The international timber industry’s calendar is full of conferences and exhibitions, but one that stands out as being entirely devoted to the material itself, with no machinery in sight, is Carrefour International du Bois, the biennial timber trade show in Nantes, France.

Organised by Atlanbois, the trade association for the promotion of timber in the Pays de la Lire region and the port authority of Nantes Saint-Nazaire, the event’s pedigree is unimpeachable. “It began in 1990 as an informal get together of timber merchants,” explained Nicolas Visier, director of Carrefour du Bois and executive secretary of Atlanbois. “There is a lot of wood processing in this area – in fact it is the centre for furniture manufacture and industrial joinery.”

The event became a timber “supermarket” as Gérard Jahoo, lines manager with the Nantes Port Authority, went on to explain: “Nantes was used to international trade. Every type and size of timber from all over the world came through the port and it became a key venue for international traders to do business.”

The show has grown exponentially since its inception and 2002 saw 418 exhibitors. It may be small compared to other international shows, and the biggest stand is a modest 36m2, but the emphasis is on facilitating trading rather than just showcasing new products.

More space

That said, the exhibition space has been stretched from 12,500m2 to 15,000m2 with the addition of a new hall. And, if history is anything to go by – both visitor and exhibitor numbers increased 20% at the 2002 exhibition – Carrefour International du Bois can look forward to three very busy days.

Exhibitors come from the UK, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Finland, Malaysia, the US, Canada, Brazil, Chile, Gabon, to name but a few – and every field of the timber industry is represented, from sawn timber through panel products, engineered timber, mouldings, beading, panelling and wainscoting, cladding, windows, doors and furniture to building products manufacturers. The latter group has grown this year, as has flooring: “We’re seeing more timber flooring manufacturers than ever,” said Samantha Padden, trade show co-ordinator. “It’s a real growth area for us.”

Around 9,000 visitors are expected this year, drawn from 54 countries. Carrefour marketing has recently targeted Asia and large delegations from China and Japan are expected.

It’s the calibre and broad range of both exhibitors and visitors that has appealed to the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) since Carrefour’s inception. “Carrefour is a 100% wood show,” said AHEC’s European director David Venables. “That’s the reason why AHEC has sponsored every one. And it’s why we’ll be back again, flying the flag for American hardwoods.”


As well as exhibiting, AHEC will be taking part in one of a series of conferences organised by Nantes Ecole Superiore du Bois (Timber Engineering School). Topics include; “Certification – is it only a marketing tool?” and “CE marking – its effects on the timber industry” on June 2; “How to promote our products” (in which AHEC will describe its promotion of American hardwoods throughout the world) on June 3; and “What is the market for French sawn timber and semi-processed products?” on June 4. Visitors are welcome to dip in and out of the sessions and simultaneous translation is available.

Several general assemblies will also be taking place during the three days, including that of the European Sawmillers Organisation.

Popular though Carrefour International du Bois may be, there is still plenty of room for more visitors from the UK and, as Samantha Padden said: “Language should not be a barrier. If a group from the UK were to make themselves known to me I would escort them around the show. And 70 students from the Ecole Superiore du Bois can also escort visitors and offer a translation service.”

Carrefour International du Bois will be held at the exhibition park la Beaujoire in Nantes, 15 minutes from Nantes-Atlantique airport.