Industry trade shows will never be the same after COVID


Buying and selling activity in the furniture industry has always been a moving target as trade shows and markets rise or fall, often suddenly. Last year’s “must-see” event can quickly become the “No, I’ll skip it” show.

But never before have so many shows – in so many cities and across so many industry sectors – been subject to massive upheaval than in the past two pandemic years. Major events around the world have been canceled, postponed, merged, downsized and otherwise disrupted in ways we’ve never seen before. As we begin to emerge from what everyone hopes will be the last terrible wave of COVID, some industry benchmark events are returning to some semblance of what they were. But for many others, the changes are dramatic, and show schedules remain on hold pending industry acceptance of new formats, schedules and configurations.

This stress affects both domestic shows in the United States and overseas events in Europe and elsewhere. For many shows, such as Maison&Objet in France, Heimtextil in Germany and Salone del Mobile in Italy, cancellations and postponements have taken their toll, even as all of these events insist they return to their previous times and formats in 2023. , like High Point Market, the gift shows in Atlanta, Dallas, Las Vegas and New York, and the housewares show in Chicago, are all starting to return to some semblance of normality this year, but for the entire entertainment industry and home market, it’s a brave new world.

Here are some of the big changes:

Perhaps the biggest reconfiguration of the trade show circuit is what is happening in the builder space: the International Builder Show (IBS), the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) and the National Hardware Show (NHS) have announced that they would host a joint event in 2023. Slated for Jan. 31-Feb. 2 in Las Vegas, the merger brings together three key events in this space after a previous combination of IBS and KBIS under the Design & Construction Week banner there. several years old.

Ambiente, Christmasworld and Creativeworld
Another combination is happening in Frankfurt, where three shows that operated separately until COVID will now be presented together in 2023. Ambiente is the most interesting for the home space, serving as the main European event for the tableware and gift sectors. . The three shows will be held together from February 3 to 7 at the giant Messe Frankfurt site.

store object
For some shows, the result of the pandemic era has been a change in ownership. Earlier this month, International Market Centers, which has major shows in High Point, Atlanta and Las Vegas for the furniture, gift and home industries, announced that it had purchased Shoppe Object, a show independent of the NY NOW event held twice a year in New York. IMC’s future plans for Shoppe are unknown, but working with NOW could be high on its agenda in an effort to restore New York to its previous role as a major destination for gifts and home accessories.

41 madison
The pandemic has also claimed a few victims. This month brought the news that after April, the owners of the 41 Madison show building in New York City will no longer be sponsoring and hosting the twice-a-year tabletop show. Rudin, the giant real estate company, has been the driving force behind the tabletop event for decades, and while individual showrooms remain in the building, the fate of the organized market week is now up in the air.

Other shows in Asia, particularly China, continue to settle into new patterns and are largely dependent on the lifting of restrictions on international travel. Some smaller regional events in the United States are being resurrected to ease local travel needs as well. No matter the size, scale or location, when pandemic conditions finally subside, show schedules will be vastly different than they were just two years ago.

The show must go on, but not as before.

Photo of the home page: The Trend Area at the Heimtextil 2020 show | Courtesy of Heimtextil


Warren Shoulberg is the former editor of several leading B2B publications. He has been a guest lecturer at Columbia University Graduate School of Business; received honors from the International Furnishings and Design Association and the Fashion Institute of Technology; and was quoted by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and other media as a leading industry expert. Its Retail Watch columns offer in-depth industry insights into key markets and product categories.


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