Fair (economy)

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A trade fair (in Switzerland also: salon ) in the economic sense is a time-limited, recurring marketing event . It enables manufacturers or sellers of goods or services to display, explain and sell them.

At a trade fair, customers have the opportunity to compare the offers of different providers and to get an idea of ​​the market situation. Exhibiting companies are concerned with acquiring or refreshing customer contacts, increasing awareness and exchanging information. In terms of the economy as a whole, trade fairs contribute to the creation of market transparency and can trigger positive regional employment effects (see indirect return ).

Concept and development

In the context of medieval history, the term fair denotes a goods or money market held once or on several specific days a year, which stood out from the fair due to its supraregional significance.

In order to ensure sufficient demand for the goods on offer, the masses were initially usually combined with a church festival, which was well attended by the population. There, once or several times a year, the namesake or the patron saint of a church was commemorated . The name derived from the Latin missa = transmission. The trade fairs later developed into a focal point for long-distance trade, which is why they were usually held at geographically particularly favorable locations. The participating merchants were often granted privileges in connection with their participation in the fair, such as escort for the outward and return journey or protection at the fair location. The trade fairs were of particular importance for commercial practice as credit due dates, including in connection with bills of exchange . The tradition that trade fairs take place in spring and autumn has been preserved in some cases to this day, but now based on the innovation rhythm of the economy. Church centers at the fair or meditation rooms that provide prayer rugs , among other things , bring the religious origin back into play.

Early historical development

The first evidence of a mass is provided by a donation from the Merovingian King Dagobert I to Saint-Denis near Paris , dated 9 October 634/635 . Sources from the Merovingian or Carolingian times are, however, only sparse. In Flanders, the fairs of Torhout (first mentioned in 1084), Ypres , Lille (both first mentioned in 1127), Messines (first mentioned in 1159) and Bruges (first mentioned in 1200) took place. The famous medieval fairs are in the towns of Lagny , Provins , Troyes and Bar-sur-Aube organized Champagne Fairs , up to the year 1300 claimed to be markets of European significance and in the late Middle Ages of the fairs in Chalon-sur-Saone , Geneva and Lyon were replaced.

For the trade of the Hanseatic League , the Scandinavian fairs held annually from August to October on a headland on the southwestern tip of Sweden since the middle of the 12th century in Skanör and since the middle of the 13th century also in Falsterbo were of particular importance. The most important commodity was the herring caught in the Öresund , in addition to which other goods from the Baltic Sea region such as wood, furs, wax and iron were sold. The salt needed to preserve the fish came from Oldesloe and Lüneburg or from the French Baye de Bourgneuf . In the 15th century, the Skåne fairs lost their importance and developed into pure herring markets.

Development of trade fairs in Germany

It was not until the 12th century that regional trade fair networks emerged in what is now Germany. Since the second half of the century, four exhibition venues in the Lower Rhine exhibition network have clearly stood out: Cologne , Utrecht , Aachen and the exhibitions in Duisburg , which are considered the predecessors of the Frankfurt exhibition. By the 14th century at the latest, the important trade fairs for the later Middle Ages in cities such as Leipzig and Frankfurt am Main were established at the intersections of the major trade routes .

The industrialization that began in the 18th century required new sales and distribution channels, which also influenced the trade fair industry. However, it was not until the middle of the 19th century that the type of sample fair that is common today was developed - initially in Leipzig, later also in other locations. The goods they brought with them were no longer sold directly at the exhibition stand, but samples were shown according to which orders were placed. This sample fair with a wide range of investment and consumer goods determined the trade fair landscape in Germany and Europe until the middle of the 20th century. From 1895 onwards, the Leipziger Messe officially bore the title "Sample Fair".

After the German Empire was founded in 1871, Leipzig was initially the only internationally significant trade fair city that was respected beyond Germany's borders. Otherwise, from the middle of the 19th century to the First World War, world exhibitions were considered the outstanding events. In contrast to today, they had a strong economic function and were often the setting for the first presentation of important technical inventions. The German Reich and, to a large extent, German industry took part very intensively in these events, although there were no world exhibitions in Germany at that time.

