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Making a fair trade

  • Opinion
  • December 1, 2014
  • Vincent Heeringa
Making a fair trade
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Republished from NZRetail's December 2014 issue.

You know you’ve achieved business success when there’s a list of customers, ready and waiting to pay more just to get in the door.

Such is the success enjoyed by Frankfurt’s Ambiente, the world’s premier homewares tradeshow. “We cannot add any more exhibitors, we have no more room. But we are constantly looking for new and different ideas. Our focus is on quality and diversity,” says Stephan Kurzawski, a member of the board of management for Messe Frankfurt, the global trade fairs company.

Kurzawski was Down Under recently to promote the Frankfurt Messe trade fair programme, which ranges from automotive parts and lighting to books and textiles. Of special interest is the highly acclaimed Ambiente fair. Each February, Ambiente hosts 4,700 exhibitors and attracts 144,000 visitors from 160 countries. This makes it the largest show outside of China for the dining, living and giving market.

Sistema Plastics was, until recently, the only New Zealand company exhibiting at the show. They will be joined in 2015 by The Aromatherapy Company, and an Australian delegation is also being organised for 2015. Kurzawski says he’s hoping to attract more manufacturers from this part of the world. “Part of the attraction for our visitors is the uniqueness of the products on display. It’s important that we continue to showcase the new trends from all parts of the world. So we are seeking new exhibitors all the time 

Robert Laing is the New Zealand representative for Messe Frankfurt, along with similar operators in Cologne, Munich and Dusseldorf. He says Germany is the world’s largest host of trade fairs. “The first trade fair was held in the same spot in Frankfurt more than 800 years ago – and that tradition continues with Germany being the world’s number one location for hosting international trade fairs. It stands out against the international competition in terms of its facilities, its level of innovation and its broad reach. Around 150 international trade fairs and exhibitions are held in Germany every year, attracting up to 170,000 exhibitors and between nine and ten million visitors.”

In an age of email and Skype some might question the need to fly around the world to see products and people. Why not simply buy online?

Laing agrees the Internet is an incredibly important business tool. “But we’ve yet to see any decline in popularity of our trade fairs. The internet simply can’t replace the power of face-to- face meetings and the chemistry of all those buyers and sellers being in one place. It really is amazing to be there with the world’s best. It’s inspiring, whatever your industry.”

With a trade show for pretty much every industry you can imagine, Laing should know. 

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