Though smaller in size and attendance than some years past, K/BIS 2010 – in my humble opinion – had a more positive and optimistic vibe despite the numbers. A smaller footprint and more compact booths gave the illusion of better traffic.
Nielsen Expositions, the firm that administers and runs the K/BIS show, predicted more than 35,000 attendees well before the show started, which represents a 40 percent increase over last year’s event in Atlanta.

“We saw 67 percent of the attendees who were registered for the show this year did not participate last year,” said Nielsen’s Kitchen and Bath Group VP Brian Pagel. “This went beyond our expectations and generated a lot of early buzz and excitement surrounding the show in Chicago this year.  We believe that this is a sign that the market has begun to stabilize and hope that it is an indication that the industry will continue to improve,” he said.

President of the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) Mark Karas agreed, saying “This K/BIS will always stick out as a fond memory. I was very excited about this year. We were 30 to 40 percent above the attendance numbers from last year. Friday’s show floor traffic was unbelievable. Even with the terrible economy it was great to see the manufacturers that still sank money into R&D and came out with great new products.”

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Masco, Donny DeMarie, said the companies under the Masco brand line (including Merillat and KraftMaid cabinets, Delta and Peerless faucets,  Behr paints and others) reported significant booth traffic.
“Masco Cabinetry had its own coming out party, displaying our new three-brand strategy as well as great new innovative products such as a virtual design center, our core card sink bath and our new approach to corner cabinets,” DeMarie said. “We left the show confident and energized.”

The overall optimistic sentiments on the show floor echo some positive news in the industry. ServiceMagic, a home and contractor service referral and market research firm, says its requests for help with kitchen remodels spiked nearly 200 percent nationally in the first quarter of this year, compared with the same period in 2009. Bathroom remodel requests were up 30 percent nationally. Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies’ recent quarterly survey of homeowner sentiment predicted that home-improvement spending would climb by nearly 5 percent this year.

Gerry Snapke, president of, however, recently commented: “There were a ton of brands that were conspicuously absent. To make matters worse, this week is reporting that the appliance vendors who did choose to display were courted by representatives from CES (Consumer Electronics Show).” He said there were also rumors CES is privately pressing the big kitchen appliance companies for commitment.

Noticeably absent from the show floor were some of the industry’s big-name manufacturers, including (but not limited to) Sears, LG, BSH, Electrolux/Frigidaire, Samsung, Sub-Zero/Wolf and Viking. Sears and several other companies held off-site events as opposed to exhibiting.

“My take is that it was a very sensible show,” said Kim Sweet, editor-in-chief of “The new product introductions that made the most impact were not extravagant just because they could be. There was a ton of emphasis on function, affordability and practicality.” Sweet also said the absenteeism of some European manufacturers was noticeable. “I saw a retreat from color. We were missing some of the more bold styles and riskier colors that we’ve seen in recent years.”

While walking the show and on the lookout for new products, trends and booths that caught our eye, the K&A Team documented standout products and companies.

  • Lenova – I’ve always used basic porcelain, glass or stainless steel sinks, but Lenova has me thinking differently. The company’s sink offerings range from bamboo, copper and other renewable materials. The products are a breath of fresh air from your typical “box with a hole in it.” In fact, Lenova’s Bamboo Farm Sink was nominated as one of the Best of K/BIS products.
  • DanverSpecializing in outdoor cabinetry and kitchens, Davner displayed its newest product, wood finished stainless steel cabinetry. Also at their booth was an outdoor barbecue hood, one of the company’s most popular items.
  • Kingston – This was truly a new product I haven’t seen at a show before. Kingston’s Air Elegance Body Drying Systems give those who may have difficulty using a towel (and even those who simply want to cut down on towel laundry!) an alternative to drying off after taking a shower or being in the pool. The company has two sizes of body dryers that may be used in the home, at a spa or gym, or at the beach.
  • Gerber Plumbing Fixtures – There’s one thing for sure: Gerber cares about how well its toilets work. Not only does the company offer high-efficiency toilets, but their performance is Grade A. Among Gerber’s new products at the show were a Daylene faucet, a PLUS valve which is designed to fit all trim in the collection, and the Avalance 1.28 LS toilet.
  • Rev-a-ShelfRev-a-Shelf completely rethinks the way people organize. Their products help morph desk drawers, cabinetry and closets into highly-organized and space-saving areas. At the show, the company introduced “The Curve,” a blind corner solution for kitchen cabinets.
  • Kropp Woodworking – Everything is custom-made with these guys. The company obtains its wood from close-by neighborhoods, reducing emissions and transportation costs and pollutants. At K/BIS, they introduced a new VOC-free, food safe and sustainable finish on their countertop. The wood is smooth to the touch and looks great.

I, of course, strongly believe in the benefits of tradeshows. They’re great for sales training, product introductions and outside events. Plus, tradeshows provide opportunities for industry specific people to meet face-to-face and share ideas, launch new business deals and even spend a few “non-business” hours with colleagues and clients.

If you’re planning on attending or exhibiting at a tradeshow – whether it’s next month or next year – take a look at our latest white paper, “Tradeshow Marketing Success.” It’s a free download, and it covers the Dos and Don’ts of tradeshow marketing, how to make the most of your time at the event and what’s crucial to remember in the final days before the show.

And, for videos straight from the showroom floor in Chicago, visit our YouTube channel – featured K/BIS video include ThinkGlass, Kingston and Cascade Faucets.