Interview with Ms. Maria Avery

Face2Face
Ms. Maria Avery
Ms. Maria Avery
ITMA Manager & Secretary General
CEMATEX
CEMATEX

CEMATEX (Comité Européen des Constructeurs de Machines Textiles) is an organisation comprising 9 national European textile machinery associations in the free market economy. ITMA is the world’s largest international textile machinery exhibition, an event which is owned by CEMATEX. ITMA is recognised as the ‘Olympics’ of the textile machinery industry – a showcase of the latest technology and a vital meeting place for buyers and sellers from all over the world. Ms. Maria Avery is the Secretary General for CEMATEX and Manager for ITMA. Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, Maria Avery holds a degree in Spanish, Portuguese and French and a postgraduate diploma in Business Studies. She spent 19 years with Bonas Machine Company, manufacturer of electronic Jacquard machines for the weaving industry (now part of the Van de Wiele Group), and as its Marketing Manager she was responsible for the company’s participation in over 60 textile machinery exhibitions worldwide (including 5 ITMA shows between 1983 and 1999). During this time she was a member of the British Textile Machinery Association’s Exhibitions Committee, and was Chairman of the Committee from 1996 to 1999. In January 2000 Maria joined the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) as Exhibition Director to head up the organisation of ITMA 2003 in Birmingham. In December 2004 she joined CEMATEX (the owner of the ITMA brand of shows) as ITMA Manager and was appointed Secretary General in July 2005. Face2Face takes up the opportunity to welcome her as the Personality for this week’s interview at www.fibre2fashion.com revealing a closer look to the world of textile machinery online trade-fairs & related issues.

Could you explain what goes in to making a show like ITMA Asia a grand success?

"The short answer is – a lot of hard work and great team work! For both the ITMA show in Europe and the ITMA Asia show, it is vital to plan a long way in advance. Although ITMA in Europe takes place every 4 years, and the ITMA Asia show now every 2 years, work begins on the next show as soon as the previous show finishes. CEMATEX has of course a lot of experience with the ITMA brand, because the very first show was launched way back in 1951. However this experience does not mean that we can simply rest on our laurels. The ITMA shows are hugely successful, but there are always improvements which can be made and innovations which can be introduced, and realising this and acting upon it ensures that the shows are always new and never stale. We place particular importance on lessons learned from previous shows in order to make sure that future shows are even more successful, and the exhibitor and visitor surveys which we have introduced are an important tool in this process – our exhibitors and visitors can easily communicate what they feel is positive at a particular show as well as what is negative, and we can take appropriate measures. We strive constantly to maintain the high quality of both the exhibitors and the visitors, and this is also a key factor in the success of the show. CEMATEX works very closely with its organising partner to develop the concept of each show, and intensive marketing to exhibitors and visitors worldwide is carried out by the organiser and its subsidiaries and partners. We are also supported by a very wide network of travel agents all over the globe who offer attractive packages to both exhibitors and visitors, and the world press of course also play a key role in spreading the news. In addition, no show can exist nowadays without a comprehensive and interactive multi-lingual website. For the first time applications for space can be made on-line via www.itma.com for our ITMA 2007 show in Munich. Our on-line exhibitor directory, www.itmalive.com, which was launched for the ITMA 2003 show is also proving to be a very popular point of reference for the world’s textile industry."

How is a theme of an exhibition or a show conceived?

"Within the ITMA brand there are two shows – our core ITMA which takes place every 4 years in Europe, and ITMA Asia which initially took place every 4 years but which is now planned to take place every two years in China. Europe is our home and the centre of technological development in the textile industry, and we view this event as our core show where visitors will be able to examine the industry’s innovations. Indeed, the strap line for the ITMA 2007 event is ‘The Place for Innovation’. ITMA Asia, on the other hand, serves the requirements of the ever-increasing Asian region, the next event taking place in Shanghai in 2008 - the centre of today’s biggest market. Both shows are peripatetic, and the choice of venues is carefully discussed and evaluated prior to selection in order to offer the very best location for both exhibitors and visitors alike."

What strategies do you employ so as to attract maximum attendance at your shows and events?

