Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ambiente, The Frankfurt Fair (Part Two)

New Ceramic Product

To those of us toiling in the “Home" categories, Ambiente is the world’s buying Mecca; simply put it is the largest decorative, living, and giving market in the world, which takes place once a year in February,  (The coldest month of the year I might add), not in the Middle East, but Frankfurt , Germany.   Each year buyers and sellers converge here (with overcoats in hand) looking for the next new thing, or just hoping that they might have the next new thing, and that the worlds buyers will beat a path to their stand. Never mind that their stand might be only a hundred square feet,  in a sea of ten foot stands, on the fourth floor of building number six, located in a complex that has eleven buildings.  Well, you get the picture, the Frankfurt Fair is a big place!  
Pomeroy, finally started exhibiting at the fair some years ago, as I had been reticent to show in Frankfurt for a variety of reasons:  one of which was simply a question of what merchandise to show; should we show our gift box line, San Miguel, or open stock decorative items as well.  My primary concern however, was that culturally what I was designing for the American market, decorative lighting in a box, would not appeal aesthetically to the rest of the world, and what if no one saw the value of our concept, not to mention that exhibiting at a fair, thousands of miles away is expensive and complicated.  After much debate we made the decision to attend, and we would finally find out what all of the noise was about; and besides, if we could just write enough business to cover the cost of the show then at least we could consider the show a success. In the end we decided to show primarily our photo boxed gift and lighting line with some open stock mixed in to break up all of those boxes.  
Make no mistake, I have known plenty of companies over the years that have shown at Frankfurt and not written any business at all much less getting to a breakeven point.  Frankfurt is the “marketplace” in action; your concepts, designs, and pricing can either be validated, vindicated, or simply ignored.  The answer to our question, whether we would be understood by the marketplace came swiftly:  by the end of the four day show we had sold to customers in approximately ten countries for a total of half a million dollars; it was the largest writing show we had ever had. As sweet as that validation was, I am constantly reminded of the markets fickleness as I was recently, during this year’s Ambiente, and how easily it could have gone the other way, walking by so many companies who are eating lunch, talking to the person next door, or playing cards on their computers, because they have nothing else to do, waiting for at least one customer who is looking for the next new thing;   who will get them to breakeven, or maybe, just maybe, in the black.