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2020: A year without Major International Tradeshows

Posted August 21, 2020

As the COVID-19 Pandemic and its consequences are far from ending in most parts of the world, it seems 2020 will be a year without major international tradeshows, except for a few events.

In the past weeks several industry organizations have announced the cancellation or postponement of their tradeshows.

For some people in the industry it would be a matter of common sense to just cancel all industry expos (where hundreds of attendees crowd the venues, breaking almost every COVID-19 safety guidelines).

But the truth is, organizing an event the size of an international print expo involves several contracts, (including, venue, shipping, services, security), government regulations, hotel reservations and an impressive work of logistics, all of which takes months or even years of planning.

All of the above are elements that organizers have to factor in when facing the difficult decision of whether or not to cancel or postpone an event.


Here is a list of the tradeshows that have been cancelled or postponed so far.

ISA Sign Expo canceled its 2020 tradeshow

On May the 15th, 2020, The International Sign Association (ISA) posted a Youtube video in which Lori Anderson, President of ISA announced that their Sign Expo show scheduled for August had been canceled.

The ISA Sign Expo show had already been rescheduled from its original date in April 2020 to August of the same year.

An interesting portion of the official cancellation post reads: "We believed that the impact of "flattening the curve" would result in a return to normalcy and safety much more quickly than it has".

ISA Sign Expo 2020 cancelled COVID19

ISA Sign Expo’s website announced in their home that the 2020 edition will not be held until 2021.


But given Florida and some other states in the East coast of the US are hot spots of the Pandemic, it wasn’t in anyone’s best interest for the show to run in such an uncertain health climate.

Besides, it didn’t make a lot of business sense to hold an Expo in Florida in August, knowing that PRINTING United would be held in Atlanta in October (but the latter would also be canceled).

However, Anderson expressed that the organizers are already working towards the event of 2021, which will take place in Las Vegas, Nevada.

According to the International Sign Association website, the ISA Sign Expo tradeshow had more than 20,600 attendees and nearly 600 exhibitors in the 2019 edition.

APPPEXPO 2020 was postponed (and held in July)

Held every year in Shanghai, China, APPPEXPO is one of the biggest international print expos in the world. More than seven halls in the NECC are filled with hundreds of manufacturers of printers, cutters, routers, media, inks, supplies and other signage technology.

If there is an event entitled to carry the name of “international”, this is it. People from every corner of the world fly every year to attend APPPEXPO.

But given that a number of important cities such as Beijing and Shanghai were severely affected by the pandemic in China, the APPPEXPO organizers announced their 2020 edition would be moved from February to July.

As mentioned by Dr Hellmuth in a recent post, it was very helpful and completely appropriate of the organizers to indicate that participation from countries experiencing severe COVID-19 in July was unlikely.

As shown in this photo posted by the Facebook account of Dlican (a UV-curing printer manufacturer) the event in fact took place as planned in mid July 2020.

APPPEXPO 2020 held on July

The APPPEXPO 2020 tradeshow took place in July as planned. In fact, as you can see, the aisles looked packed as usual. Photo credits: KSLSIGNS Digital Technology.


drupa was postponed for 2021

Held in Düsseldorf, Germany every four years, drupa is also among the largest events in the inkjet printing industry.

The show is so big it is scheduled for several days more than the average industry trade show. The 2021 edition will be eight days long, but drupa 2016 lasted eleven days.

Given the ongoing health situation, and considering drupa is an international event, the show has been postponed for 2021.

At the beginning of the pandemic, some organizers, especially those whose events were scheduled for the first and second quarter of 2020, made the decision to postpone their expos for a few months, an understandable move considering at that time it was hard to predict the length of the lockdowns and other restrictions.

But drupa’s organizers took a wise decision considering most optimistic analysts forecast a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus will take several months to be readily available.

According to a statement on drupa’s website, Messe Duseldorf GmbH, the tradeshow’s organizer, took the decision based on the recommendation of the crisis management team of the German Federal Government.

Besides, the city of Düsseldorf issued a general ruling in which major events with more than 1000 participants present at the same time were prohibited.

At the time of writing this, it is still difficult to assure international flights and public events will be allowed in the first half of 2021.

ISA Sign Expo 2020 cancelled COVID19

ISA Sign Expo’s website announced in their home that the 2020 edition will not be held until 2021.


