Michael, now all we are in a very difficult and unpleasant situation due to the pandemic. I would like to hear your opinion as the Director Brand Management Technical Textiles & Textile Processing. What do you think in general about the current situation with regard to technical textile exhibitions?
The present situation is hitting the trade-fair industry severely. We have been forced, both in Frankfurt and world-wide, to postpone or cancel all events until the summer, thereby suffering enormous losses of revenue. Nor is the situation of the fairs in autumn certain as yet. Any definite planning is hardly possible at the present time. At the moment we are assuming that Cinte Techtextil in China and Techtextil North America, with Texprocess Americas, will both be taking place in autumn this year.
Many enterprises have suspended their activities, while others – such as manufacturers of non-woven materials-on the contrary, work at high speeds. Will this diversity of companies help the industry stay afloat?
Manufacturers of non-wovens and companies specialising in hygiene textiles are currently experiencing a boom in orders. Even so, we must not forget that their business, too, cannot run smoothly, since for instance there is a lack of material supplies, and transport routes are not functioning in the way to which the firms are accustomed. Many businesses, including numerous fashion firms, have currently expanded their product range to include hygiene textiles, such as mouth and nose masks. This is helping these companies, at least partially. But not every firm can do that at the drop of a hat. Thus at the moment the business is thoroughly frustrated. Add to this the fact that, even before the outbreak of the Corona virus, there was a backlog of capital investment in the industry, caused by international trade barriers.
The diversity existing within the technical-textiles sector is, we may hope, an advantage whose full benefit will be felt after the crisis. Its areas of application are so multifarious – from automotive manufacturing, to health, to building and architecture – that, as some of those industries so frustrated at present eventually get going, the demand for technical textiles may well increase again. Companies which already offer a broad range of products will have a definite advantage in this respect. I hope for a similar effect here, as we saw following the financial crisis in 2008-2009.
The virus impact on the exhibition industry is not what we observe, but, unfortunately, we directly feel. A huge number of business events have been moved from spring to autumn season and even next year, including Techtextil Russia. It’s clear that the transfer is forced, but can we still hope for any positive prospects in the future?
The Corona crisis is a hard blow for all trade-fair companies. Our core business consists of meetings between people at major events, and that is exactly what is impossible at the moment world-wide. Nor should we forget that trade fairs are also a major driver for other branches of the economy – from taxi drivers, to the hotel industry, to food services and the travel industry. In Frankfurt alone Messe Frankfurt creates around € 2 billion of additional purchasing power annually.
At Messe Frankfurt we are currently considering options for digital formats for our fairs, so that we can offer some of the events pending in autumn at least in a reduced form online. Even today fantastic forms of exchange can be enjoyed through digital tools. But they cannot replace the personal encounter, the live experience of products and technologies. However concerned we may be at the present time, this gives us a sense of optimism. So I expect to see a catch-up effect among exhibitors and visitors, quite simply because demand for exchange of ideas and curicuriosity about new developments will be large. If it goes well, demand for innovative products will also rise.
1. What do you think will happen to the market after the epidemic goes down? Of course, it is difficult to predict what will the companies need to do, but in this case, can you assume what exactly should not be done?
There will certainly be no "going back to stage one." The current situation is showing many companies how dependent they are on established supply channels. In future this or that company will reorganise itself and, for instance, invest more strongly in their own capacities, or purchase materials at a more regional level. Overall I expect that some production capacities will be brought back again in the long term. Receptivity to digital applications will also increase among many companies which have so far still been reticent in such matters. I see plenty of opportunities here, however serious the situation.
How do you assess the ways out of the crisis? What prospects will open up for the technical textiles market?
As I have said, I expect that the previous investment backlog, compounded by the Corona crisis, will dissipate, because by then a certain pent-up demand will have been created among businesses. And I am keen to know which new materials and products we shall be seeing in future which have been, so to speak, "born of necessity", because access to particular raw materials was unavailable. At the moment businesses need to get some ideas about how to survive in the market and will carry these new developments over into the period after Corona.
The switchover to other products and the use of machinery for new purposes will in addition encourage companies to find ways of extending their product range long-term, motivate them to invest again more strongly in developing their own resources and to purchase materials at a more regional level again. I am confident that in this way the industry will gain in sustainability.