The difference a Domotex makes

Does our lack of passion for Domotex reveal that our industry is a bit too insular? asks David Hibbert.

BY the time you read this column, I’ll have attended and returned from the international flooring exhibition, Domotex, which is held annually in Hannover, Germany. Like our own UK flagship exhibition, The Flooring Show in Harrogate, Domotex is a focal point of the year for the flooring industry, but on a much bigger, international scale.

Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better (that’s something each of us judges for ourselves) but it does offer more variety than we see at Harrogate, both in terms of companies exhibiting, their product ranges and the countries they come from.

Please don’t misinterpret me, this is by no means a slight on The Flooring Show, which I think does a fantastic job for the UK flooring industry. It delivers what the exhibitors and visitors want from a UK flooring show, which is reflected in the exhibitor numbers and visitor numbers being so healthy. Indeed, my own company, F Ball exhibits there every year and we find it invaluable for connecting and reconnecting with customers, flooring manufacturers and new visitors to the show.

Domotex is different and offers something different. Having attended Domotex for over 30 years, it’s always baffled me that, while a few UK companies attend the exhibition – as exhibitors or visitors – many more do not. Which begs the question, are we as a nation perhaps too insular in the way we think and act?

While many UK companies might trade solely within the UK and have no interest in trying to export or import, there’s always the possibility that opportunities may present themselves that are worth considering.
Many UK companies at the show took the opportunity to be part of a Chamber of Commerce co-ordinated ‘British Pavilion’, where co-exhibiting companies were able to present themselves as part of a larger British trade presence.

This is a good option for companies who may be a bit uncertain about exhibiting abroad and would benefit from the reassurance offered by being part of a larger group.

I also believe that attending a show such as Domotex offers more than the opportunity to seek out new business opportunities.

It provides the chance to see what overseas companies are doing and how their approach may differ from what we do here in the UK. In addition, exhibitions often flag up new product and material trends, which can be a good indicator of things to come in our domestic marketplace.

In light of the continuing Brexit saga, companies might think it’s safer to sit tight and that this isn’t the time for exploring opportunities, especially if they concern European companies (what with all the tariffs likely to be put in place if we fail to agree a Brexit deal). I disagree.

It’s always easy to look at cutting out short-term costs, but for many UK-based companies there may well be future business opportunities they’re missing out on by not attending the show.

As I’ve said in one of my previous columns, Brexit offers an easy excuse for inertia – for waiting and seeing. But companies around the world won’t be doing that. They’ve no reason to. Companies from outside the EU, including ones from the US, India, China, Canada, Pakistan, Argentina and more, attend Domotex.

They’re looking for opportunities to import into the EU, even with the tariffs they face. And for UK companies trading with any of these countries, Brexit won’t make any difference to our trading terms.

Indeed, if government ministers charged with looking for trade deals are to be believed, we may have tariff-free or low tariff agreements with several countries around the world following Brexit.

The truth is, we don’t know what’s going to happen in a few years’ time, but what is certain is that, tariffs or no tariffs, if a business opportunity makes sense financially, it’s worth pursuing. But if you’re not looking for them, they’re not likely to come along.

So, it’s for these reasons, I’d encourage companies in the UK flooring industry to have a look at Domotex, whether as a visitor or as an exhibitor. If nothing else, it will offer a different perspective from our own UK, Brexit-obsessed view of the industry.

It will provide an opportunity to learn how different companies and markets work and what new trends may be on the horizon for our own marketplace. And, you never know, it could throw up the chance to make some new, international contacts or even open up a whole new marketplace.
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David Hibbert is president of the CFA