In the old days, the European white-goods trade fair schedule was easy to follow: one year we would go to Paris for Confortec, and the other year to Cologne for Domotechnica. But Paris went away and the biggest appliance industry OEMs decided not to exhibit at Domotechnica. Then there was a Berlin event, and some manufacturers went back to Cologne for IMM-Cuisinale, the kitchen event organized as part of the furniture fair.
Why does the European industry seem to be indecisive about trade show participation?
The main reason for the demise of the international appliance trade fair is that manufacturers switched to local, single-brand shows to reach their core trade show audience, the retailers. To move all participants from all European countries to one central European location and then have salespeople talk to retailers on a country-by-country basis made less sense anyway. Remember that Europe is a divided market and manufacturers have separate marketing and sales strategies for each country.
Another advantage of a local show is that the OEM can completely immerse the attendee in one brand, and not have them be confused and distracted by other booths and sales pitches.
Some fair organizers tried letting consumers come as attendees; for example, consumer days were added to Domotechnica at one point. But appliance makers seem to prefer it the other way around—instead of extending appliance fairs, where they didn’t feel they saw enough pertinent visitors, they wanted to add appliance events to existing fairs with visitors already coming. This has been working well at IMM-Cuisinale and at Eurocucina in Milan.
IMM-Cuisinale had a problem in 2006: most kitchen manufacturers stayed away because their general business was down, so it did not make sense for the appliance manufacturers to attend.
A new approach will be tested in 2008: adding an appliance trade fair event to the large consumer electronics exhibition, IFA, in Berlin. The annual show is famous in Europe. It has done well in recent years and Berlin was pretty determined to woo appliance makers to the show.
It looks as if they have succeeded; it’s said most or all major appliance producers plan to attend. This is also a blow to Cologne, where a strategic error was made: they announced that Domotechnica would be held every year (instead of every two years), but did not first consult the large manufacturers. The appliance industry might have told Cologne that attending Milan and Cologne intermittently would be possible, but two shows in the same year would be simply too much.
Not that Berlin is without challenges: it is a bit far away from the industrial heart of Europe—the Cologne/Düsseldorf/Stuttgart/Munich/Milan axis—not to mention such markets as Holland, Belgium, and France. And Berlin itself and its surroundings (the former East Germany and Poland) do not represent a lot of consumer spending power. A big plus is that hotels in Berlin are cheaper than Cologne.
Formally, the appliance manufacturers are very happy to be a part of IFA, but behind closed doors they are taking a wait-and-see approach and Berlin cannot assume that they will attend next time.