Inside Info on Interior Design Trade Shows

February 20, 2019
Andrew Doerfler
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There’s no way to embellish it: Exhibiting at an interior design trade show is no easy task. The trade show floor will be packed with expert designers, whose whole business is catching people’s eyes. Design fairs can be an excellent way to scout out prospective clients, but engaging them on the trade show floor takes preparation.

The top homeware and furniture trade shows will feature the latest innovations in design trends and an eager audience looking to spruce up their homes. Don’t miss out on these potential customers and networking opportunities. Here’s what you need to know about the best interior design trade shows.

Largest Trade Shows for Interior Designers Around the World

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It’s no surprise that interior design is one of the biggest industries for trade shows. Design trends are constantly changing, and buyers and exhibitors alike need to stay up on the newest interior innovations. Let’s take a look at some of the leading interior design trade shows at home and abroad.

The Top United States Interior Design Shows

In the United States, major interior design events take place in a variety of different locations. The biggest shows can host hundreds of exhibitors and industry leaders, tens of thousands of visitors, and hundreds of thousands of square footage. Below are just a few of the top interior design trade shows in the USA.

  • The High Point Market, previously called the International Home Furnishings Market and the Southern Furniture Market, takes place in North Carolina. It has been called the “world’s largest home furnishings industry trade show.”
  • NeoCon is the premiere design trade show in the United States and among the largest in the country for custom furnishings. The show is held in Chicago annually.
  • The Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishing Market is among the largest gift and furnishings markets.
  • NY Now, held in New York City, is a leading gift and home decor fair.
  • Design Miami is a high-end show focused on collectible art, architecture and furnishings.
  • ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair), a prestigious event held in New York, is one of the major luxury furniture trade shows.
  • Coverings has become one the top design trade shows in North America for the ceramic tile and natural stone industry and has been held in Chicago, Orlando, Atlanta and Arlington, Virginia.
  • Las Vegas Market bills itself as the largest furniture conference west of the Mississippi.
  • Dwell on Design, held in Los Angeles, calls itself the largest design fair on the west coast.
  • The International House & Homewares show, located in Chicago, says it features the world's largest marketplace for home and housewares professionals.
  • Florida’s Largest Home Shows are held multiple times a year on the Florida State Fairgrounds.

The Best International Interior Design Events

Some of biggest and boldest home design trade shows take place internationally. Here are several of the leading international trade shows to consider abroad.

  • Maison et Objet, held in Paris, France, calls itself “the international authority for home decor, interior design, architecture and lifestyle culture and trends.”
  • The Canadian Furniture Show in Toronto is one of the five largest trade shows in Canada of any industry.
  • Design Shanghai is considered the biggest design event in Asia.
  • Heimtextil in Frankfurt is called the “largest international platform for textile design.”
  • The Stockholm Furniture Fair has established itself as one of the largest events for Scandinavian design.
  • Cevisama is a major tile exhibition show in Spain.
  • SIDIM in Montreal stands among the largest events for designers in Canada.
  • New Designers in London is an innovative show presenting new ideas from recent design graduates.
  • Formex in Stockholm calls itself the world’s largest meeting place for Nordic design.
  • Decor + Design Show Melbourne claims the title of the largest furniture design exhibition in Australia.

Who goes to Interior Design Trade Shows?

Before you pick a trade show to attend, it’s essential to read up on the event to learn whether it’s a good match for your business. Look through the list of exhibitors to check if your target audience is likely to attend.

For example, luxury trade shows will bring the well-heeled attendees, but you’re unlikely to get a piece of the pie unless you offer high-end items. On the other end of the spectrum, your luxury products and services might fall flat at a show populated by more accessible exhibitors.

In their post-show reports, design trade shows will often list statistics such as the average expenditure of their attendees. But you can also dig deeper into statistics to see the kinds of attendees and exhibitors that you’re likely to find at particular expo. For example, the 38,000 attendees at ICFF in New York in 2018 had the following job titles:

  • 34% Interior designers
  • 15% architects
  • 10% retailers
  • 10% product designers
  • 9% marketing, sales and public relations
  • 2% students

As for the breakdown by business, ICFF’s 2018 demographics looked like this:

  • 38% architectural or interior design firm
  • 16% retail
  • 9% interior decorators
  • 8% design studio
  • 4% distributor or dealer
  • 3% manufacturer’s representative
  • 3% developer or property management firm

Data like these can be helpful in narrowing down your search for the perfect trade show for your home decor exhibition. Choose carefully to maximize your return on investment.

