Byline: Amy Joyce Rush

FRANKFURT — Facing more challenges than ever before, this city’s giant trade fair producer, Messe Frankfurt GmbH, is being steered by a man determined to react rather than resist.
As the company’s managing director for not quite a year, Dr. Michael Peters is committed to preserving Messe Frankfurt’s prominence by repackaging and remarketing current shows, creating new show formats and looking for new business opportunities.
Three of its major fairs — Interstoff for apparel fabrics, Heimtextil for home textiles and decorative fabrics and Ambiente for housewares and tabletop — have each been the largest trade fairs in their categories. But as the fairs have grown in size and scope, the competition from smaller, more focused — and sometimes more timely — shows has also grown more intense.
“Structure” is perhaps the most important word in Peters’s vocabulary. “We have to restructure Messe to reflect the interests of our different groups. We must look for hidden topics,” said the 47-year-old director, who holds a doctorate in trade fair marketing from the University of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in Frankfurt.
To this end, Peters is applying marketing savvy to giving each of his fairs new life.
Timing of shows is crucial to their success. Interstoff, for 37 years billed as the premier fair for men’s and women’s apparel fabrics, was restructured last year to make shopping simpler. But that wasn’t sufficient. Interstoff’s credibility weakened when it lost a number of key men’s wear fabric exhibitors to Premiere Vision in Paris, a competing show whose earlier timing was more advantageous to their needs.
So this year Messe created Takeoff, a two-day men’s wear fabric show wrapping up today at the Frankfurt airport. Calling it a “sales machine,” Peters designed Takeoff to be a “lean market” that allows exhibitors to conduct their business quickly, efficiently and at the right time. The Messe builds the booths — a maximum of 50 in 30 square meters — and exhibitors even eat and sleep at the airport.
Interstoff will exhibit the remaining categories, including women’s apparel fabrics, April 11-13.
Size is another factor. While Heimtextil remains the leading international home textiles fair in terms of style leadership, for example, its magnitude makes it a complex show to shop. Buyers have complained about their difficulty in finding truly trendsetting merchandise when forced to walk through a maze of 10 buildings with multiple floors in a relatively few days.
In line with recent revamps at other international trade fairs, Peters is addressing himself to the challenge of segmentation and repositioning by lifestyle or theme, creating separate halls for cutting-edge exhibitors.
“Only 30 percent of exhibitors think in terms of trends. The rest are following,” he says. But it is that 30 percent who “are influential to the growth of all our shows.” Putting the directional companies together makes it far easier to find them.
Determined to make his ideas work, but also to address his exhibitors’ objections, Peters now is installing a new escalator to carry visitors to the new pavilions. “We have to convince exhibitors their decision is right,” he stresses.