Tools trump Tariffs at Trade Fair
Cologne, Germany — At hotel televisions surrounding the International Hardware Fair, broadcasters on programs such as Bloomberg Europe and CNBC were beating the drum of pending trade disputes fueled by Brexit and the more recent and sensational plans for U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum.
But inside the fair, the talk was all tools, and all business.
A reporter’s inquiries about tariffs and trade wars were met overwhelmingly with polite nods to the negative. “Companies are here to do business, regardless of the politics around the world,” said Mette Petersen, president and managing director of Koelnmesse North America.
And so they came. Business-minded delegates from around the world encountered more than 1.5 million sq. ft. of convention space at the sprawling Koelnmesse Convention Center here in Cologne. Visitors from around the world were greeted by oversized promotional banners from (to name a few) Olfa, Pferd and Gedore — European giants of, respectively, cutting tools, power tools and a thousand miscellaneous workshop products.
It was business as usual at the USA Pavilion, an area with a high-concentration of U.S. companies promoting their products to international markets. Among them: General Pipe Cleaners spelled out the durability of its drain cleaning equipment. And around the corner, manufacturer Dripless Inc. displayed its patented dripless caulk guns. (You know how the caulk keeps coming out of some tubes, even after you’ve stopped squeezing the trigger? These guns are built to prevent that.)
Around the show floor, the innovations and product news were too much to track by any one visitor, or team of visitors. But a good sense of the forward-looking nature of Eisenwarenmesse, as it’s called in Germany, was on display in its seminars and presentations.
For instance, the 3-D Printing and Additive Manufacturing Exhibit stepped up the size and sophistication of its demonstration “print outs.” These included automotive spare parts to high-performance bicycles. Also, the trade fair’s new Start-up village allowed creative companies to share digital ideas, solutions and processes, all curated by trend scout Richard van Hooijdonk and in cooperation with the European Federation of DIY Manufacturers.
And even more futuristic was the presentation “VR: Beyond the Wow! How this technology know from computer games, can be used meaningfully for the industry today.” (One way: manufacturers can track human processes on the assembly line safely and cost effectively.)
The show also allowed various trade associations to sell the benefits of their country. China, Taiwan, India and Italy maintained strong presences. Of course, “Made in Germany” was a common slogan seen around the multiple halls. And at a presentation on hardware opportunities in International markets, Michele Tacchini, president of the Italian Hardware Association (Assofermet), described his country as a “first in fashion, first in design,” as he described a new wave of optimism among the country’s youth.
At the India-based Raging Rhino hand tools booth, a representative did in fact seem interested in the brewing tariff controversy, but mostly from a standpoint of its impact on Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Asked about tariffs, a representative of a U.S. exporter who manned a busy booth on the show floor said: “One person brought it up.”
The Italian contingent also included Paolo Bulgarini. A business development executive for Arexons, maker of lubricants. Bulgarini was among those politely dismissing concerns over international trade discord. He was much more focused on promoting the relative benefits of his company’s lubricants, which he says stack up better than those of any big-name brand out there.
Pride in product combined with pride in country all over the show floor of Eisenwarenmesse, which winds down March 7.
A big show gets bigger in 2018
In many ways, the National Hardware Show will celebrate great brands. In other ways, it’s designed to help dealers discover unknown players that have yet to hit the market.
Such diversity of mission comes with the territory at the North American hardware industry’s biggest event of the year. Set for the Las Vegas Convention Center from May 8 to 10, the big show will launch new products at the aptly named “New Product Launch” in the Central Lobby. Meanwhile, the North and Central halls will hum with national and international brands.
From Briggs & Stratton and Black Mamba Gloves to Hickory Hardware and Honey-Can-Do, vendors on the show will offer merchandising ideas, buying opportunities and money-saving deals. The company expects to ride the rising optimism within the home improvement industry and build on last year’s participation when the show drew more than 30,000 industry professionals.
National Hardware Show attendees have a variety of reasons to attend the Las Vegas event. Their motives are as individual as their business, but there are several common denominators, according to the organizers of the event.
For instance, 83% of attendees say new products/categories are the primary reason to attend. And these aren’t just lookie lous, 86% said they plan on purchasing and sourcing new products when they attend. And 28% of attendees estimate an annual budget of more than $10 million for products and services seen at the show.
The something-for-everyone feel of the show is on display by the variety of events and featured areas.
- The Ultimate Backyard Experience. This feature will inject a real, backyard flavor into the popular outdoor exhibit area offering attendees an engaging way to experience new products in the environment they are intended for—the great outdoors.
- Smart Home Virtual Reality Experience. Also new, riding a trend that bridges consumer electronics and home improvement, this new area will feature a virtual Smart Home tour and interactive display.
- The American Manufacturing Awards will once again highlight the cream of the crop of domestic products on display in the Central Lobby.
- The Lawn, Garden & Outdoor Living Awards product display will focus on innovative products.
One traditional attraction of the National Hardware Show is the ability to network and learn from peers and experts. Among the movers and shakers lined up to participate in Las Vegas is Jason Ballard, co-founder and president of TreeHouse, the home improvement retailer that describes itself as the “world’s first home upgrade company.”
Also lined up to speak is Jules Pieri, co-founder and CEO of The Grommet, a website that has launched more than 2,500 consumer products since 2008. Ace Hardware Corp. purchased The Grommet in 2017.
Both are participating in the 2018 NRHA All-Industry Conference in partnership with the National Hardware Show.
The show runs on a Tuesday to Thursday schedule. Visit nationalhardwareshow.com for information, schedules and exhibitors.
“In addition to bringing the industry together to unveil those new products, new companies and inventions, the National Hardware Show is proud to honor some of the best and brightest ideas and new products coming to market each year,” said Rich Russo, industry VP of the National Hardware Show.
Fastening a trail of innovation
Cologne, Germany — Innovation that fits comfortably in the tradesman’s hand took the spotlight during the Eisen Award 2018 program here at the International Hardware Fair in Cologne. The awards gave special honors to a handy rope cutter, an electric screwdriver and a reversible ratchet.
The Eisen Awards program at the International Hardware Fair, known as “Eisenwarenmesse” here in Germany, now in its fourth iteration featured 12 product nominees and was again judged by an industry jury. And once again, a dedicated area in the sprawling Koelnmesse convention center gave all the nominees exposure in a museum-like setting, complete with glass encased exhibits of the rugged hardware products.
Three companies — all with brands more familiar in Germany than in the United States — received the Eisen Innovation Award.
- Knipex wire rope cutter was described as a high-performing, light weight and compact cutting tool. Judges liked the design and the functionality.
- Hazet reversible ratchet. Noted for its chrome-plated surface, judges liked the products power and ability to operate in cramped spaces.
- The WIHA speedE electronic screwdriver generated this comment from the judges: “Electricians are impressed. It is kind on the wrists, fast, productive and ergonomic.”
The Eisen Award 2018 ceremony took place during a Welcome Party on first night of the event. Held every other year here in Cologne, the trade fair runs March 4-7.