U.S. and Canadian window coverings companies were well represented at the show, either on their own or in cooperation with their European parent companies or distributors. Whether exhibiting or visiting, most were very optimistic that their attendance this year would benefit business back home.
In addition to new product introductions with a strong focus on technology, the triennial trade show highlighted several differences between European and U.S. markets. Greatest among them were the use of exterior window products such as rolling shutters and awnings and the widespread use of motorization for both interior and exterior products. High-tech electronics, especially in the manufacturing processes, were particularly featured by many of the international companies exhibiting at the show.
After a less-than-enthusiastic Stuttgart show in 1994, a large number of U.S. companies returned to Germany this year. "There were a lot of American companies that we deal with there, and not just as exhibitors. It was the most attended show by American companies in a long time," said Lilian Bower, senior account representative for Chromagraphic Processing Co. "We had a very successful show," she added.
International sales and product development mangers at Springs Window Fashions Division, Middleton, WI, rated the Stuttgart exposition as "outstanding." This year's show was the first time in six years that Springs exhibited there.
Springs' product development executives also took note of the differences in the European market compared to U.S. and North American markets, chiefly the fact that the Stuttgart show maximizes the technical elements of interior and exterior window treatments. They pointed out that motorization was "strongly showcased" for all treatments including traverse systems for custom draperies.
Another major difference in the European market is the use of hard exterior window treatments to protect against wind, harsh cold weather and glaring sun while increasing security.
Exhibitors and show attendees alike were impressed with the global audience that attended this year's show. "We were very excited about the attendance," says David Fryburg, president of Superior Shade & Blind, Pompano Beach, FL, who returned to exhibit again this year. "It was a well-rounded audience as we saw people from all over the globe. We saw people from Australia, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Poland -- all over Europe. We are very positive that it will yield good results," he said.
Tom Marusak, president of Comfortex Corp., Watervliet, NY, which shared booth space with its Dutch distribution partner, Cedeko, also took advantage of the show's international draw. "The show provided us with a forum to further enhance the many business relationships we had already established with customers on six continents," Marusak said.
This year's R + T 97 show also was an opportunity to premier many new products, styles or colors to an international audience. Mario Colombo of Hunter Douglas Ltd., Walton-On-Thames, England, showcased Luxaflex, the company's new furniture-grade finish available for its wood products. Colombo explained one of the features of the finish was that it would not fade or discolor from the effects of sunlight.
Benthin, Bremerhaven, Germany, featured its motorized skylight shades and the latest technology added to its vertical vane cutting machine, which automatically includes the carrier pin and weight pocket.
Comfortex's Marusak said the show provided an opportunity "to introduce our products to window treatments professionals throughout the world."
Superior Shade brought out new vertical products for the show. Fryburg said, "Our new vertical collection, called Opulence Collection, was well received. In addition, we introduced many new colors in some existing styles."