The official attendance tally was 6,000, according to show producers Messe Frankfurt, Inc. and Window Fashions magazine. That number seems high. Granted, the Morial Convention Center is huge—the exhibit space reserved for the show was much larger than necessary—but there never seemed to be a crowd or the buzz of activity often associated with the international show. There was plenty of time to walk the show floor to see everyone you wanted. Even if not, practically any vendor you couldn't get around to see during show hours could most likely be found wandering Bourbon Street after hours.
Perhaps it was the economy, or the location, or the timing—for whatever reason, the show's year-to-year trend isn't too good: a thousand fewer attendees and nearly 40 fewer exhibiting companies than in Baltimore a year ago. (See D&WC, June 2000) Noticeably missing in New Orleans was what was promoted as a four-room designer showhouse to be displayed on the show floor.
All this doesn't mean business was necessarily bad. Steady traffic on Friday, the first day of the show, boded well for many exhibitors. If that pace had kept up, no doubt more exhibitors would have felt the same.
Things could pick up again next year when the show returns to Baltimore, March 20 to 24, 2002.
The industry had a lot to offer this year. Making the biggest impression at the show was Kensington Window Expressions, a new national brand of window coverings from Turnils. The company's large booth was designed to look like an art museum with its products displayed in framed openings. With its full range of window coverings marketed in streamlined sampling, Kensington was targeting independent retailers and design professionals for its exclusive programs.
Also new this year, Novo Industries was showcasing what it called the Wood Advantage, an extruded wood line available in paint and stain finishes. It also debuted its Royal Shutters.
Vertilux presented a new proprietary paint finish. Applied to aluminum blinds, it recreates the look of bass wood and is available in many stains and colors.
In fabrics, ADO presented the newest designs and colors in a booth surrounded with window vignettes and fabric displays. In trimmings and hardware, Houlès featured a new line of tassels and Steptoe & Wife brought out new finishes and styles in decorative hardware and finials.
An interesting addition to this year's show was an International Trend pavilion defining design and color directions into four themes: Camping, Loft, Cafeteria and Salon. International color expert Gunnar Frank compiled the trends. The pavilion was modeled after a larger presentation shown each year at the Heimtextil show in Frankfurt, Germany.
Technology also was a reoccurring theme at this year's show. There was a host of software providers exhibiting, including Solatech, a new company combined from Suz's Software and Innovative Software Systems, Inc.; Easy Quote and Donnal Group. Hunter Douglas chose to feature e-commerce in its Business Center. The booth included the new Hunter Douglas Web site, its Dealer Sales System and new business policies.
Hunter Douglas has initiated new policies regarding business on the Internet. Its E-Display License program will allow dealers to display the full line of Hunter Douglas products on their Web sites to attract customers to their stores. The license would not permit online sales.
The Hunter Douglas E-Sell License will grant dealers to sell a specific and limited collection of products directly to consumers via the Internet or an 800-telephone number.
A newcomer, ShutterPro software, was displayed on-screen at the American Hardwood Co. booth. The program is designed for custom shutter manufacturers, dealers and retailers. It takes rough measurements and turns them into final design and manufacturing reports, including costing, price quoting, contracts and invoices.
Technology also was evident in the number of motorization options showcased at the show. More suppliers are offering the practicality and convenience of motorized blinds, shadings and draperies. Individual treatments or whole house systems with several control options are seen as one of the fasting-growing add-ons to sales.
OUT OF THE HALL
As always, there is a great deal of activity that occurs away from the exhibit hall during the show. As mentioned above, the music and atmosphere of Bourbon Street drew many exhibitors and attendees alike to the French Quarter. Elsewhere, Springs Window Fashions held a cocktail reception at the New Orleans Aquarium and members of the DraperyPro online industry group joined for dinner at Café Sbisa for face-to-face networking.
Before the show opened, the Window Covering Manufacturers Association (WCMA) held the annual presentation of its Innovative Product Awards. Open to all manufacturers and not just WCMA members, these awards are the industry's best way of promoting the newest design and style enhancements that occur on a regular basis.