Onwards and upwards12 May 2012 by Mike Jeffree
France’s premier timber show promises to be bigger and better than ever this year – and is expecting a further rise in UK and Irish visitors
• Carrefour International du Bois takes place in Nantes from June 6-8.
• It will have a record 530 exhibitors and occupy 10% more space than 2010.
• It forecasts over 10,000 visitors.
• The timber construction section will be bigger.
• At the last show, UK and Irish visitors increased 35%.
Nothing seems to knock the Carrefour du Bois International off its upward path.
In 2010, in the wake of the global credit crunch, France’s biennial timber and wood products and construction systems show reached a record of around 500 exhibitors. This year, with euro issues ongoing, the three-day event has hit 530. As a result the floor space at Nantes’ Parc de Beaujoire complex has increased by 10% to more than 17,000m². More than that, all the stands were booked three months before the show starts on June 6.
Judging by early pre-registrations, visitor numbers are also expected to rise, surpassing 10,000.
Serious about timber
So what's the secret of the show and how has it bucked economic trends? Sam Padden, international business executive of co-organiser Atlanbois, puts it down to maintaining the same essential foundations, but building on them each time to meet the current and changing needs of European wood professionals, their customers and specifiers.
“As always the show is dedicated exclusively to timber, its by-products and their applications, which, we believe, makes it the most extensive and focused exhibition for the sector in Europe,” said Ms Padden. “For the exhibitors that also means that the visitors are serious about timber; in finding more about it and ultimately in buying it. It is a uniquely dedicated commercial forum for the industry.”
Perhaps the key example of the evolution of the event was the launch of the wood-based construction focused Timber Techniques & Solutions section.
“It has been an increasing success since its launch in 2006, and this year is bigger again, which is why it has moved to Hall 4 next to the Grand Palais, (with Halls 2 and 3 housing the rest of the show). It also has new exhibitors, new products and whole new construction systems and solutions,” said Ms Padden. “It is targeted at architects, contractors and other building professionals and includes a cycle of conferences on key contemporary issues for them. But wood-based construction is, of course, a growing sector internationally, so this area has interest for all visitors.”
Adding to the Carrefour's pulling power, she said, is that, from being a French-focused, regional event at the outset 22 years ago, it is now a truly international showcase. Of the overall mix of exhibitors – including sawmillers, traders/importers, exterior and construction products and systems, parquet and glulam suppliers – nearly 160 are from abroad. This has come about partly through the show's high-profile international marketing campaigns, but also, simply word of mouth.
“It has become known as the reference event for European wood professionals,” said Ms Padden. “And today we have exhibitors and visitors from around the rest of the world too.”
Those who book a stand at the show tend to stay. It has a 90% return rate, with some of those back again this year including top French hardwood, softwood and timber products names Ducerf, Eurochêne, Piveteau Bois and Monnet Seve. Among returners from abroad are Metsä Wood, Vandecasteele, UPM, Van Hoorebeke and an American group, including The American Hardwood Export Council, American Softwoods and Baillie Lumber.
New names this year include modified wood specialist Accoya, interior products supplier Fetim Professional, timber and engineered wood producer Mayr-Melnhof Kauffman, international trader Florian Legno, and, joining the US group, Boss and Graf Bros Lumber.
A key strategy for the show is stand ‘democracy’. This restricts every exhibitor to a maximum space of 36m².
“That levels the playing field for companies of all sizes, and makes it a better proposition for small to medium-sized businesses,” said Ms Padden. “Big companies won't necessarily overshadow others and everyone has the opportunity to make the same impact on visitors, for whom it probably also makes it easier to navigate.”
The visitors themselves are also becoming an increasingly international audience and this year over 15% are expected from outside France, drawn from about 70 countries.
UK visitors are not the biggest foreign contingent, but numbers are growing, rising a significant 35% to 150 in 2010. Ms Padden believes this is the result not only of specific promotion, but also word of the show spreading, and also of easy transport. There are direct flights to Nantes from Gatwick, City, Manchester and Southampton airports, plus a frequent two-hour train service from Paris.
To one UK visitor, Vincent Timber chairman John Vincent, the Carrefour appeals on several fronts. “It's partly because it is the only pure wood show and doesn't go off at tangents,” he said. “Being every two years means there's likely to be more that's new and it's also a chance to meet both people you do and those you don't know and find out what's happening around the international industry.”
Howarth Timber’s marketing and product development manager, Neale Brewster, described the show as “fantastic for wood products generally”, and a good window on what is happening in Europe.
“For a timber specialist like us, having that complete spectrum of products under one roof makes it very worthwhile,” he said. “We went particularly to look at cladding, but it opened our eyes to many other interesting areas. It’s also very professional.”
Adding to international visitor and exhibitor interest this year, will be the varied conference programme. Techniques & Solutions presentations will include a talk by Andrew Holloway of Green Oak Carpentry on the Rothschild Foundation reading room, winner of the 2011 UK Wood Awards. Key new reports on French sawn timber output and wood marketing will also be unveiled.
There will also be a special new product showcase area, highlighting innovations at the show. In total, says the Carrefour, all the ingredients to keep it on its upward path.