17 June 2024, 05:48
By Gavin Boden Mar 06, 2020

Come join the imm crowd!

Germany’s imm cologne, which took place from 18th-24th January this year, is the top dog of furniture exhibitions, explains Gavin Boden, business development director at Rhenus Home Delivery

From a bustling train direct from Dusseldorf, I arrived onto the busy raised platform of Koelnmesse station – only to feel overwhelmed by the atmosphere and anticipation which surrounded me. The short walk from the station, passing one new development after another, made me realise that the whole area around the exhibition centre was going to be a heaving metropolis sometime in the near future.

There was a definite buzz of excitement upon entering the behemoth of a foyer, and I was astounded by the number of people already queuing to put their coats and bags into the cloakroom (€3 per item). I had already paid the entrance fee of €50 per day to get into the fair (travel from the airport included) online – if I’d left it to buy a ticket on the day it would have cost me €65. 

The fair was open to the trade from Monday to Thursday, and then to everyone Friday to Sunday, and admission on the public days was only €15. 

I’m completely behind the organisers charging the trade to attend the show, but maybe not €50 a day! Charging attendees deters the public coming in on trade days (for as long as I’ve been working the UK shows, it’s been an issue trying to keep the public out of the halls – they waste a lot of the exhibitors’ time, and while you’re dealing with one of these ‘tyre-kickers’ you could miss the opportunity to speak with an important prospect) but also subsidises the costs for the exhibitors, which are growing every year.  

Once past ticket inspection I had to decide which of the 17 huge halls I wanted to visit first. The imm makes it as easy as possible for visitors, by putting each product group into its own hall (as much as possible) – for example, the show had two halls full of beds and bed-related products, so if I was a bed buyer I wouldn’t have to trudge around the full 17 halls to find the suppliers I wanted to visit … 

With an exhibition the size of the imm, and with over 128,000 visitors every year, you need a plan of attack (without this you could be roaming the halls aimlessly and risk getting lost in the style and design brilliance it exudes). 

I decided to go and have a look at hall 6.1 first, which had mostly leather sofas and accessories. It was full of amazingly designed stands from the likes of himolla and Polipol, whose displays reminded why they dominate the German market, offering some amazing innovations, designs and quality coverings. In fact, 99% of the stands in the hall created concepts and atmospheres with quality stamped all over them – Polipol had no less than seven stands, with different brands including Hukla, Polinova and Megapol, all of which looked amazingly commercial.

I’ve attended imm for the last five years, and have always been impressed with its organisation and how it attracts visitors. Even walking around between the halls keeps you interested, with art installations and cute coffee houses to peruse. 

This year, the organisers introduced a special Future Interiors event area, which focused on German furniture trends and the increasingly important issue of sustainability. The further conceptual enhancement of hall 11 in the Pure Atmospheres segment was also seen as an important step in imm cologne’s development. 

In the future, visitors will see a lot more changes, and the organisers will continue to systematically expand imm cologne into a global marketplace for the international furniture and interior design industry.

Although the exhibition has been overlooked by 99% of UK buyers over the years, you will occasionally see the likes of Barker & Stonehouse, Stokers and Stollers tirelessly strolling around the halls, and recognise exhibitors including Actona, Hydeline, Fama, Novamobili and Vi-Spring.

In summary, the organisers of the furniture shows in the UK could learn a lot from imm cologne – and, with respect to the UK retail buyers who don’t attend, it would be well worth your time and money to get out to this beautiful venue and see what you’re missing.

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