Heimtextil in Hindsight
It’s now been a week since Heimtextil’s kick-off and five days since I returned home. I’ve been sorting through various impressions as well as conversations I had both during the show and since coming back.
During the first two days roaming the Messe, my overriding thought was: This show now teeters on a dangerous tipping point as far as its relevance to the U.S. market is concerned.
On the third day, I was surprised by how many upbeat exhibitors I encountered. The view was "quality over quantity," albiet with less zest than I heard the phrase used at the conculsion of the 2007 event. The caveat here: The majority with whom I spoke were happy about the European prospects they’d turned up, not Americans.
I was surprised by how many U.S. visitors I encountered last week who made up their mind to attend only at the last minute. To be honest, they numbered only six or so. However, in the past it would have been unthinkable to skip the show. More significantly, it would have been nearly impossible to find lodging or a flight at the 11th hour.
I was also surprised by how many U.S. attendees I met intended to spend only two days in Frankfurt. That suggested they planned to hit their marks - period - without spending much time examining new territory. Also a worrying sign.
These are one woman’s observations. To date, no hard data has been released about show attendance. Last year’s post-show report put attendance as even over 2006. Though it didn’t seem that way to me at the time, I must admit I, too, hit my marks at Heimtextil and do limited venturing about. It’s possible some of the newer areas — contract and so forth - are redressing the imbalance seen in the traditional home textiles halls. I ran into a U.S. wallpaper exhibitor one night at dinner last week who said his section of the show was booming.
Still, I think a couple of key issues need addressing if the U.S. participation is to be held in check.
First, Messe Frankfurt needs to pull the major hotels together and give them some religion on the subject of showtime price gouging. Sure, it’s standard practice everywhere for hotels to jack their rates when a major event comes to town. But with the Euro soaring against other currency, the pricing it getting to be much too much.
Second, and I realize this a much taller order, the show needs more fashion-forward exhibitors. From what I’m hearing, the idea of what’s worth seeing in trend is now limited to the art booths, Hall 3 and the Trend Forum.
Finally, on the heels of what is likely to be a challenging year for home textiles sales - at least for manufacturers that rely on the U.S. for a big chunk of the business — Messe Frankfurt might want to consider easing up on the exhibitor fees for 2009. Or compensating exhibitors with some sort of value-add.
That’s my two cents, anyway.