25 January 2010

New world order?

We are a few weeks away from kbb Birmingham, the first major get-together of the KBB industry since the show in 2008.

You could be forgiven for thinking that this year's exhibition was going to be a rather quiet affair, but all the indicators actually suggest the opposite.

While a few of the brands that have been to kbb Birmingham in the past won't be at the show this year, over 250 companies have signed up already. And of these, over 25 percent are first-time exhibitors.

I've covered every KBB exhibition since it started 25 years ago in a temporary building alongside Alexandria Palace in north London. I cannot remember a single instance when the show had over seventy new exhibitors. Indeed in year two of KBB Tradex, the number of exhibitors may only have been about seventy in total.

Since then the show has weathered two recessions before this current one and the boom years in between, but I don't think it ever presented a show where over a quarter of the exhibitors were first timers.

Leaving aside what a huge vote of confidence this is in kbb Birmingham itself, to me it also speaks volumes about the future prospects of the UK's KBB market.

Is this the start of a new world order? Will some of the companies that decided to stay away from kbb Birmingham in 2010 lose out to the new kids on the block? Nobody can be certain, but I for one wouldn't like to bet against it, given that just about every KBB retailer I speak to is reviewing its list of suppliers.

No one in KBB-Land today has any experience of working in the current market conditions because the banking crisis that caused them has not happened before on this scale during the KBB sector's lifetime.

In that respect we are all sailing in uncharted waters. However, some seventy or so of our shipmates think they have spotted dry land in the distance and they can't all be wrong!

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