Leading suppliers have heaped praise on kbb Birmingham 2018, judging it one of the biggest and best they’ve ever attended.
Despite fears that freezing weather in the build-up to the show would hit attendance figures, exhibitors reported busy stands and an upbeat and positive atmosphere.
“This is the biggest kbb Birmingham I’ve seen in years,” JPD managing director Tony Oates told kbbreview. “The organisers [UBM] told us there were around 60% new exhibitors. That’s a statement of intent about the future of the industry, despite the uncertainty of Brexit. There’s so much innovation and investment this year, from every company. It’s a major, major decision to make, but it shows there’s a lot of confidence within the trade that we’re all here.”
This year’s show is the first that JPD has exhibited at, partnering with appliance brand Beko, which Oates said had been a big success.
“The stand build and bringing it all together was quite stressful,” he admitted, “and the weather didn’t help. We’ve not dipped our toe in the water with a small stand for our first show – we’ve gone big, and for a first-time stand we’ve had loads of compliments.
“Most importantly, we’ve had loads of people on the stand and we’ve got new leads. I’ve had great feedback from the team about the quality of conversations they’ve had here and they’re all really motivated because we’ve had so many enquiries.”
Kbbreview columnist Malcolm Scott, commercial director of appliance distributor Swift Electrical, said everyone he’d spoken to had been impressed by the size of this year’s show.
“It’s really good,” he said. “People didn’t expect it to be nearly as big. Because most companies don’t want to do them, the trade then thinks shows are finished, but when they realise that, actually, the emerging brands are here, it’ll bring everyone else next time, otherwise they’ll get left behind.
“The mood is upbeat. The retailers are quite positive. You’re not seeing any doom and gloom, people are investing in their showrooms. The tone of the show is always about selling up, but this time it’s even more about that. They’re not just selling stock deals; they’re trying to get people thinking about new ideas, new initiatives and new showrooms. What I’m also surprised by is that I’ve met at least half-a-dozen people setting up new kitchen retail businesses.”
Laura Davie, marketing coordinator at Cosentino, agreed: “It’s been really good,” she said – “high-end stands and busy throughout. And the kbbreview Retail and Design Conference looked buzzing too!”
Kbbreview columnist Paul Crow (pictured), managing director of Ripples, said it was the first kbb Birmingham he had attended for a long time that “radiated real positivity”.
“I congratulate all the exhibitors for making this the case,” he added, “as I know a lot of money has been invested before, during and no doubt after the show.
“Over the years, the expectations I have of the show have had to be realigned as I got used to visiting a trade show where 90% of the bathroom exhibitors were not companies we did business with, or intended to do so. I tend therefore to see it as a chance to gain some perspective on what is happening with other companies who are off the Ripples radar and, let’s face it, the older you get, the more people you know as you walk through the halls, which is always a nice part of the trip.
“It was nice to see stands presented with creativity: colour, themed presentations, interactivity and professional-looking people – and almost no ‘podium girls’. It hasn’t always been the case. Some highlights: I enjoyed the creativity of Aquabella, the confidence of Roper Rhodes, the intimacy of the Roca/Laufen room, the fun of Frontline and the interactivity of Virtual Worlds that stole more of my time than I intended. All of those stands would have put a huge dent in their marketing budgets and I hope that it pays off for them.
“Two years ago, we never knew Aquabella, and yet we have already made this company a relatively normal feature of our product specification and I expect sales to continue to rise. It highlights the importance of these shows to manufacturers and if I learned one thing from this show, it was to allow more time for my visit, as I regret not being able to see all the companies and people that I wanted.”
Gareth Williams, managing director of the 1810 Company, said the show had been so successful that the company was looking to book a stand twice the size in 2020, while Wayne Nabal, managing director of Grass Movements, reported “a great buzz around the show and waves of business”.
Meanwhile, Kelley Johnson, senior manager of international marketing at surface specialist Cambria, said: “This is our first time exhibiting at the show and it has been great. We’ve seen a lot of interest and really good leads. A lot of people in the UK still haven’t heard of us, but we’ve had great feedback on our new ranges.”
Vicky Harris, director of KitchenEx, admitted Sunday numbers were down on the last show due to the weather, but Monday was “the busiest day the company had ever seen” on its stand.
“It was amazing,” she said. “The stand was absolutely rammed all day and we had some really good, serious customers on.
“It’s a huge investment but, as a company, once you’ve been present at a few shows, you almost can’t not exhibit at the next, because it sends out a sign about the business.
“It’s exciting to see all the new technology and innovations coming through everywhere, not just in appliances, because it gives you a feel for where the industry is heading. The industry is sending out a very strong message here.”
David Cole, sales director at Perrin and Rowe, also said footfall had been “really high”.
“Given the weather conditions, it’s great to see that so many people have made the effort to come here,” he said. “It’s been a great show for us as a brand. We’ve had a lot of people on the stands and it’s been very busy throughout the exhibition.
“All these fantastic brands have made the commitment to attend. People are coming together and I see it as a kind of united front from the industry. Everyone working together and supporting each other more. Whether it’s because of Brexit uncertainty, I genuinely do feel that everyone’s looking to support the industry and give something back – a united front to make sure that, as we move forward, we all exist and the industry flies.”