As international travel opens up again, and restrictions lift following recent lockdowns, the nursery industry is preparing to join together in Cologne for Kind + Jugend. Preschoolnews.net chatted to the organisers and some exhibitors about their plans for the show…
From 9 to 11 September, the Re-Start Edition of Kind + Jugend 2021 will welcome around 180 companies from 20 countries to Cologne. For many the show will be the first physical trade event since the outbreak of Covid19, and there is a feeling of excitement about meeting in person again.
Director of Kind + Jugend, Jörg Schmale, tells us: “The fair will be very focused. The exhibitor field will focus on home textiles, decoration and clothing, but there will also be some manufacturers of prams and pushchairs, for example. The exhibiting companies come from Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Denmark and other European countries.”
With restrictions making international travel more complicated at present, those from Europe are keen to support the industry where they can. Hilde Endeveld, export manager at Dooky, explains: “For the mainland, we can go by car or train, it’s only a four or five hour drive, which makes it easier to make the decision to go there.
“For us, it’s never been a question if we should go there. If we are not there, the customers will not come and the customers will not come if there aren’t enough exhibitors, so we have a firm belief that we should be there, as a support to the baby business. We are so looking forward to seeing everyone again. It’s been two years and we haven’t been travelling to our customers either.”
While exhibitors and visitors are keen to return to some semblance of normality with shows like Kind + Jugend, the organisers have worked hard to ensure safety is paramount. Jörg continues: “Safety is the trump card: admission to the Re-Start Edition of Kind + Jugend 2021 is open to fully vaccinated persons who have been recovered for at least 28 days [from any cases of Covid] and a maximum of six months, as well as to persons who have currently tested negative (for antigen tests a maximum of 48 hours, for PCR tests a maximum of 72 hours. This 3G principle applies to all trade fair participants.
“We had to completely redesign the fair. So it will now be realised exclusively in Hall 10.2. The aisles have been widened so that there is enough space. Fortunately, the Koelnmesse halls have state-of-the-art ventilation technology. Due to the pandemic, all evening events will be cancelled this year. Very important: only online tickets are available. There will be no ticket sales on site.”
And for those who cannot attend, the organisers have developed ways to attend virtually, both for this year, and the future. Jörg comments: “A new feature is the introduction of our digital platform Kind+Jugend @home. This is not only important this year to network and inspire the industry. For the future, we see Kind + Jugend as a hybrid event, i.e. a physical trade fair that is supplemented by the digital platform and thus once again significantly increases its reach.”
This online way of business is something that many of the exhibitors are utilising throughout their operations, as Paul Rosenquist, sales tools and events manager at Thule explains: “We have experienced excellent growth since the pandemic and have continues to invest in, develop and launch award-winning kids products. We have also worked hard to develop a range of digital sales tools to help us communicate with new and existing customers via online product launches and sales meetings.
“Though the pandemic has not adversely affected business, our sales teams still really appreciate the quality meetings with customers in one place that you can only achieve at a tradeshow.”
While digital tools are a great way to communicate with existing customers, some feel that the physical trade shows are the best way to meet potential new partners. Hilde comments: “I think that meeting in person, is something that after all of those Zoom and Teams meetings, is necessary because if you’re only meeting online, you miss something – sharing a coffee, that sort of thing. Meeting live is always on a better level and it has broader reach than meeting online, because you meet new contacts that you’ve never met before, so we gain some business.
“What we have in physical trade fairs is that we show what Dooky is all about as a brand, which is never possible to do online to prospects. For prospects who are not yet familiar with our brand, it’s really one dimensional if you show them online, whereas at a show, it’s three dimensional.
“With customers that we already work with – we work with about 30 countries at the moment – if they are already working with us, they’re already familiar with the brand, so if you show them a new colour, or a new item, it’s easier.”
And Jörg says this feeling is echoed by exhibitors throughout the show: “From our numerous conversations with companies, we know that there is a great desire to meet face-to-face with customers again, to exchange information, to present innovations. The baby and toddler outfitting sector is a very familiar industry with many small and medium-sized companies. For them, Kind + Jugendis the most important B to B marketing platform.
“Participation in the Re-Start edition of Kind + Jugend this year ensures broad attention beyond the physical event and is the first important step towards reviving all business relationships.”
As Jörg mentions, there are many new lines and exciting developments being launched at the show. Dooky will be expanding parts of its portfolio too, as Hilde explains: “We are expanding into gift items, because what we have seen over the past year and a half is that people have more focus on gift items, because they have more time to search and pay attention to searching for gifts they will give, instead of rushing to choose presents for new babies, first birthdays etc. So we have seen a big rush on our plaster hand prints, because people have time to do this with their child.”
Paul adds: “We are attending Kind + Jugend because the juvenile sector is a major party of our growth as a business. We will have our biggest booth ever at K+J. Meeting new and existing customers is important to help build and strengthen our sales network and K+J gives us the opportunity to show the breadth of our assortment from city strollers to active outdoor strollers, child bike seat, kids bike trailers and child carrier backpacks.”
Although this year will be a smaller show than usual, the enthusiasm from the trade seems as big as ever. Kind + Jugend represents a chance to get back to normality a little and to begin meeting up as an industry once more to share new innovation and build those all important relationships.