‘The world goes to METS’

Posted on Written by Reagan Haynes

mets1

‘Queen jewel’ of trade shows adds three more national pavilions for its Nov. 19-21 run in Amsterdam

Some company executives might think that attending the 26th annual Marine Equipment Trade Show in Amsterdam Nov. 19-21 won’t be worthwhile because of the economic downturn that continues to challenge much of Europe.

But those companies would be, in a word, wrong, say some METS veterans.

“When the economy is good it’s very difficult to expand into the European market coming from North America because everyone is very fat and happy and busy, so they don’t have time to consider new products and ideas,” says John Mitchell, president of British Columbia-based Canada Metal (Pacific) Ltd., or CMP.

“When the economy is in recession, which it really still is in Europe, that is the best time for you to bring ideas to the market. Everybody’s looking for something that’s going to help them keep their head above water. We’ve made more gains in Europe since 2007 than in the 15 or 20 years prior. Even though the pie has been cut in half, we’re able to appeal to companies hoping to differentiate themselves with new products. As that economy recovers, we’re extremely well placed to benefit quite a bit.”

mets2CMP has more than doubled its market share in Europe, to about 30 percent, compared with the 75 to 80 percent share the company has in North America, Mitchell says.

“In a boom time you have lot of companies on the fringe. Companies that are left after a bad economy are very strong and your competition is pulling in, so you have more exposure than you’ve ever had before. You’re the only ones out there knocking on doors, and everyone is answering. Each year, we would go make a little bit of headway, but then when the crisis took place, all of sudden everybody was able to talk to us.”

As a result, CMP has grown its booth from its original 3-by-3-meter size to the 12-by-4-meter display that it is today.

‘Blurred lines, baby’

METS seeks to create a global business-to-business environment for attendees, says Irene Dros, manager of the maritime domain at Amsterdam ARI, the venue that houses the show. “For this year’s edition, we expect to have the same amount of exhibitors as last year, [and it] is quite rewarding — especially if you look at the economic crisis — that the show did not stop growing.”

At last year’s show, more than 1,300 exhibitors came from more than 100 countries, Dros says, and the show drew nearly 20,000 visitors.

The show has added three national pavilions — South Korea, Slovenia and China — Dros says, for a total of 18, all coordinated by the International Council of Marine Industry Associations.

“The China pavilion is quite remarkable,” Dros says. “When I started at METS in 2001 we had three or four Chinese companies, and there will be 60 or 70 this year in the Chinese pavilion. Up until last year they really didn’t want to be grouped together. I think the industry over there is becoming stronger, which is probably one of the reasons they want to be located together.”

This will be the 25th METS for Laura Martin of the public relations firm Martin Flory Group.

“In my opinion, it’s been the queen jewel of the trade show circuit in that you can really count on having people from all over the globe in one spot. I don’t know of any show that can boast that to the extent that METS does,” Martin says.

mets3It’s not just Europe that CMP is focusing on, Mitchell says. “We meet customers from Australia, New Zealand, North Africa, South Africa — the world goes to METS.”

With customers in 80 countries, Dr. Shrink also enjoys the global nature of the event. “The good thing about METS is that we’re going to see people from all over the world,” says Dr. Shrink president Mike Stenberg. “It’s a way to see a lot of our customers without making even more of an investment.

Martin agrees it’s a place to expand one’s horizons and vision. “It’s a global tour of our industry. It’s so fun to make friends with people you’d never think you would be bumping into, like the Croatian boatbuilding group, for example,” Martin says. “It’s a really big world out there, but underneath it all we’re all the same.”

The national exhibits have been a source of conversation as they have evolved, Martin says. “There’s been a lot of discussion over the years among our clients about whether it’s more practical to be part of a country’s pavilion or to be part of the global community. The boundaries are, in the words of the song of the summer: ‘They’re all blurred lines, baby.’ It’s not often the marine industry gets to borrow from popular culture, but it’s very true. I appreciate it because, it sounds silly, but it’s a more formal atmosphere there. You don’t go to the METS show in your embroidered logo shirt. You go there as an executive. You’re all dolled up and ready to do business.”