FESPA 2020 was rescheduled, and then canceled.

The original date was 24-27 March, in Madrid, Spain. But as COVID-19 hit Europe, and Spain became one of the worst hit European countries, just below Italy, the expo was postponed to October 2020. The postponement notice was issued in late March 2020 on the website.

But on July 2, FESPA announced in a news release that the 2020 expo would no longer be held in Madrid; it will now take place in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, from 9-12 March 2021.

It would be advisable for FESPA organizers to update the information on their website to avoid confusions. While I am writing this, the postponement statement that indicates FESPA would be held in October 2020 is still in the homepage of the website.

Sign Africa 2020 has been cancelled and postponed for 2021.

According to a blog post issued recently, Sign Africa and FESPA Africa have been cancelled and the 2021 dates will be announced in the following months.

In general, the tradeshows scheduled for the first half of 2020 were the first to announce their change of plans.

But in the case of Sign Africa, co-located with FESPA Africa, the announcement was issued until July, because those expos are held in September.

Dyelan Copeland, Sign Africa expo organizer said “The planning for these events involves a significant amount of time for both organisers and exhibitors, who in some cases import equipment to showcase and have representatives from their manufacturers on their stand”.

However, the Sign Africa organizers are already working on interactive events and dedicated audience online sessions for the people who had planned to attend the African expo in 2020.

PRINTING United Alliance 2020 canceled its 2020 tradeshow

It has been an unusual start for the event formerly known as SGIA. The first edition under the rebranding of the show, was successfully held in late 2019.

As the health crisis continued to escalate through 2020, and many tradeshow organizers around the world announced the postponement of their events, PRINTING United seemed to be the last bastion that remained untouched by the side effects of the pandemic.

Mainly because the event is one of the last expos of the year.

In fact, on May 1st, 2020, PRINTING United announced it would merge with the Printing Industries of America (PIA), and from that point on, the name of the show would be PRINTING United Alliance. Thus far, the scheduled dates remained the same.

However, the association recently announced that the 2020 edition would be canceled. On their website, PRINTING United Alliance explains that the decision was taken considering external factors such as travel restrictions and federal, state and governmental regulations.

As mentioned in the official statement, the organizers have been in constant communication with the team at Georgia World Congress Center, the city of Atlanta, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security specializing in mass gatherings and local authorities.

And given PRINTING United Alliance is of the last industry tradeshows of the year, there was not much room for a rescheduling plan.

Besides, this is one of the biggest international shows, and having an event this size without the hundreds of international visitors, would result in a rather discreet show.

But Andy Paparozzi, Chief Economist at PRINTING United Alliance forecasts a noticeable recovery of the US economy, which would give the printing industry a big boost.

The dates and place of the 2021 edition will be announced in the following months, according to the official statement.

LabelExpo rescheduled (some of) its 2020 events

On May 28 2020, LabelExpo announced the cancelation or postponements of some of their events:

  • LabelExpo Southeast Asia will take place in 2022
  • LabelExpo & Brand Print Americas will be moved to March 2021
  • LabelExpo & Brand Print Mexico will be held in 2022

However, Lisa Milburn, Labelexpo Global Series Managing Director, said that some of their events are still scheduled to be held in 2020:

  • LabelExpo India will take place in early december 2020 (postponed just two months)
  • LabelExpo South China will take place in december 2020 as scheduled.

Milburn pointed out that safety and venue availability were some of the main reasons that led LabelExpo organizers to choose the new dates for some of their events.

When questioned about the decision to hold LabelExpo Americas in early 2021, Tasha Ventimiglia, Labelexpo Americas Event Director, pointed out the importance of the event for several print businesses and waiting four years for the next event was considered too long.

LabelExpo is a show with several chapters around the world and it is held every two years. The previous edition in North America was in 2018.

While researching for this article, we realized that although the final decision was taken by every organizer, news was closely followed by the hundreds of companies that exhibit in these events, since these shows are an important business catalyst for the exhibiting manufacturers.

These are just some of the industry expos that have decided to postpone its events in 2020. This crossroad decision takes significant amounts of meetings, news updates and budget reorganization.

But overall, it takes courage. As members of the industry we sincerely hope all tradeshow associations and organizers have successful expos in their new dates, and that the printing industry recovers with a renewed strength, as it always has.



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