The Salone del Mobile in June? Enthusiasm triumphs over perplexity

The design industry debates the move of the Salone del Mobile, and the first opinions from companies express a desire for realignment of the ‘virtuous’ system

Salone del Mobile in June Salone del Mobile.Milano
Salone del Mobile in June Salone del Mobile.Milano

Salone del Mobile in June: Twenty-four hours after the announcement of the new dates for the upcoming Salone del Mobile in Milan, now scheduled for 16-21 June 2020, opinions are flooding in at IFDM from companies and international visitors.
On 25 February the board of directors of FederlegnoArredo Eventi went through a very tense moment. The decisions to be made were difficult ones, and though the future contains many unknown factors, it was necessary not to overlook the cultural importance of the event on a worldwide level, and thus of a statement made by Milan on the situation.
Views ranged from those who wanted to go forward with the April event, those who wanted simply to cancel and then look forward to 2021, and those in favor of September, alongside the supporters of a shift to June.

The big names of design, who take part in the global trade with a strong structure as a major source of income, have shown signs of disappointment and perplexity, as confirmed by Monica Pedrali (Pedrali), because the Salone represents the ideal moment to introduce new products and collections, and to initiative collaborations with new designers. The solidity of the commercial chain is and will be an asset through which to weather a difficult moment. The machinery of quality Made in Italy and customer care – as the Bergamo-based company proves – is a value that will not be compromised by the present situation.

Long experience with international markets connected to design and luxury leads to the outlook of a possible scenario where quality prevails over quantity. Not by choice, but due to the conditions imposed by recent developments.
Will the possible resizing of the display areas and the probable drop in attendance lead to rethinking of strategies of participation in the Salone del Mobile? Paradoxically, this condition would also have its benefits, as many companies glimpse the possibility of being effective without having to create ‘aggressive’ booths, eliminating grandstanding and paying more attention to relationships, a careful selection of products to display and a more strategic setting.

So we can see the choice as a positive move, a correct message of continuity and solidity of the Salone system, not just as an institution but also as the force and image of the international design industry in Milan.
We should not forget that all the other design weeks wish they were us!

Unsustainable April

Though the Milanese event had already been confirmed on 12 February, the emergency of the epidemic forced the Salone to take stock of the possible numbers of visitors expected at the fair.
Many companies had already become aware of the possible reluctance of buyers and clients to attend, not only from Asia but also from European and American countries, as Sara Allievi of Porada explains.
Eleonore Cavalli (Visionnaire) told IFDM: “It was an indispensable decision, because in April we would have had much less attendance, due to the medical crisis in progress. But imposing an even longer delay would have been harmful, hampering the possibility of presenting new collections which would bring a breath of fresh air, which is the key characteristic of the Salone del Mobile. Now we have to join forces with our retail partners to activate a series of initiatives in every single local territory, transmitting a message, namely that the world, and Milan, will not stand still.”

Salone del Mobile in June
Salone del Mobile in June: The Salone del Mobile.Milano Press Conference in February

Even the smaller ranks of those who were hoping for a Salone in April had to change their minds, in the end, in the face of the hypothesis of empty pavilions and hotel rooms.
Carola Bestetti (Living Divani) agrees: “The move was necessary, but at Living Divani we are planning to pretend the dates in April are still valid, so we will be ready and well-prepared for the Salone in June. It will be a difficult year, as already suggested by the economic outlook, and this situation doesn’t help, especially for medium and small businesses; for this reason, the Salone should be held, because it puts us into contact with the whole world, though at this point it is mainly an operation of communication and networking. In the meantime, we have to reschedule a strategy and an organization planned on the basis of the Salone in April, understanding how to rely on the digital, online aspects which will undoubtedly take over, activating other initiatives with more direct marketing with respect to our contacts. I hope this effort carried out by the companies will gain the support of the institutions as well.

The pragmatic voice of Pasquale Junior Natuzzi (Natuzzi) emphasizes: “Optimism is a must in this situation, but the company should not lose sight of the themes of its own health and commercial strategy. We operate in an evolved and highly competitive global market where every choice has to be made in an objective way. We look forward to the Salone, but with both feet on the ground, acting in a rational manner.”

