Brussels Furniture Fair 2021 concluded on 10th November after four days of business following a one-year hiatus.

Visitor numbers were, understandably, down this year, says GM Lieven Van den Heede: "No-one was worrying about the fact that visitor numbers were down. In fact, no-one found it a problem. The quality was there, and there were an exceptionally high number of orders. Almost all the large purchasing groups from abroad were present. In recent years they have always faithfully shown up. In 2021, we had a total of 16,171 visitors from 38 countries. This is 2823 fewer (or -14.86% less) than in 2019.

"Of course, the majority of visitors came from Belgium or the neighbouring countries. So in that respect, little has changed. And yet we had an unexpectedly high number of visitors in the broad group of 'other countries', whilst the figures for our most important markets saw a slight decline."

The largest decline came from the UK and Ireland, with -71% fewer visitors in attendance this year. "Especially for the British, it had become extremely complicated to enter the EU, partly due to Brexit, but above all because of the Covid-19 restrictions," adds Lieven.

In all, however, the share of overseas visitors held steady, at 60.9%.

"The offering at the Furniture Fair 2021 was less extensive than we are accustomed to, but still varied enough to be interesting for our international trade visitors," Lieven continues. 

This year's show boasted 161 exhibitors from 11 different countries (down -107 Yo2Y, or almost -40%). The show covered 76.1% of the space occupied in 2019, when the occupancy rate was 93%. "Given that the number of visitors fell by almost -15%, the number of visitors per stand surface area ratio was still positive," adds Lieven. "This also partly explains the positive vibe and the sense that there were a lot of visitors.

"With three exceptions, all our exhibitors were from the EU. This has been the case for years. The role of the Brussels Furniture Fair is not to bring manufacturers from the Far East to Europe. There are other fairs for that. Our main aim is to focus on a European offering for a West European market. As a result of the pandemic, this role chimes perfectly with the current mood. Disrupted supply routes, high transportation costs and rising wages in China are causing these manufacturers to realise that it is perhaps time for them to bring their production back to Europe again."

The winners of this year's Balthazar awards were: Best of Belgium – Ton sur Tooon divider, Toon De Somer (designed by Mathias De Ferm); Love at First Sight – Tulip, Passe Partout (designed by Axel Enthoven); Best international – Bebop, by EgoItaliano; and Innovation – Circular, by Revor.

Next year's show will take place from 6-9th November.