Well planned, and offering plenty to see and great networking opportunities, Ambiente is still a must-visit event says Sarah Selzer in this, the first of two special reports from Frankfurt.

Ambiente: big show, big opportunities

Well planned, and offering plenty to see and great networking opportunities, Ambiente is still a must-visit event says Sarah Selzer in this, the first of two special reports from Frankfurt.

Ambiente: big show, big opportunities

Whether you’re running your own retail business or are a buyer for a large store group, there are only so many hours in the day, as the old cliché goes. So how many trade shows do you really need to go to? Those you can get to in a day, in the UK – or even at a push Maison et Objet in Paris, are worth considering and, of course, the Chicago housewares show coming up this weekend is something else entirely.

I couldn’t quite manage to add North America to my 2013 spring tour, but as it turned out I made a very good choice in heading out to Frankfurt this month.

Several of the more design-led international exhibitors I met at Maison said they weren’t showing in Frankfurt as they’d been advised it was more for volume buyers. But while there are huge sourcing pavilions if that’s what you’re interested in, there are also literally hundreds of companies – housewares, tabletop, gifts – willing to do business in the UK.

Many are actively seeking UK representation, others are happy to sell direct – and not only to large organisations but department stores, grocery and cookshop chains or standalone stores. It’s exactly the same as at home – it’s all about taking the time to spot a product/trend you like and think your customers will like and then having that discussion. Nothing ventured…..

The organisation of Frankfurt Messe has definitely improved since my last visit four years ago – all those facilities we complain about at the NEC are pretty near perfected! So lots of places to sit down or eat. The shuttle bus service is very efficient – and necessary – as relevant housewares products are spread between Halls 1 and 5, with strong design-led products in 8 and 11. But far from being a hassle, that actually added to the experience, seeing furniture and furnishing trends slotting in neatly with housewares.

Frankfurt does give a great overview of trends (lots of Scandi designs in neutrals; glassware, storage, cookware and small electricals in bright citrus and red; and emerald heralded as the hot colour for 2013).

Also an opportunity to meet new (and in some cases improved) companies. And Frankfurt is perfect for letting you see international brands that are active in the UK in a whole new setting. Companies like Brabantia and GreenPan, who weren’t showing at Spring Fair and have big stands. Or WMF and Fissler, who have always had epic stands at Ambiente while their UK offering remains small. Then familiar brands like DKB, La Cafetiere, Rayware and Apollo Housewares, and others gaining ground in the UK like RostiMepal, CMP Paris and Nuova R2S.

The networking opportunities are huge too – from who might be on your flight in and out of Frankfurt and bumping into familiar faces in the aisles, to learning more about doing business with foreign suppliers. Start planning your 2014 visit now!

Next week: Some of the key trends from Ambiente

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