Brussels Furniture Fair. An international vocation

Since 2006 Marketing assistant for the Brussels Furniture Fair, a few months ago Lieven Van den Heede took the helm as Director of the event, in charge of a lean team of young professionals strongly inclined towards personal interaction with the exhibitors.  We met him during this 78th edition which opened its doors on Sunday 8 November at the Brussels Expo.  He describes an international fair which, down through the years, has become a prominent trade platform for the European furniture industry.  The 300 exhibitors come from 18 countries to meet about 20,000 trade visitors from neighbouring countries, and many more besides…

A few months ago, you assumed the directorship for Brussels Furniture Fair. What does this new position mean to you?

Having already worked within the organization as marketing assistant for about ten years, I am very familiar with the event and its great potential.  For the past ten years, Brussels Furniture Fair has implemented some important strategies aimed at reinforcing its international vocation.  The event has now become an accredited European trade platform for the furniture industry thanks to the strong identity we have managed to build up.  We are very satisfied with this result.  In my role as Director, I naturally intend to pursue our policy of pushing the exhibition borders further.  

Where do the exhibitors of this 78th edition come from?

Most of our exhibitors are Belgian.  They see this trade fair as an important opportunity to present themselves to international buyers who would otherwise be difficult to intercept.

There is a significant number of exhibitors from the Netherlands – thanks to a particular format called Holland à la Carte studied specifically for them –  followed by Germany, Italy and France.  This year we also welcome exhibitors from Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Spain and Portugal.

How many companies are taking part in the event for the first time?

Out of a total number of three hundred exhibitors, 20% are first-timers. We consider this to be a very positive figure because it means that the exhibition and our market exert a strong attraction.  

It is just as important however to consider that 80% of the exhibitors taking part are fidelized and have been coming to the fair for many years.  For many of them, the markets they reach in Brussels represent some of their main markets and the Brussels Furniture Fair is a particularly interesting platform for making contacts and doing business.

The Brussels Furniture Fair has a predominant presence of upholstered product manufacturers…

Certainly, a key role is played by the upholstered segment, but the solutions on display now cover a vast product range. We have one hall – Brussels by Night – entirely given over to bedrooms; The Kid’s Corner addresses the children’s segment and then we have areas comprising complete furnishing projects, fabrics, lighting and accessories.  We are also working to extend our design content and the Square and Fusion segments testify to this.

What is the overall surface area of the exhibition?  Does it exceed that of last year?

Similarly to last year, the exhibition area covers 70,000 sq m subdivided into seven halls. We could extend it by granting space to companies which do not comply with our standards but we are constantly focused on keeping the quality of exhibits high and on increasing the event’s appeal.

On talking to some of the Italian companies here, several of them have defined their relationship with this trade fair as being “friendly”…

We are a closely knit team of four with a strong propensity for establishing personal relations with our exhibitors.  We believe it is of fundamental importance to be aware of their specific needs and to satisfy them as far as possible.

How many visitors do you manage to attract, and where do they come from?

For 5/6 years now, we have registered attendances of about 20,000 visitors over the 4 days on which the fair runs.  Ours is a high-profile public of retailers, buyers, architects and designers.  40% of our visitors are Belgian, followed by the Dutch, French, German, Austrian, Swiss and British. In 2014, compared to the previous year, we registered a 9% decrease in the number of Belgians which was compensated by an increase in visitors from neighbouring countries. Dutch attendances, for instance, grew by 5%, visitors from France by 4% and from Germany and Austria by 14%. Last year, we also registered the attendance of visitors from Middle Eastern countries, such as Iran and the Arab Emirates. 

In the corridors between the various halls, you have installed a rather interesting trend exhibition…

In line with previous editions, our art director Siegrid Demyttenaere has identified the main furnishing trends which are subdivided into three separate galleries and interpreted by products selected from those being displayed by our exhibitors.  The result is a most effective and representative collage of the latest interior design trends.