"As mentioned above, it is important to know the market and work closely with all our partners to ensure that the show is promoted strongly worldwide. This involves the cooperation of not only our organising company, but also their overseas offices and agents, the members of the 9 CEMATEX associations in Europe, other textile machinery and textile associations throughout the world, our travel agents, hotels, and of course the Trade Press. The internet also plays a very important role, and it is vital to have a comprehensive multi-lingual website and on-line exhibitor directory. Since visas are often a necessary part of attending a show, we also keep in very close contact with embassies and consulates all over the world to ensure that they are aware of our event, and we assist our exhibitors and visitors to obtain their visas as early and easily as possible. As I have said, maintaining the quality of the show is also vital. The fact that ITMA is well known as a comprehensive global exhibition where visitors can see all the latest machinery, accessories and trends is also important for both exhibitors and their customers. Basically ITMA is a huge one-stop-shop."

Exhibitors are a hard lot to bargain with - What are your views?

"My own personal background is as an exhibitor, and during the course of my 19 years with Bonas Machine Company I participated in well over 60 international textile machinery shows worldwide. As the person responsible for selecting the show and planning every aspect of the company’s participation from start to finish, I understand very well the needs (and often the frustrations) of exhibitors. I believe strongly in treating exhibitors in the same way as I expected to be treated when I was an exhibitor – as a valued customer. An exhibition is an investment for exhibitors, and so it is vital for us as a supplier to offer a first class product. And that means not only ensuring that the services we provide are of the highest quality, but also that the visitors we bring to the show are a close match to the exhibiting companies in order to enable the all-important business to be done. CEMATEX is the umbrella association which comprises 9 European textile machinery associations (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK). The members of these associations are also the exhibitors of our shows, and so we receive regular feedback from them regarding our ITMA events. The Exhibitor Surveys which we circulate at each show also ensure that we can address any negative issues and ensure that these do not happen again. Quite simply, exhibitors are our greatest asset and without them we do not have a show – so it is vital to ensure that we meet and even exceed their expectations."

Do you feel internet or online exhibitions have created a niche for themselves in the Cyber world?

The great advantage of an exhibition is that it enables face-to-face networking between exhibitors and visitors, and this can never be replaced by internet or on-line exhibitions. Similarly there is no substitute for seeing machinery operating ‘in the flesh’ at a show, and this cannot be replicated on-line. Of course the internet does offer excellent marketing opportunities, and CEMATEX launched in 2003 our www.itmalive.com website which is an easy to use reference guide to the exhibitors of the various ITMA shows. But I do not believe that the internet can ever replace exhibitions.

ITMA has for long been recognized as the premier textile and general machinery event. Have you planned any more exhibitions in the fashion, clothing sector and accessories?

"Because ITMA is a comprehensive exhibition covering the whole range of textile machinery and accessories, the clothing and making up sector is already included in our Index of Products, and this industry is a significant part of the event. Three of the main objectives of the ITMA shows (ITMA in Europe and ITMA Asia) are To offer a reasonable cycle of exhibitions not only in the interest of our member associations (the exhibitors) but also to the benefit of their customers (the visitors). To be the showcase for the latest technology in the whole of the textile machinery industry in order to meet the requirements of all the actors of the textile field, thereby creating the world’s most comprehensive textile related exhibition. To offer the best value for money to both our exhibitors and visitors. These three goals are important for all our exhibitors and visitors, but particularly so for the smaller companies who do not have the resources to exhibit at shows all over the world and who therefore need one large global event. Similarly visitors know that when they come to ITMA they can see every aspect of the textile machinery industry under one roof – there is no need to go to any other shows. So we have no plans to cematex individual fashion and clothing sector shows."

Any observations about ITMA ASIA 2005 and the next show in China?

"The ITMA Asia show was launched in 2001 in Singapore and was held again in Singapore four years later in 2005. Both of these shows were extremely successful events, however it has always been our plan for ITMA Asia to be peripatetic, like ITMA in Europe. China’s textile industry has enjoyed a period of rapid growth and now has one third of the entire world textile production capacity. The country has become one of the largest buyers of textile machinery, and this is a key reason why we decided to move ITMA Asia from Singapore to China for 2008. We did not want simply to introduce another show into China, and therefore it made very good sense for us to work with the partners of the existing CITME show to enable us to combine both the ITMA Asia and CITME shows into one large international event. Our partners share the same objectives of offering high quality, relevant and cost effective events to the Chinese and Asian markets, and because of these common goals it was a very logical step to set up a long-term partnership for this combined show. We believe that a four-yearly event is not sufficient in China, given the current development and scope of the country. An event every year is too frequent. Having sought the opinion also of our members, who are the exhibitors, the consensus was that the ideal timing would be every two years. This is therefore our intention, however we shall continue to monitor the situation and will always strive to hold ITMA Asia in the best location for our exhibitors and their customers. Having reached an agreement with our Chinese partners, we decided to hold the first show in 2008, and with relatively short notice, the July slot was the only one available to us since we will need the whole venue (currently at 103,500 sq metres, but possibly 120,000 sq metres by 2008). However there is one big advantage to this timing - the show’s dismantling period will finish 4 days before the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Olympics (held 8 to 24 August 2008). Traditionally August is the time of the annual vacation in Europe and so we also feel that this timing will be an ideal opportunity for international exhibitors and visitors to bring their families to Shanghai and after the show travel to Beijing to experience the Olympics – in fact it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most people."