In addition, at the end of the 19th century, but also in the first decades of the 20th century, numerous exhibitions of supraregional importance were held, most of which were assigned to a specific topic, such as electricity, health or mechanical engineering. They were aimed primarily at the general public, but often only took place at irregular intervals or even only once. But some still exist today, like the ILA - International Aerospace Exhibition , which was founded in 1909 as an aerospace exhibition .

After the First World War , the Leipziger Messe continued to play an outstanding role for the German trade fair industry. In addition, the Frankfurt trade fairs and, in the course of the 1920s, the Cologne trade fairs and the newly founded Deutsche Ostmesse in Königsberg became more important. Almost all industries were still brought together at these trade fairs. It was not until the late 1920s that a large number of trade fairs came into being .

After 1933 , exhibitions were primarily used as a means of so-called “popular enlightenment” for propaganda purposes. Trade fairs were seen less as a marketing instrument, but rather as “performance shows of the national community ”. The trade fair and exhibition system was assigned to the Reich Propaganda Ministry at this time .

The end of the Second World War also marked a turning point in the development of the German trade fair and exhibition industry. It had to be completely reorganized in a Germany that had been divided into two parts since 1949. The exhibition grounds, which were almost completely destroyed, had to be rebuilt and new priorities had to be set in the exhibition work.

Leipzig tried to regain its leading international position as the central exhibition center of the German Democratic Republic and played an important role in east-west trade until the 1980s.

In the Federal Republic of Germany, the international trade fairs in Frankfurt and Cologne resumed their work in 1947 and 1948 respectively. In addition, the German Exhibition and Exhibition Company founded in 1947 in Hanover. Other, until then rather small trade fair locations such as Berlin , Düsseldorf and Munich gained significantly in importance. Individual international trade fairs were also established at locations such as Stuttgart , Hamburg , Nuremberg and Essen , which initially had more regional importance.

The 1950s and 1960s were shaped by spatial and thematic decentralization. It was triggered above all by the fact that numerous trade fair topics that were previously part of the Leipziger Messe had to be established in West Germany. In this way, numerous trade fairs for clearly defined industry segments were created.

In addition, the occupying powers of the time, but of course also the economy itself, were very interested in German industry regaining its old export strength as quickly as possible. International trade fairs in Germany were an excellent instrument for this. This view coincided with the endeavors of the German trade fair companies to profile themselves internationally and accordingly to open their trade fairs to interested parties from all over the world.

It has become an important feature of the German trade fair industry that organizing companies organize professionally oriented trade fairs and exhibitions with international participation on their own premises, which are supported by the respective associations as ideal sponsors or co-organizers.

Today, all of the large exhibition companies are owned by the cities and federal states, but still private companies that are in intense competition with one another. Around 75% of international trade fairs in Germany are organized by publicly owned organizers, the rest by associations or private organizers. The implementation of trade fairs and exhibitions is not regulated by the state, but is left to the free decision of the trade fair organizer.

With increasing diversification of the economy and the integration of West Germany into the world economy, the number and international importance of German trade fairs also increased. The number of international trade fairs doubled to around 100 between 1970 and 1990 alone.

After the unification of Germany in 1990, the Leipziger Messe in particular had to find a new role in the German trade fair landscape. To this end, the trade fair program has been broken down into numerous trade fairs. The East German companies recognized the importance of the fair in a market economy very quickly and made intensive use of West and East German trade fairs. Accordingly, a number of trade fair locations with regional significance have also emerged in the new federal states.

Today, numerous German trade fair organizers are also active as organizers abroad. While there were hardly any such trade fairs around 1990, there were already 226 in 2010. Today, almost two thirds of the world's leading trade fairs in the individual sectors take place in Germany. Every year around 150 international trade fairs and exhibitions with up to 170,000 exhibitors and 9 to 10 million visitors are held. Over 50% of the exhibitors and around 25% of the visitors come from abroad, so that Germany is currently the world's most important trade fair country.

