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Cinde W. Ingram

Spoga Cologne focuses on woven forms

The 54 booths in the Center of Excellence for outdoor furniture stayed busy during the Spoga trade show, although several exhibitors were looking ahead to Maison et Objet in Paris or the Casual Market in Chicago.

Spoga drew 27,500 visitors from 95 countries to Cologne, Germany for its three-day run, Sept. 2–4. Attendance was up by more than 6% from the 2005 turnout and provided a broader international scope than ever for the trade fair serving the international garden and leisure sector.

"The international buyers come to Cologne not only to place orders, but also because they know the great value of Spoga as a platform for new products," said Oliver P. Kuhrt, executive vice president of Koelnmesse. "This is lifestyle at the highest international level, and the trends are created here. The participating Gafa exhibitors and their dealers are increasingly calling on us to make the fair an annual event again."

Retailers noted the abundance of synthetic wicker designs, although teak, other woods, stainless steel and cast aluminum products also were present. One of the newest materials appearing was in foam furniture with sculptural designs from la-Fete and Val-eur.

Emu displayed its steel furniture with a pastel color range in lilac, light green, light blue, pale orange and white. More full collections were to appear in Paris, said Benigno Fronsaglia, president, Emu USA.

"Spoga and Paris are one exhibition," said Charles Vernon, managing director of Gloster. "Spoga is three days and Paris is five days."

Mark Tyrie, director of Barlow Tyrie, also noted a shift toward the Paris show, although its large booth at Spoga included the debut of its Mercury Collection of lightweight stacking steel chairs with teak and sling options. Extensions to its Equinox range, a darker color added to its woven Arizona group and a sunscreen option designed to fit all of Barlow Tyrie's chaise lounge chairs also were introduced.

Hector Landgrave of Landgrave Furniture was among the exhibitors who noted the difference between U.S. trade shows, where buyers seek lots of new designs, and European shows, where extensions of tried-and-true collections are preferred.

"We've had a good number of visits, but mainly by existing customers," said Michael Siebel of FIM umbrellas, based in Italy. "It's not cost effective, not only this year but in the last three or four years. We've been requesting the show to be every two years."

Other exhibitors said they were more than satisfied with the amount of traffic their booths drew, not only in the Center of Excellence but in the rest of Building 2 plus two other buildings devoted to outdoor furniture and accessories. With 721 companies, the show's furniture and home segment once again featured the largest group of exhibitors.

The grilling and barbecue product segment at Spoga included nearly 200 suppliers. Grand Hall drew attention with the launch of its X-series Outdoor Kitchen, developed by Porsche Engineering Group and designed by Porsche Design Studio. The stainless steel grill uses an infrared system with patented cross-ray burner technology and a retractable lid that slides backward, said Tim Merritt, director of marketing for Grand Hall USA. "It's somewhat of a status symbol and a more refined cooking experience that raises the bar and challenges the market to do something different," Merritt said.

Kurt Schlieper, chief executive of the Barbecue Industry Association Grillverband (BIAG), said barbecuing, whether with charcoal, gas or electricity, is now more popular than ever. "Barbecuing has become a lifestyle," he said. "Customers are demanding higher-quality grilling and barbecuing products, and this trend could be clearly seen at the fair."

In 2008, the Spoga+Gafa trade show, will be held Sunday, Aug. 31 to Tuesday, Sept. 2.

Mixed materials, like metal with wood and deep cushions, repeated in booths at Spoga.

High-quality grill trend is growing.

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