Hardware goes global in Cologne

Cologne, Germany The International Hardware Fair/Practical World kicked off in Cologne, Germany, this weekend, featuring 3,368 booths and home products and services from 62 countries.

For the first time, the show was partially open to consumers, who were allowed to roam the home improvement and DIY buildings in the sprawling 11-building complex of the Koelnmesse trade fair grounds. Total attendance figures were not available, according to officials. The number of vendor booths, however, was down slightly from 3,491 in 2006, when the show last was held.

Under the organization of the American Hardware Manufacturers Association, the United States put on a unified display at the USA Pavilion where more than 50 U.S. manufacturers showed their wares to the world.

Among the highlights Sunday was the “Miss DIY” contest. Five female home improvement enthusiasts competed on stage in a contest sponsored by the DIY Academy, a group promoting home improvement projects in Europe. “More and more women are involved in home improvement projects and spending,” said Katrin Schon, press officer for Koelnmesse.

The show’s organizers described efficiency, safety and convenience to be a major focus throughout the tools sector of the show -- but the trends on display were almost as varied as the booths themselves. A few examples. German paint sprayer manufacturer Wagner promoted a fine-spray system expected to take off in the United States this year. At the booth of German-based Prebena, the major announcement was a portable pneumatic device solution, including a leather belt attachment, to bring flexibility and convenience to pros. In the security systems building, Master Lock promoted its new numberless padlock, the Axis. Users move the joystick-like centerpiece up, down or sideways to open it.

The mental aspect of home improvement retailing was also part of the program at the International Hardware Fair/Practical World. Ralf Oltrogge, a Belgium-based consultant who spoke about training at the show’s “Tools Live” seminar. He told HCN quality trumps price. “The sweetness of low price will be forgotten, but the pain of poor quality remains long.” Don’t talk about the price, talk about quality. You will be more successful, and that’s the same in America.”

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