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Interview with Elmar Kühn, CEO of UNITI-Kraftstoff GmbH: Outlook on UNITI expo 2016

Mr. Kühn, there are still more than 250 days left until the opening of UNITI expo 2016, which is on the 14th of June. How far are you with the preparations?

ELMAR KÜHN: More than 250 days! Really? That sounds like a lot of time, but it is nothing for an event of this scale. Actually, I’m very glad because preparations are well underway; we have already reached many goals.

Goals such as...?

KÜHN: The concept of UNITI expo 2014 has been successfully developed for the next edition. Originally, it was created in close cooperation with Walter D. Mangold of WDM management consultancy and Bruno Boroewitsch of com-a-tec GmbH, and has continued to develop in that manner.

We have learned from the feedback of exhibitors and visitors and, in my opinion, drawn the right conclusions from it. I want to put it this way: UNITI expo 2014 met and often exceeded the wishes and expectations of Europe’s retail petroleum industry. However, we can still, and will, improve in some details as UNITI expo 2016 will impressively show.

What is the current booking status for UNITI expo 2016?

KÜHN: We have more than 240 exhibitors from nearly 30 different countries that have already made their bookings. If everything goes as planned during the coming eight months we should be expecting around 400 exhibitors by June 2016. This would be a 20 percent increase in comparison to 2014!

Will there be more exhibitors on the same space or will you be increasing the exhibition area?

KÜHN: Well, Hall 3 (10,000 sqm) is completely booked, and three quarters of Hall 1 (20,000 sqm) is already reserved. By the end of August, we had already sold more exhibition space than in the whole of UNITI expo 2014. This is a huge boost to receive from the industry - proving that we are on the right track.

Does that mean there is very little space left for new exhibitors?

KÜHN: Certainly not. Some halls are booked up – for example the forecourt equipment Hall 3. Because of this, and due to the large number of booth requests we are receiving from the fuel logistics sector, we are going to provide an additional 10,000 sqm with the opening of Hall 5. The booth allocation for this space is just starting now. So we are growing in quantity and quality – the best way to strengthen the position of UNITI expo as the leading European trade fair for the retail petroleum and car wash industries.

In the first exhibition, some major oil companies were represented. Would you say oil companies have discovered the value of UNITI expo?

KÜHN: We are very pleased with the support shown by major companies. From Germany's A-companies like Aral, Shell, Esso and Total, to the so-called B-companies or medium-sized companies like Eni, OMV, Orlen, Präg, Westfalen and AVIA, as well as the companies represented by UNITI. Finally, Tank & Rast, which will continue as our cooperation partner for UNITI expo 2016.

Briefly put, having 10,000 from a total of 14,000 German petrol stations, as well as numerous international oil companies represented at UNITI expo means a great deal to us. The major oil companies have seen UNITI expo as a meeting point for decision makers of the industry. The response from the industry has been very encouraging, which is an incentive and a challenge for us at the same time.

What about the shop and conveniece area?

KÜHN: As far as the numbers go, it looks quite good! Right now, one out of 6 exhibitors is from that area. This is of great significance for a traditionally technology-heavy industry. For me, more important than the number of exhibitors is their quality. That’s why I’m particularly pleased that we were able to attract professionals who are shaping the industry. These big players are like a magnet for the medium and small suppliers of the shop and convenience segment.

Speaking of quality, what does the next UNITI expo bring with regard to qualitative progress?

KÜHN: First, I would like to point out what has to remain the same: providing an overview of the entire national and international retail petroleum and carwash industries – a unique event in Europe.

Futurewise, at UNITI expo 2016 we are going place a greater emphasis on the innovations and trends of the industry. Many of the companies represented at the exhibition have innovative concepts and solutions not yet available or already on the market – in Stuttgart they will be introduced to the public. Other companies use UNITI expo to showcase their ideas for the future and to test how the experts respond to them. There will be new products and innovations from all areas of the industry.

The big question for the first UNITI expo was how to attract the international public. How good was the response?

KÜHN: It was very satisfying as UNITI expo established itself as the leading trade fair for the retail petroleum sector in Europe! 11,000 professionals from 92 countries visited the trade fair. For UNITI expo 2016 we look to increase the internationality of the event even further. In order to meet these expectations we have expanded our network of media partners and increased international advertising. Meanwhile, our top cooperation partners publicize UNITI expo in their home countries and export markets. I am confident that all of these activities will raise the level of internationality from 2014 even further, especially with regard to professional visitorst.

What kind of visitors do you expect for the next edition?

KÜHN: We took the visitor portfolio of the past UNITI expo and reinforced the areas which showed further potential with more dedicated advertising.  We expect more decision makers from the industry, more oil companies and petrol station networks, as well as their respective dealers, more employees throughout the supply industry and many who are active in the operational service station business.

“Zukunftsforum Tankstelle” no longer is part of UNITI expo. Does this mean UNITI has become a more traditional trade fair?

KÜHN: Absolutely not. Although the highly successful UNITI Zukunftsforum Tankstelle will return to being an independent event – the next edition will be in Berlin on the 24th and 25th of November – the UNITI expo remains a meeting place for experts, an event for industry networking, and a platform for synergies and cooperations. These are all qualities that are usually not characteristic of a trade fair. Conceptually and operationally these attributes have been strengthened with each of the themed areas having interesting presentations, lectures and seminars. The attendance at the forums is free. In this sense, UNITI expo remains Europe’s largest meeting place for the industry.

What themed areas are there?

KÜHN: There will be the four different areas: oil companies & fuel retailers; technology, payment & logistics; carwash & carcare; and shop & convenience. The areas of technology, payment & logistics; shop & convenience; and carwash & carcare will be augmented by lectures and presentation forums.

What can visitors expect to see in the themed area ‘shop & convenience’?

KÜHN: Our goal is to provide a full overview of the market. Exhibitors will introduce their product innovations, as well as a variety of concepts that ensure success in the handling of petrol stations. Shop makers and leading industry players will give their recipes for today´s business and their ideas for tomorrow. The overall focus will be set on concepts that safeguard the future and expand the petrol station distribution channel. These concepts range from the fundamental idea of the future petrol station shop to concrete shop elements like food service, coffee, cold drinks and on-the-go consumption. Let's not forget that some of these issues will ultimately determine the long-term success of a petrol station.

You show great conviction about the success of the trade fair.

KÜHN: Sure, this is not only our job but also our conviction. Visiting UNITI expo is worthwhile for everyone in our industry.

Mr. Kühn was interviewed by the editorial staff of tankstellenWelt.

Visitors and exhibitors Statements

H2 MOBILITY Deutschland GmbH & Co. KG, Sybille Riepe, Communications Manager

"UNITI expo is very important to us because it's where we meet the people who work in the sector. Because we talk to tenant families here, because we can talk to other suppliers and because we are visible in the scene. Hydrogen mobility is coming and we need UNITI expo as our supporting network." (translated to English)

Impressions of UNITI expo 2018