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The History of Trade & Commercial Exhibitions & Fairs



We were curious and began wondering when and where trade fairs (also known as shows, expos or exhibitions) all began.

As you know a huge amount of money, both in the actual exhibitions as well as the marketing of the events, is invested in these fairs. These trade or commercial events are specifically put together to create the environment for connecting people to do business, whether B2B or direct with the consumer.

These are often useful events to see what your competition is doing and to learn about complementary products or services and how you can improve your current offering to keep up with changing markets and future trends. The trade fair industry is huge – In the US, over 10,000 trade fairs are held annually. Trade fairs are always a great opportunity for networking!

The Origins of Trade Fairs

Trade shows are nothing new. Similar to the traditional trade fairs where merchants took their wares to different towns to market and sell their products, modern day trade fairs are based on the same principle of merchant capitalism. The Industrial Revolution in the late eighteenth century saw the emerging of industrial exhibitions in North America and Europe.

The late nineteenth century saw the spread of industry specific trade shows on an annual basis, from the manufacturing cities in Europe to North America, as the value of these markets was beginning to be realised.

By the 20th century, these annual events had grown so much that specific trade show grounds and venues were allocated and developed as well as the need for specialised companies to manage and market the trade shows.

Asia absolutely dominated the international trade show market from the 21st century as China and other countries in the East were rapidly industrialised.

The Largest Trade Fairs

Some of the largest trade show grounds/convention centres in the world exist in Germany. They are in Hannover, Munich and Berlin with combined indoor and outdoor floor space being in excess of 550,000 sqm, the largest indoor trade fair space being at Hanover Fairground in Hanover with 496,000 sqm, seeing about 250,000 visitors and 6,500 exhibitors per annum.

Book Fairs outshine any other industry as having the largest turn out with over 2 million visitors per annum at the Kolkata, Tehran and Cairo Book Fairs.

Quality over Quantity

However we feel that quality trumps quantity with regards to trade fairs, so it pays to look out for the trade fair that best suits your needs and where you’re most likely to meet your prospective customers, rather than the largest on the market.

We’d love to help you capture the attention of your prospective customers at your next trade fair. Give us a call today to find out how we can assist you!


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