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Extravagant and inappropriate… or a strong statement

Leigh W Sparrow, Publisher
Leigh W Sparrow, Publisher

July 1, 2010 - At this year’s Bauma the one subject on everyone’s lips, no matter what their product interest, was the size and cost of the massive new Liebherr stand. Opinions ranged from ‘excessive and as inappropriate as a banker’s bonus’ to those who thought it was ‘a fantastic expression of confidence in the industry and an indication of the group’s strength and long-term business view’.

At the start of the show most of the feedback from visitors to our stand seemed t run along the lines of how much extra would customers be paying for their machines to fund this extravagance. The fact is, of course, that Liebherr does not have a monopoly in any market in which it competes, so if its prices do not appear to offer fair value then no one will buy the product.

Strangely by mid-week the mood seemed to have swung and this type of comment was few and far between, with most opinion switching to admiration and respect; Liebherr owners, in particular, were very impressed and suggested that the stand summed up everything that’s good about the company - citing professionalism and of doing everything properly.

While almost everyone had something to say about the Liebherr stand, we also got positive feedback about alternative approaches. Several applauded Manitowoc’s decision to cut its stand back to a very modest size – which by the way was far more open and welcoming than its big two storey 2007 stand. The company also hosted a first-class ‘thank you’ party for its dealers and customers. The stand appeared to be successful in terms of order intake too, based on the number of times its celebratory music went off.

Others mentioned the Tadano stand, which retained the size but invested a little more in the hospitality area. Terex appeared to have taken a line between Liebherr and Manitowoc and that appeared to work well too.

On the access area the difference in strategies between the top three producers was more pronounced with Haulotte deciding to stay away, while JLG cut its space a little and took up Haulotte’s vacant location. Aichi had a homemade two-storey stand of solid timber beams built around a courtyard… very calm and quite brilliant. Genie pretty much repeated its 2007 effort on the Terex stand but switched to a more modest but friendlier customer party. Snorkel had an exceptionally large and impressive stand that harked back to better times, although some questioned its appropriateness given the current size of the company. It did have a big job to do though, as the company launched its switch to a single worldwide brand – dropping the UpRight name and it probably suited that well.

There were many other great stands in terms of catching the right mood such as Nifty’s last-minute effort, while just across the aisle the very professional Skyjack booth also looked great. However, I digress.

The main point of this comment is the appropriateness of the Liebherr stand with its more than 1,200 staff and three-storey hospitality/office block designed by an award-wining architect. Although the stand clearly cost ‘a pretty penny’ there was nothing opulent about it; rather it was highly functional with every piece of wood and glass there for a specific reason. And as one Liebherr executive pointed out: “There are seven large companies paying for this stand and their budgets for Bauma if they were standalone companies would have been far greater than what was spent.” The company steadfastly refused to comment on the constant guesses being made as to the actual cost.

The stand was also designed to be used for three or four Bauma shows, so we can expect to see the same stand through until at least 2016 and most likely 2019. Should conditions change the building is completely modular and can be adapted or even used elsewhere.

Having spent an hour on Saturday wandering around the various areas of the building it was very clear that the stand was working as well as any stand I have seen in 11 Baumas. In spite of the massive crowds, security had a very light touch, the inner parts of the stand were generally very welcoming and almost every office was being used for customer discussions, while the numerous lounge areas each had a viewing balcony with fantastic views over the relevant equipment.

As the show went on I became increasingly in favour of the expenditure concluding that the stand was a masterpiece and a strong statement of all the company purports to be – it was 100 percent Liebherr. The stand appeared to work very well and most importantly the company took a good number of orders at the show the key test.

However a policy such as this is a high risk one and could so easily have backfired. My guess is that such expenditure is only possible by a company such as Liebherr and only at a show like Bauma.

If you attended the show, what did you think?

 

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