R + T truly is an international show. Organizers say more than half of the exhibitors come from outside Germany and 33 percent of the show's visitors come from outside Europe.
The full name of this show is International Trade Fair for Roller Shutters, Doors/Gates and Sun Protection, so clearly a number of exhibits were not strictly window coverings. Yet window treatment manufacturers familiar to North American markets are always well represented including Hunter Douglas, Springs Window Fashions, Comfortex Window Fashions, Vertilux, Verosol and many others—some exhibiting with their European parent companies or partners. Component and motor systems manufacturers also regularly exhibit—Elero, RollEase, Turnils and Somfy among them.
The most often repeated comment by North American exhibitors dealt with the amount of business that was conducted and written during the show. Most visitors, apparently, come to the show ready to purchase new lines or establish new supplier relationships for products they see meeting their market needs. Donald Frenk, Faber Industries, Ltd. vice president, emphasized that point when he said, "You don't want to miss this show." He added that European markets tend to be less price-driven than North American markets.
Another reoccurring comment this year was about the high number of new customers at each booth. Mark Rhoda, manager of international sales for Springs Window Fashions, said the split was 50/50 between current and new customers. Geographically, many of the visitors seemed to be from Australia, Brazil and South Africa, he noted. Similarly, Ben Kutell, Vertilux national sales and marketing director, estimated 20 to 30 percent of the visitors he saw were new customers.
INNOVATIONS AND INTRODUCTIONS
Several exhibitors used this year's R + T show to introduce new products or enhanced product features.
Gilmore Enterprises teamed with Mardo Australia to showcase Ventex, a new fabric horizontal blind. Faber Industries introduced a new cutting and squaring table for roller shades that features a rotating cutting blade system. Among several products displayed in the large, two-tiered booth from Vertilux were a new Roman shade headrail and a new track for sliding fabric panels.
Many of the new product innovations were technology-driven. Elero GmbH was one of several companies singled out prior to the show for an R + T Innovation Prize for the Year 2000. The company was sited for its new digitally accurate Venetian blind motor ideally suited for optimizing sun control for tasks done at computer work stations.
European markets place an emphasis on sun protection to reduce heating and cooling expenses for commercial and residential applications. As a result awnings and patio umbrella systems are big sellers. This year's show featured more suppliers of outdoor fabrics and awning materials than the last trade fair held in 1997, according to show organizers. One exhibit hall was assigned to high-end designer fabrics for outdoor furnishings. Here, too, technology is taking a hold. Sun and daylight control systems linked electronically to home and building automation systems were a strong draw in the trade fair exhibit halls.