A few Americans I encountered in Germany were surprised to see me walking through the exhibit halls of the massive ISH trade show in Frankfurt. This year marked my fifth trip to the show, with my first visit in 1995 and my previous one in 2005.
However, 2013 marked my first year taking public transportation to and from the show. I always had been part of a tour group on a private bus during my earlier visits. This year I was informed my badge into ISH allowed me to take the Frankfurt trains for free. I found this to be a convenient benefit that U.S. trade shows should consider.
The only downside came when the snowstorm that hit Frankfurt on March 12 snarled the trains. I discovered that a free train pass isn’t worth much when the trains aren’t running on time. After waiting 20 minutes in the train station on the morning of March 13, I spent 30 euros ($39) for a taxi from my airport hotel to the show.
While I missed the opening of the show, I arrived in time for an afternoon appointment with Duravit USA President Tim Schroeder. He identified three trends he had observed at ISH: more lighting, sound and furniture in the bathroom.
Duravit’s booth featured its new X-Large furniture collection, which is designed to be in a wet environment – the bathroom. European bathrooms usually occupy smaller spaces than their U.S. counterparts, but the name X-Large refers more to lifestyle than scale, Schroeder said. The modular collection features many choices, which gives flexibility to room designers and end-users.
The booth also displayed the new DuraStyle collection of plumbing products for residential and commercial applications, in markets such as hospitality and gaming. Duravit pursues a strategy of releasing new collections internationally rather than in Germany first and other countries later. This approach helps to insulate the company from the economic gyrations that affect nations at different times, Schroeder said.
On the third day of the show (and my last), March 14, the trains were running on time again. I attended a late-morning press conference of Viessmann, another German company that markets its heating products internationally.
Dr. Martin Viessmann, whom I had met in 1995, opened the press conference with a report on his company’s 2012 financial performance. Last year showed positive developments in Germany, China, Russia and North America with overall company growth at 1.6%.
Although he said he was pleased to see an upward tick in difficult economic circumstances, he added, “We expected a higher growth rate.” In 2011, the company grew 8%.
Three circumstances prevented more positive results, he said. They were:
- The growth markets of Eastern Europe experienced a trend toward low-priced products.
- The solar thermal market saw a general decline.
- The solar photovoltaic sector also shrunk.
“We have to observe these market developments and live with them,” Viessmann said.
His company’s investment in R&D remained unchanged last year, he emphasized, at 4% of sales revenue.
“We’re optimistic about the future based on innovation,” he said. “Product potential is something that we believe in.”
Those who wish to see the product innovations and trends at ISH will have to wait until 2015 when the trade show returns to Frankfurt. We’ll have more coverage of ISH 2013 in upcoming issues of PM, Supply House Times and pme.