Focus on relationships

Stenberg, as president of a company that operates in various industries and participates in about 50 shows a year, appreciates the fact that METS is a trade-only show because “it’s not like they’re letting a lot of students come in, and it’s open for retirees to wander through and grab a pen, like at the wind energy shows. At this show everyone is focused, and focus is what we want.”

Growing distribution is much quicker in North America because the chain is shorter than in Europe, Mitchell says. “It’s a much more mature market in Europe, and you have to develop that network.” He agrees there are more formalities. “You have to be introduced properly, almost as if you were developing a relationship where you have to meet the parents and ask permission” for a date.

Although relationships take longer to build, Martin says the social element is crucial because Europe has a more relationship-oriented way of doing business. “It’s not unusual to see people in their stands, as they call it, after hours. They sit, drink wine together and socialize after the show closes. It’s a very unique atmosphere.”

This year the show has introduced a new social event to help facilitate those relationships, Dros says — a dinner cruise through the canals of Amsterdam. “We wanted to offer it to new companies who do not know where to find their peers in the evenings or where to meet clients.”

Specialized pavilions

Within the show, there are three pavilions that focus on specific aspects of the industry — a Superyacht Pavilion, the Marina Yard Pavilion and the Specialized Construction Pavilion, formerly known as the Composite Pavilion.

The Superyacht Pavilion will host a preview reception on Nov. 18, before the show opens, for delegates of the Global Superyacht Forum, a conference held simultaneously with METS that attracts more than 45 delegates from the superyacht industry around the world, says Dros. “Those delegates don’t have much time in between conferences to explore the pavilion, so we introduced a preview evening so they would have an opportunity to look at all the offerings in an exclusive atmosphere.”

The Marina Yard Pavilion, which will have 40 marina industry exhibitors, is an effort to build bridges between that industry and the boatbuilding industry. “Both industries feel they should collaborate much,” Dros says. “Those two worlds have to work more closely together so they can both benefit. If you don’t have a place to keep a boat, there is no boatbuilding industry.”

The offering can especially help emerging markets where the infrastructure is still evolving, Dros says.

The Specialized Construction Pavilion’s name changed this year to include more materials from outside the marine industry, and it has added Material Xperience On Tour. Suppliers and experts from Materia will display materials that could add value to the marine sector. The company seeks out new materials for its 100,000 international members, which range from Apple to Ferrari, and showcases them via traveling exhibitions, events at the Materia Inspiration Centre in Amsterdam and Material Xperience On Tour.

The goal is to inspire builders with innovative new materials for boat and yacht construction. There also will be a construction stage where speakers from industries such as aviation, construction and automotive will share ways to apply the materials. “There will be a huge display area with 125 raw materials in the center of the show,” Dros says.

DAME honors

DAME, which stands for Design Award METS, is something Mitchell is looking forward to this year because CPM has submitted several products to compete for the accolade.

“It’s a prestigious award for new products. It gets quite a bit of global press,” Mitchell says.

More than 120 products have been entered, Dros says. The winner is announced at the opening ceremony after an address from keynote speaker Dustan McCoy, CEO of Brunswick Corp.

Amsterdam itself is a draw, and not only because it’s easy to get there — attendees can fly directly in and take a five-minute train ride from the airport. It’s also a beautiful city that offers visitors many options, Martin says.

But in the end, it’s the show that draws her and many others to the venue.

“We’re all in this industry together, and we need a spot where we can meet,” Martin says. “Our whole industry is not that important to the survival of the human race if you get right down to it. Our real competition is not each other. It’s skiing and golfing and Xbox, and all the other stuff people do with what little free time they have. It’s nice to be able to claim a global group, and you really get to know the whole global industry at METS. You really can’t afford to miss it.”

This article originally appeared in the November 2013 issue.

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