Conceptual differentiations

Factual distinctions

While trade fairs were originally sales events ( goods fairs ) that served the direct purchase and sale of goods, sample fairs dominate today , at which products can be ordered using samples. In addition, trade fairs now serve more to prepare for later business deals, i.e. H. At the fair, information about products and services and the associated personal communication dominate. The art fairs where the exhibited works of art can be purchased are an exception .

Historically, places with traditional universal and multi-branch fairs are often called trade fair cities . The best-known examples of this are Leipzig and Frankfurt am Main , but also Hanover , although the Deutsche Messe and Exhibition AG was only founded in 1947 (today Deutsche Messe AG ). From 1937 to 1945, Leipzig was known as the "Reichsmesse City".

In the diversified exhibition industry specialized fairs have on individual industries (trade fairs) enforced and largely replaced more industry trade shows. Examples of multi-sector fairs today are the consumer goods fair Ambiente in Frankfurt am Main and the Hanover fair for the capital goods sector , with both fairs having clearly defined and limited focus areas.

In some cases, the term trade fair is not used to differentiate universal trade fairs , but to express that the event is aimed at trade visitors instead of a general audience, which therefore forms the target group of a public fair , which is also called a consumer fair . The clear opposite term to the public fair, however, is the trade fair .

Trade Regulations (Germany)

According to § 64 para. 1 sentence 1 of the German Industrial Code (GewO) Mass is as a form of market trade a "generally recurring event on the" substantial offer of one or more " sectors exhibited and mainly to pattern to commercial resellers , commercial End consumer or bulk buyer ". To a limited extent, “final consumers ” can also be allowed to purchase.

In connection with § 64 GewO with § 69 GewO, an event is set as a trade fair. A determination must be requested from the local regulatory or trade office. For this purpose, an application, information about the fair, a site plan, a provisional list of exhibitors and an extract from the central trade register as well as a certificate of good conduct must be submitted for submission to an authority. The determination is usually connected with an administration fee and includes the organizer, the name or designation of the fair, the content, location and period as well as opening times.

An exhibition ( § 65 GewO) does not necessarily recur in time, but the "representative" (not the essential) offer of an economic sector is exhibited and / or sold without any special differentiation to the public.

Exhibition and trade fair committee of the German economy

In addition to the definition of the trade regulations, the trade fair association Exhibition and Trade Fair Committee of the German Economy (AUMA) uses further categories for its databases and statistical evaluations to differentiate between trade fairs and exhibitions in Germany.

International trade fairs then show the essential range of one or more economic sectors. On the visitor side, they have a catchment area that goes well beyond the region, usually over 50% of the visitors come from at least 100 km away and over 20% from at least 300 km away. They have a foreign exhibitor share of at least 10% and a share of at least 5% foreign trade visitors.

Trade fairs in the AUMA category "national" show the essential range of one or more economic sectors. On the visitor side, they have a catchment area that goes well beyond the region, usually over 50% of the visitors come from at least 100 km away and over 20% from at least 300 km away.

AUMA also uses the "regional" category. The fairs of this allocation mainly show a regional visitor catchment area. As a rule, well over 50% of the visitors come from less than 100 km away. They cover an offer that can also go beyond the respective region.

AUMA differentiated in addition to trade visitors fairs with significantly more than 50% of trade visitors and public fairs. The transition is fluid, however, because there are mixed forms which, to varying degrees, also address the other target group. Both groups can have access to a trade fair at different times or at the same time and can only be differentiated in a different way.

The differentiation between trade fairs (primarily aimed at trade visitors) and exhibitions (primarily aimed at private visitors), as described in the trade regulations, has lost its importance in practice.

Further differentiation options

Sometimes a distinction is also made between an exhibition as a regional event, which is aimed primarily at a private audience and shows the range of offers in a region instead of an economic sector (e.g. Euregio Meuse-Rhine ), and a trade fair as a supraregional event that offers a or several industries .

Another level is reflected in the terms trade show and trade fair, where a distinction is made between production and trade.

Finally, a formal distinction is the special form of an in- house exhibition , in which, instead of a trade fair company, a provider, often a wholesaler, acts as the organizer himself and the manufacturers he sells present their offers.