The Benefits of Interior Design Trade Shows

Why is it important for interior designers to exhibit at a trade show? The advantages to setting up a booth at a major industry expo span several different business objectives.

Catch the Latest Design Innovations

Never stand still. In the design and decor industry, you can’t risk missing out on the latest trends. While some tried-and-true styles have long-term staying power, it’s vital to stay abreast of the newest design movements to grow your business.

Trade shows offer unparalleled chances to see where the industry is headed. Companies can immerse themselves among the design industry leaders. Even if you’re already up on the trends, you can get a sense of how the heavy-hitters are marketing them. You might also get a sneak peek at what’s coming next, giving your company a leg up on the competition.

Find a lucrative new audience

The attendees at a trade show are looking for something new and exciting to add to their home or office -- and if it catches their eye, they’re not afraid of the pricetag.

found that 9 out of 10 visitors are mainly looking for new products at the show. Guests also want the chance to discover tomorrow’s trends and meet new suppliers. International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) says that 91 percent of attendees found new products at their event in 2018, and that on average attendees said they plan to spend $597,000 with exhibitors in the following year.

And interest is only growing: Since 2005, buyer attendance at Las Vegas Market has grown 20 percent in the furniture category, 98 percent in the home decor category and 185 percent in the designer category.  

You can also expand your scope and break into a new market: While the major trade shows draw attendees from all over the country, the bulk of visitors tend to come from within a couple hundred miles of the event. Attending a trade show in a region can be the perfect way to plant your flag.

Seize Networking Opportunities

Don’t underestimate the value of making connections in the interior design industry. Major interior design trade shows draw vendors, retailers and other potential partners from dozens of countries worldwide. At ICFF, 9,000 unique companies attended from 64 different countries.

Beyond simply making connections that can be converted into customers, the relationships built at trade shows can turn into collaborations that can benefit both of your businesses. In the design field, high-profile collaborations can make a big splash, often more than the sum of their parts. You know what they say: Two heads are better than one.

No matter which benefit appeals to your business, any exhibitor should outline its objectives for their trade show experience. This will allow you to determine how successful the show was after the fact.

Design Trends that Will Help You Stand Out

Standing out on the interior design trade show floor means staying up on the latest trends yourself. Far more than at any other type of industry expo, the attendees at design fairs will have a polished aesthetic sense. Design professionals will only spend time at booths that attract them visually.

However, don’t be afraid to veer from the formulas and add your own twists. Your booth should make a statement, not fade into the background. With that in mind, here are some of the current design trends to consider, according to Elle Decor:

  • Sustainability. Design isn’t only about looks -- social responsibility affects people’s perceptions as well. Organic, recycled and sustainable materials and handcrafted pieces will convey that you have an eco-minded business.
  • Biophilia. Incorporating plant life into your booth can send a message of naturalness and authenticity.
  • Memphis design. This bold, divisive style of art and design has gone in and out of style, and is in the midst of a comeback. It’s marked by bright primary colors in large graphic shapes. Contrary to the name, the style was pioneered by a collective of Italian designers.
  • Maximalist art. After years ruled by Scandinavian-inspired minimalism, extravagant pieces -- gold, filigree frames and splashy patterns -- can make a true impact.
  • Florals. Another component that oscillates in and out of favor, classically beautiful florals are due to return to the forefront of interior design.
  • Mixed metal accents. Make a room pop by combining complementary metal pieces of two or three different materials.
  • Light wood floors. Rather than rich, dark woods like mahogany or cherry that can read as stuffy, designers are looking toward birch and light oaks that set an airy tone.
  • 90% white, 10% color. For a clean and modern look that’s become increasingly popular, make your room a white canvas with a few pops of color.

