The Show That Was – Jens Heithecker on CE China 2018

As the 2018 edition of CE China drew to a close, we asked IFA Executive Director & Messe Berlin Vice-President & CE China Chairman, Jens Heithecker, what kind of feedback he has received on the show floor.

We have had great feedback, and we are especially proud, because we received this feedback after the changes in concept we applied for this edition – especially for the Retail University, where we have had an excellent response. In the run-up to this third event, we really wanted to further differentiate the show. We wanted to establish the main USP of this event as a “retail” show. The question was how to make it better? How to bring together better the retailers and the western brands. Indeed, it was a challenge for us as to how we could develop this show in that sense, and with the Retail University, we found the right tool. Everyone who joined this was surprised with what knowledge and information they could obtain directly and on the other side we heard from the presenters, who were quite surprised to be able to present their companies and products in front of so many retailers here in China. That means this has become the core, the new centre of development for this show, bringing more international brands step-by-step into China in a very efficient way.

So, the big thing is branding? It’s a brand show unlike any other in China?

Indeed, we don’t have exhibitor after exhibitor with large quantities of OEM and ODM products for export. This show is prioritising brands. It is a mixture of brands with headquarters in China and brands with international headquarters. We do not differentiate anymore between these, because all these brands are international brands. They are working and acting in international markets. In other words, quite simply this is an international brand show. It doesn’t matter whether they are headquartered in China or Europe or America. It is an international brand show for retailers especially in China and countries around China.

One of the exhibitors told me that he had seen some buyers from Japan, so does that mean it is becoming a “regional” show?

Yes, but you have to consider it on a small scale still. The idea was not to create another political high-tech show with governmental support or whatever. The idea was to build up a business show… a true business show with a clear business focus. And from the first show onwards, we knew it was not about “hit and run”. It was about convincing people to seek new ways to address retailers here in Asia to seek or open new ways for the brand manufacturers to address retailers via a high-quality event. That’s where we are at the moment and this show was proof of how successful this approach could be, and what we can achieve in the future.

Where to from here?

First of all, I think we will extend the approach of this year’s show. That means more retailers, more retail-focused topics more retail partners, more brands from around the world. But more important for us is that CE China is part of our global network. The network of the IFA group, and my feeling is that we have to bring much closer together the networks of the main IFA show in Berlin, of the show here in China, and of our new show in America. We are the only show organisers now worldwide who have access to retail networks in all the main markets for global companies: America, Europe and Asia / China. This is the strategic strength we are developing, and this is the benefit we will bring to CE China in the next years. This is what we have to work on.

We heard that next year there will be a European pavilion at the CE China show. Could you tell us more about that?

Indeed, that is something we are going to promote in a specific way. This this year was a first step in trying to figure out if this kind of activity could work and as we’ve heard so far there is at least a very clear indication that this kind of trade show space will be enlarged in a significant way for our next editions. What we are trying to do of course is to bring European or overseas brands into the Chinese markets and provide them with the opportunity to promote themselves, not just placing them on the show floor, but also by putting them under the spotlight at our Retail University, and providing other platforms which will enable them to obtain direct contacts into the Chinese retail landscape with Suning, with Gome and with the other partners.

So, it’s a kind of educational show as well… educating the market with the conferences and the University and so on?

It’s not so much education as much as enabling; bringing the right knowledge to the right parts of the market, facilitating this for the retailers. It is important for them to know more about the brand products than they can find on the Internet. And for the retailers, it is important for them to know that the consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about the lifestyle brands; what’s the value of some western brands, what’s the idea behind not only German but other smaller especially SDA brands. It is a huge market in China. TV is more or less set, but talking about lifestyle elements and connected living, not only about smart phones, this is a huge market, open now for international brands. But on the other side, the consumer at least has to have a clue what these brands could mean, and the retailer has to have the chance to be able to explain what the brand story is, what is specific about the product, and what the special reasons are for consumers to pay more for a brand product than for a no-name or a low-end product. And that’s what we want to enable.

So, it’s all about creating synergy between the different events of the IFA family?

Exactly… People shouldn’t forget that the next show in the line-up for the retailers worldwide is in New York. The next show is CE week in mid-June, when will be also inviting retailers and brands from China to join this new retail networking event!

Photo: Jens Heithecker – IFA Executive Director, Messe Berlin Vice-President, CE China Chairman