How big are your plans for next edition - ITMA 2007?

"Enormous!! The planning of the show is well underway, and we are working hard to ensure that the show is even bigger and more comprehensive than ITMA 2003. To date (with 15 months still to go before the show starts) well over 1,000 exhibitors have registered for space, including 230 companies who were not at ITMA 2003. Germany is the leading exhibitor so far, with over 200 companies taking 25,000 sq metres net of space to date. Italian and Swiss exhibitors are in second and third places. However, we are also greatly encouraged by the number of registrations from Asia. To give one example, Japanese exhibitors have already reserved 95% more space for 2007 than for 2003. The Chinese participation has also increased so far by 70%. As regards product sectors, the area for machinery and accessories for the production of nonwovens has already overtaken the sector size in 2003 by more than 20%. It is also significant that the flat knitting machinery manufacturers, who were not present at ITMA 2003, have returned to ITMA in Munich and they will be present in force with all the major manufacturers having booked their space already. ITMA 2007 is being made more attractive than ever by the addition of new products and by extending or reorganizing existing exhibition categories. And a new hierarchical numbering system will make the ITMA product index more transparent. Brand new products such as RFID systems are included in the product index, and a sector for transport and storage technology will be presented in greater detail. There will also be a new sector for software systems for knowledge management, production management and supply-chain management. New entries for nonwovens machines such as machines for aerodynamic web formation have been added to the index, which also includes entries for other special weaving and warp knitting machines used to produce technical textiles. Companies that want to produce smart textiles will find the transponder technology interesting from the point of view of integrating them into textiles. The sector for equipment for recycling, waste reduction and pollution prevention is more clearly structured and now complements the range of environmentally compatible and energy-efficient textile machines. Safety products are also a new index category. They include equipment for workers such as protective clothing or hearing protection as well as safety-related machine components. The sector for machines and accessories for the clothing industry has also been restructured and updated to reflect the state of the art. As was the case at ITMA 2003, training and research organisations that deal with textiles, technical textiles and clothing are eligible to participate as exhibitors. The strap line of the show is ‘The Place for Innovation’ – and I think this says it all! As mentioned above, there are still 15 months to go before the show opens, and there are a number of exciting new developments still to be announced, so watch out for press releases!"

Does you company look beyond events, shows, exhibitions…?

"CEMATEX is an association and not a commercial organization. Our core aim is to promote and strengthen the textile machinery industry of our member associations in the 9 European countries where we have membership, and to cooperate with other associations in the textile machinery, engineering and textile industries that pursue similar objectives.We represent the European textile machinery industry vis-à-vis the EU and its bodies by making ourselves known as a stakeholder in the industry, keeping regular contacts with key EU officials and monitoring and influencing regulations in the field of industrial policy and other fields relevant to the textile machinery industry. We believe strongly in preserving the role of the ITMA brand as the world’s premier exhibition of textile machinery for the benefit of our members and their customers."

As a leader in the field what do you have to say about competition?

"Competition is always a good thing because it means that organisations must keep on their toes and strive to be better. Without competition we would not see the sort of improvements which are constantly being made. However, the recent rapid growth in the Asian textile industry as a whole has led to an increase in the number of exhibitions in the region which causes great confusion in the marketplace. We believe that these have failed to meet the demands of the textile industry’s long term development. The ITMA Asia show is different because it is owned by a textile machinery association who understands the needs of the market and who has these needs in mind when planning these events. Often exhibitions are fuelled purely by commercial reasons which is not good for either exhibitors or visitors or the industry as a whole."
Published on: 14/09/2006

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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