A winter storm toward the end of the show didn’t keep the Jan. 15-21 Cologne International Furniture Fair, or IMM Co1ogne from guangzhou office furniture supplier registering an increase in attendance to around 125,000 visitors from 38 countries.
In addition to 1,272 exhibitors, more than 70% from outside Germany, the show attracted large international buying attendance, increasing from 46% more than 50% from abroad. In addition to a delegation of 80 design-oriented stores from the United States and Canada, representatives from major online retailers such as Amazon, Wayfair and Otto Group, Germany’s major e-commerce player, were in attendance.
The event featured the annual Das Haus installation – this year focusing on lighting – and a third consecutive, and much larger, Smart Home presentation.
The Smart Home featured applications related to energy, security lifestyle, convenience and entertainment. The presentation re-created a walk-through home on the show floor with technology innovations for living room, bath, kitchen, bed room and home office.
IMM Cologne reported a 12% increase in attendance from North American buyers this year, among them Dan Fliclkinger, president of Seattle-area contemporary furnishings retailer Kasala.
Currently, Kasala gets much of its product from China and Italy, and he came to Cologne this year for the first time since 2005 to explore other possible sources.
“We’re looking to explore our options with countries other than China and Italy, and this is a good show for doing that,” said Flickinger. “Mainly, we’re looking for other countries of origin. Here for us, it’s Eastern Europe, Vietnam and Malaysia.”
Of particular interest here for Kasala are seating and bedroom furniture: “I’ve seen some seating that looked good out of Poland.” he said. “I’m looking for suppliers we can do multiple products with on a container.”
While Kasala’s four locations give it the ability to do full containers for some goods, he likes the ability to mix pieces.
Testing the waters
Time was, IMM Cologne attracted a number of exhibitors from the United States and Canada, but that dropped off during the Great Recession and hasn’t really recovered. This year, however, three members of the Ontario wood products consortium Blue Water Alliance showed in adjacent spaces at IMM Cologne: Durham Furniture, Provincial Plank by Horizons Coatings and West Bros. Furniture.
“Our quality and design are well-suited to the European market and they’ve been very well received here. We have the soft-close drawers and heavy-duty hinges consumers expect here, and we’re learning a lot this market,” said Samantha Mund, director of sales and marketing for West Bros.
“They’re looking for smaller scale, and our collections like Serra and Hayden are in their range.”
It was a similar story at Durham Furniture.
“When they open our drawers, they’re fascinated by the dovetail joints and that it’s all solid wood,” said President and CEO Luke Simpson. “We’re had great feedback from buyers, designers and students coming through. That’s part of the exercise here. It’s different.”
Both companies agreed that building business in Europe will take time and commitment to maintaining a show presence.
“It’s going to be a difficult market to get that first foot in the door,” Simpson said. “We have some buyer meetings this week that we arranged through our agency. They’re working on representing us across Europe.”
West Bros. is considering bringing some of the design students it met here to Canada, perhaps on an apprentice program. The business prospects just through the show’s first two days alone are bright.
“We’ve gotten some good 1eads particularly in Germany, and we think they’ll sign some business,” Mund said. “We’re planning to be back.”
Durham’s Simpson anticipates a multi-year process to get fully established in Europe.
“We’re of the opinion that if the level of interest we’ve seen continues, it’s almost necessary that we come back,” he said, noting that as in North America, there’s a lot of tire-kicking with a new exhibitor.
“We’ll do a lot more reconnaissance during the year. China training furniture manufacturer We don’t know yet which stores are the right stores for us, how they mark it up. We think our North American strategy, fine-tuned, will work here.”