Significance and locations in the German-speaking area

Germany is the world's leading location for trade fairs with an international focus. Five of the ten largest exhibition companies in the world come from Germany. All German exhibition companies together achieved a turnover of 3.5 billion euros in 2014. Every year between 160 and 180 international and national trade fairs are held, which are used by 170,000 to 180,000 exhibitors and around ten million visitors.

Exhibition grounds in Germany

Trade fair companies in Germany either rent the site to guest organizers or act as organizers themselves. The large German exhibition companies all have a municipal shareholder structure and therefore differ very significantly from foreign, especially American companies. Examples in which a trade fair company does not itself act as the organizer are the Frankfurt Book Fair (annually), the IAA (every second year) and the Achema (every three years) in Frankfurt am Main ; in Berlin the Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin (annually), the International Tourism Exchange (annually), the Green Week (annually) and the International Aerospace Exhibition Berlin (every second year).

The highest hall capacities at the exhibition center in Germany

Frankfurt exhibition grounds
  1. Messe Frankfurt (393,838 m²)
  2. Deutsche Messe , Hanover (392,453 m²)
  3. Koelnmesse (284,000 m²)
  4. Messe Düsseldorf (248,580 m²)
  5. Munich Exhibition Center (200,000 m²)
  6. Nuremberg Exhibition Center (179,600 m²)
  7. Messe Berlin (170,000 m²)
  8. Messe Stuttgart (119,800 m²)
  9. Leipziger Messe (111,300 m²)
  10. Messe Essen (110,000 m²)

Largest outdoor area

  1. Munich Trade Fair Center (414,000 m²)
  2. Messe Berlin (157,000 m²)
  3. Bremen Exhibition Center (100,000 m²)
  4. Koelnmesse (100,000 m²)
  5. Freiburg Exhibition Center (81,000 m²)
  6. Leipziger Messe (70,000 m²)
  7. Messe Husum (70,000 m²)
  8. Karlsruhe Exhibition Center (62,000 m²)
  9. Messe Frankfurt (59,506 m²)
  10. Hanover Exhibition Center (58,000 m²)

Exhibition grounds in Austria

The most important venues for trade fairs are:

Exhibition center in Switzerland

The most important exhibition centers in Switzerland are:

See also


  • Dieter Arnold: Successful trade fair marketing: event trends - exhibitor offers - trade fair services . expert-Verlag, Reinningen 2003, ISBN 3-8169-2164-7 .
  • The trade fair industry: 2015 results . AUMA 2016.
  • The trade fair industry: facts, functions, perspectives . AUMA, Berlin 2013.
  • Recording and classification of trade fairs in Germany . AUMA, 2015.
  • Dieter S. ter Weiler, Kai Ludwigs, Bernd M. Lindenberg, Björn Jopen: Trade fairs make markets - a roadmap to increase your trade fair success . 9th, updated edition. Springer Gabler, Wiesbaden 2016, ISBN 978-3-658-08588-9 .
  • Eduard Philippi: The trade fairs of the city of Frankfurt on the Oder . Frankfurt / Oder 1877.
  • Manfred Kirchgeorg, Werner M. Dornscheidt , Wilhelm Giese Norbert Streck (eds.): Trade fair management manual: planning, implementation and control of trade fairs, congresses and events . 2., completely revised u. exp. Edition. Gabler-Verlag, Wiesbaden 2012, ISBN 978-3-8349-3368-3 .
  • Charles Verlinden: Markets and Fairs. In: MM Postan (Ed.): The Cambridge economic history of Europe. Volume 3: Economic organization and policies in the Middle Ages . Cambridge et al. a. 1963, pp. 119-153.
  • JA van Houtte: Messe (trade fair). In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages . Volume 6: Lukasbilder to Plantagenêt. Munich 2003, pp. 558-560.

Web links

Commons : Trade fairs  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Commons : Fairs  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Michael Rothmann: The Frankfurt trade fairs in the Middle Ages . Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-515-06883-X . (books.google.de)
  2. a b Key figures of the trade fair industry 2019 (AUMA, status: January 1, 2019) (PDF) accessed on January 10, 2020.