Engaging Visitors at an Interior Design Convention

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Beauty is only skin deep -- an attractive exhibition at a home decor and furniture convention will only go so far on its own. Drawing in visitors with an eye-catching trade show booth is the first step, but to make the most of your trade show experience your team will need to work on engaging visitors effectively.

Know the material

Even if you know your products and services inside and out, it pays to prepare. Your booth staff should have key talking points that they should memorize and remember to hit in every conversation with a trade show attendee. But don’t over-rehearse or recite a spiel verbatim -- you want a naturally flowing conversation.

Nail the greeting

You only get one first impression. How you greet a trade show booth visitor can set the tone for the entire interaction. Smile and warmly greet passersby. If they decide to stop, shake hands and introduce yourself by name. A personable initial interaction will make the rest of the conversation feel less like a sales pitch.

Ask open-ended questions

The goal is to create an easy rapport. The simplest way to achieve this is by asking questions that get the person talking about their needs. Prepare questions in advance, and avoid ones that can be answered with a simple yes or no. You want your guest to feel like they’re having a friendly conversation, not receiving a sales pitch.

Get active

Come up with ideas to offer an activity to engage visitors to your booth. This can be challenging to incorporate naturally into an exhibit at a home decor and furniture conference, where the visual impact of your presentation should do most of the talking. But simple, unobtrusive ideas like trivia games and raffles can keep attendees engaged and associate your booth with positive feelings.

Look the part

A prospective client won’t be sold on your products and services alone. They’re hiring a perspective and eye for design. It’s important that your booth staff’s look matches the tone and aesthetic you want to express. Unlike at other trade shows, where a uniform of colored polos for the team can suffice, your booth staff should put thought into ensuring their attire conveys a sharp sense of style.

Don’t wait to follow up

Your engagement with prospective customers doesn’t stop when they walk away from the booth. Be sure to devise a system of keeping track of leads and their contact info, and promptly follow up with them after the event. Send a friendly message and thank them for stopping by the booth before reminding them of the advantages of your business.

Making the Most of your Interior Design Trade Show Booth

Even for an expert designer, the unique environment of a trade show can present new display challenges. If you’re a first time trade exhibitor, it’s important to consider all the factors that make for an attractive interior design exhibition.

  • Lighting. It’s hard to know in advance what the lighting situation will be on a massive trade show floor. Don’t leave it up to chance. Provide your own lighting fixtures to guarantee all of your colors, textures and accents stand out just how you planned.
  • Flooring. Flooring is an essential but often underappreciated element of a trade show booth. It’s a huge part of what sets your display apart from the sea of competing exhibitors that will surround it. Take time to decide what floor surface will create an immersive environment at your exhibit.
  • Height. Most trade shows will have restrictions on how high your exhibit can reach, depending on your booth’s size and type. But make the most of the aerial space you’re provided. A simple way to stand out is to stand above.

Shipping to an Interior Design Trade Show

In an industry so focused on creating a visual impact, it’s essential that every piece of your exhibit arrives to the event securely and on time. A misplaced element can disrupt the cohesion of your interior design display -- and cause visitors to pass right by.

Not only that, but shipments to interior design events often feature luxury and high-value items. Don’t take any risks -- it’s important to know the ins and outs of shipping to a trade show. A trusted transportation service provider like R+L Global Logistics can handle packaging, transit, storage and more. Trade show shipping is most often done in one of two ways.

In direct to site shipping, your exhibit is taken directly to the trade show venue during the event’s move-in times, usually within a few days of its start. With this method, you can expect to save handling costs. Less handling also means fewer risks to your materials. However, it’s important to hire a trusted shipping company, because a punctual arrival is essential when it comes to direct-to-site shipping.

In advance warehouse shipping, the exhibit first arrives at a storage facility long before the event begins. This will probably cause handling costs to go up, but you can have the peace of mind that your shipment is ready to go as soon as the show opens up to loading in your exhibit.

Ship Your Exhibit in Style with R+L Global Logistics

No matter which shipping method you choose, R+L Global Logistics has the resources, expertise, and network to transport your materials. Thanks to top-notch customer service, you can rest assured that your exhibit is in good hands. Contact the trade show shipping team today through chat, email or by phone at 866-415-8986.

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