Lisa Bonnema, Editor, APPLIANCE Magazine
Many feel that it won’t be. And to an extent, it shouldn’t. If our industry is doing what it’s supposed to, business is very different than it was 10-20 years ago, when industry executives eagerly anticipated making the bi-annual trip out to Cologne. Now, odds are these same executives are visiting Germany, as well as the U.S., Asia, and other parts of the world, several times a year, with or without a trade show.
This reason alone, however, doesn’t account for what has been a total lack of industry support over the last few years for one, international appliance trade fair. Interestingly enough, the more global the industry has gotten, the more regional the fairs seem to be getting.
For those of you that have followed what I like to call “the show saga” of the last 4 years, bear with me as I step back in time for a few moments to review the evolution of what seems to be a huge game of follow the leader.
The public controversy started back in 2001 when leading European players like Electrolux, Whirlpool, BSH, and Merloni Elettrodomestici (now Indesit Company) decided not to exhibit at Domotechnica, then known as the industry’s largest and most important trade show. Some players, like Electrolux, claimed trade fairs weren’t worth the money. Others, however, blamed discontentment with the Cologne fair and ended up supporting a new show headed up by CECED, the European appliance industry association, and Messe Berlin GmbH.
The new show, HomeTech, was held in 2002 in Berlin with the support of several leading European players. BSH, Candy, Merloni, and Whirlpool all had huge stands and, at the time, said they were pleased with the new format. But Miele, one of Germany’s largest brands, was missing and was rumored to have favored the long-standing tradition of Domotechnica.
Even without the history and brand recognition Domotechnica offered, HomeTech ended up “winning” after trade organizer Koelnmesse cancelled Domo 2003 and integrated it into HomeTech. Under the joint venture Cologne Berlin Fairs (CBF), Messe Berlin and Koelnmesse decided to co-organize HomeTech, switching off locations every two years between Berlin and Cologne.
So everyone was finally happy, right? Not quite. HomeTech 2004 came and went with almost no industry support. In fact, for months no one knew who was exhibiting. Everyone was waiting to see who would make the first move, but no one did. In the end, those present at HomeTech 2002 were nowhere to be seen. Stands from newcomer Haier and medium-sized Fisher & Paykel were among the largest, while the rest were composed of small- and medium-sized OEMs and industry suppliers. The show looked very similar to Domo 2001.
That leads us to early this year, when Koelnmesse announced that medium- and small-sized industry players wanted the fair back in Cologne, that it dissolved its CBF joint venture, and that Domo is being revamped.
So now the question is—yet again—will industry support this fourth try for a new show? CECED, who owns the HomeTech name, isn’t quite sure. Director General Luigi Meli told APPLIANCE that he thinks the industry is going through a period of “rethinking” in terms of its marketing and trade show strategies. Unfortunately, my digging found that many OEMs are done rethinking and seem to be set in their ways, at least for now.
“I do not see that the decision on the location would necessarily change the rational behind our previous decision,” Peter Nolan, a senior vice president at Electrolux, said. “Our position has been that we see better and more efficient ways of communicating with our retail partners and presenting our strategies, innovations, and product offerings than the Domotechnica concept as we know it; and this still holds true. However, we are always open to interesting new options.”
Others had similar feelings. Indesit Company says it is happy with its “one-on-one” approach to meeting with its retail customers, a policy it started about 3 years ago. “We have had a very good experience in focusing our efforts to dedicated events for our clients instead of this fair,” said Alfonso Patruno, Indesit spokesman. “We would like to continue with this formula.”
Mr. Patruno added that Domo makes more sense for industry newcomers trying to get brand recognition, but for those with established presence in the marketplace, the return on investment “is not clear.”
Fisher & Paykel, considered a newcomer to the European appliance industry, was happy with the attention it received at HomeTech 2004, but still hasn’t made a decision yet about Domo 2006. “It is a 50/50 call,” Troy Scragg, general manager Europe, said. “We will definitely be there with our local distributor in some form. But quite honestly, they will need to take a lot of cost out of it and provide a better product.”
The good news is that is exactly what Koelnmesse claims it is doing with the “new” Domo. The organizer says there will be limited stands areas and that prices will be based on stand size and required services. “We want to ensure a compact presentation,” Wolfgang Kranz, Koelnmesse executive vice president, said. “We intend with this initiative to control and minimize costs for exhibitors.”
Mr. Meli of CECED says he personally feels that is one way the industry could overcome the cost worries of exhibiting. I agree. Who says booths need to take up entire floors? Pick your latest and greatest and show them off, but no need to build a mini mall.
I also agree that cost needs to be taken into consideration in every business decision, but I don’t quite buy that excuse when it comes to Domo. First of all, it is every other year. Plus, I still see plenty of industry shows booming: CES and K/BIS have grown into the appliance industry’s biggest shows—with HUGE booths. If the trade show format is old hat, why do we see growth there? And if retailers and distributors don’t like one place to meet all of their global vendors—which, by the way, seems hard for me to believe—why are they flocking to these shows? And why are newcomers and market leaders alike exhibiting in all their grandeur? I’ll tell you why—to show off the hard work they put into their latest innovations. And to see what their competitors came up with.
As one top industry executive admitted to me once: “We don’t need this show to be number one…. We do not need this show to create contact with trade partners.” Instead, the executive told me, “This is an excellent opportunity to show in a comprehensive way all of the novelties of the year.”
Here, here. Now who’s going to lead?