland’s press conference, CEO Yves Rogivue proved less optimistic than his competitors. “Opportunities and rewards in the graphic arts went into free fall after 2000, and they have not come close to fully recovering,” he observed.

From there, I made my first visit to the show floor. I walked to the NAPL booth at the far end of the South Hall and noticed the opening-day traffic was rather light.

The highlight of opening day was an invitation-only retirement dinner for Regis Delmontagne, president of NPES and GASC at the Chicago Hilton. Approximately 250 were on hand to honor the 29-year career of the man who has led the Graphic Arts Show Co. through its 27-year history. A Who’s Who of industry leaders offered best wishes to the not shy, but retiring, executive.

SATURDAY (9/10) | Copies of the “show daily” featured the headlines, “Printers Ready to Really Shop” and “Big Turnout from Overseas,” even thought the exhibit had been open for only one day. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought those banners were written for spin value.

Show traffic was still light, but many vendors were writing orders—a good sign. After a grueling day traveling the floor, I was on to NAPL’s Soderstrom Society dinner, always a pleasurable experience. Harris DeWese of Compass Capital, the industry’s leading investment banker, received the 2005 Soderstrom Award. His acceptance speech was one of the best I ever heard. In it, he noted NAPL President Joe Truncale and I read the Harvard Business Review. I told him later that Truncale reads it for the articles; I only read it for the sports and comics.

SUNDAY (9/11) | The Print Council met and later held a press conference. I’ll save the details on its progress for a future column. The organization is beginning to build up steam—more about that effort in December.

My evening festivities began with a tour of the “new” Kodak booth, followed by a celebration at the Field Museum. On the bus ride to the party site, I sat next to another journalist (or so I thought). I introduced myself and started asking publishing questions. It turned out that my new acquaintance, a 66-year-old man, lives off of press conferences and events at McCormick Place.

“I only spend $10 a month on groceries and travel downtown by bus,” he explained, adding, “I go to sleep every night well-fed and drunk.” Over the next couple of days, I noticed him at each press conference that served lunch. I’ll provide more details about the Kodak roll-up in another column.

MONDAY (9/12) | The Pitman Co. celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding at the largest press conference at McCormick Place. The industry’s largest independent distributor might have cheated a bit, loading the room with the top executives from its many manufacturing partners, including Kodak, Agfa and Presstek. The highlight of the event was blowing out the candles on a giant birthday cake. That evening, Truncale and I attended North American Publishing’s Hall of Fame dinner, where several good friends were inducted.

TUESDAY (9/13) | Time to go home. I flew back with Andy Paparozzi, NAPL’s chief economist, who told me he had given eight presentations during the event. And I thought I had a busy week!

M. Richard Vinocur is president of Footprint Communications. E-mail him at

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