The new dates

Small and medium businesses that wager above all on design and have less complicated – and therefore more flexible – mechanisms of distribution, are the ones that have been most willing to approve of the new schedule.
Andrea Sanguineti (Alias), Gian Paolo Migliaccio (Ethimo), Christian Benini (Wall&Decò), though with different approaches, have taken a positive stand on the new dates, emphasizing the courage of the organizers.

We should also remember that kitchens and their technologies, as well as the world of bathroom furnishings, have their moment of glory at the Salone every two years. The leaders – such as Boffi, Arclinea, Poliform, Ernestomeda and Scavolini – await the coming edition of Eurocucina to present their new products for 2020.
It should be emphasized that our company is active in the bath furnishings sector, so it appears at the fair every two years – says Cristiano Crosetta (Tubes). Whether it is April or September or June, nothing changes, because the next big fair investment will be in two years’ time. We do not expect sales gains from the fair, and while others see it differently I have to be honest – I think it’s a bad idea. It means something isn’t working properly. Instead we have to work to grow, to innovate and give something more to a market that demands new developments and ecosustainable products. Then, the fair can provide a boost in this direction.
Most of the companies confirm the fact that two more months can offer the time for better preparation for the Salone or – as Christian Benini of Wall&Decò says – “to invent something new that can bring energy to our own company and to the sector.”

June already boasts a fine calendar of events in Italy and abroad. For the world of furnishings, Neocon opens its doors in Chicago a few weeks away from NYCxDesign in May, in the United States, and Clerkenwell Design Week in London. Furthermore, the men’s fashion week in Florence and Milan will take place at the same time as the upcoming Salone.

Distribution on stand-by

Retail operations and the sales network are the most divisive issues, also because – as we have seen – the size of the company and the quantity of points of sale have an impact on strategies and timing, and therefore on revenues. April has always stood out in corporate programs as the best period for the introduction, sale and display of new developments, which then are already on view in store windows in June. The new collections require at least 3 or 4 months of testing before their economic potential can come to the fore.
There are few case histories like that of Alias – whose quota of sales from samples on view during and immediately after the Salone is about 2.5 to 5% – Andrea Sanguineti explains. He therefore does not see a possible drop in the number of visitors as a decisive factor, because the company’s distribution is very selective and easy to control.
Some larger companies have already informed the market – through web communications – that the appointment will be from 16 to 21 June, but we know that many assessments are still in progress and the possible scenarios are many.
Antoniolupi will take part next week in the Batibouw trade fair in Brussels, undoubtedly a major signal of support for the sales network, impacted by a wave of panic-provoking media coverage.

Previews and embargos

Antoniolupi, S.Project 2019

The attitudes regarding the new products to be presented are yet another problem to be solved. Antoniolupi, says Andrea Lupi, usually spreads information on new products across the entire year, but the main thrust is during the Salone. “We are already poised, and we will soon be launching a new website. We constantly introduce new products, but we will leave the biggest presentation to the Salone, also involving issues of creating a setting and a total look, where products and their installation converge through design.

Visionnaire, Pedrali and others will not reveal anything prior to 16 June, though some companies will be issuing info on new items in installments, while many have still not decided on a strategy.
But will we really have to wait for the ‘furniture new year’s’ to get an inkling of the new developments in store?
We believe that teasers can preview what will happen during the Salone, and companies can permit publication to begin, narrating smaller stories.

June and a summer Salone as an opportunity

Paolo Bleve, IFDM Editor-in-Chief

With 8 more weeks at our disposal, my suggestion to companies and the Salone is to imagine June as a true ‘Design Experience’ not just because it is written in the slogans of the event’s 2020 ad campaign, but also because in June the expectations will be quite different from the traditional spring festival.

A Salone that presents companies with the force of their management, their human resources and a bit of creativity.
A Salone del Mobile that is less self-centered, offering glimpses of the fact that it can be useful – very useful – but is not indispensable, at all costs. Marketing and strategic programs can certainly not wait until 16 June; companies will have to get organized, on their own, to protect sales, to update their clients, to offer previews while leaving the big news up to the gathering point of the fair.

I am certain that greater flexibility in the design of the presence of exhibitors at the fair will be sustained by the Salone, which will have the pleasure of seeing companies make efforts in a more creative way, to make an even more incisive mark. Not because the Salone is in June, but because the Salone is always a place of extraordinary surprises.