Spring came early – 29th IAW in Cologne a source of optimism across the entire retail sector


There were smiling faces everywhere when the 29th International Trade Fair for Retail Promotions and Imports (IAW) in Cologne came to an end. Everyone was pleased by the outcome and the glorious spring weather in February also lifted the mood. Around 9,500 trade visitors came to the 30,000 m² display in Halls 10.1 and 10.2 of the Cologne Exhibition Centre. Buyers could find all the products they needed, were able to place orders and obtain vital information from the 342 exhibitors – importers, wholesalers, manufacturers and service providers – who came together from across the globe. All participants were enthused by the congress part of the event, which also continues to grow from strength to strength.

The range of exhibits covered every product category and offered unprecedented diversity, while the visitors themselves came from numerous countries and market segments. Along with the interesting supporting program these factors undoubtedly contributed to the success of the IAW, as some of the new exhibitors readily confirmed. Birgitta Schaafsma, owner of MagicBox in the Netherlands, explained: “We were overwhelmed by the sheer number of visitors and actually ran out of business cards by the second day!” Shahzaib Raza, Managing Director of Ather Nayab Traders Limited in Pakistan, reported: “We found the IAW really exciting – thanks to the many nations and different business models represented it offers quite special networking opportunities.”

Marc Fiedler, owner of the eponymous trading company and initiator of a new trading concept for small hardware stores, was keen to emphasize that the trade fair “is a place where the best contacts can be found and customers made aware of new concepts and products directly on the spot”, while Jürgen Hoch, head of sales at Dernier GmbH in Oberhausen, stressed: “The IAW is a very big trade fair which generates a footfall that you will not find elsewhere.”

The generally positive mood at the trade fair extended to the British exhibitors despite the fact that the future for them is uncertain for some time ahead. “Other trade fairs are either too small, too expensive or not international enough. The IAW gets everything right, which is why we will not let any Brexit keep us away from the IAW”, said Allison Millar, director of TradeMill in Cornwall. This view was shared by Ryan Austin, sales director of W. Brown International in Northants: “We are very pleased by the number of customers, especially the size of the orders we were able to take here. Brexit or not, we are definitely coming again.”

Another regular feature, the IAW Trendseller Product Award, was staged again but with a new modified concept. In the past, award winners were ranked in a hierarchy according to more rigid criteria, but from now on the winners will be selected in different, alternating categories. „The scope of the award will be broadened but it will remain essentially the same: celebrating products for their quality, attractiveness and commercial potential”, reported the chairman of the Trendseller jury, Ulrich Eggert. The winner in the “Design” category was the high-quality, retro look Rose Gold Kettle from UP Global Sourcing Ltd. in the UK, while the company technic24 from Berlin won in the category “Technical Innovation”. The company’s “Smart Suitcase” boasts a power charger port for USB devices, Bluetooth communication and various other practical features. The Dutch company Jono Toys B.V. received an award in the category “Creative Products: toys” for a craft set comprising different colours that are used to paint and fill moulds to create various three-dimensional shapes.

The supporting program within the IAW Trendforum and the E-Commerce Arena organized by restposten.de attracted keen interest. A series of talks, discussions and workshops offered insights and answers to questions relating to the brick-and-mortar trade, multichannel marketing and e-commerce at a level comparable to a high-calibre conference. 

One notable trend this year was the number of exhibitors offering sustainable products and solutions as an alternative to conventional products. There is clearly a demand for sustainability as Alexey Silichev from lightwolf e.K. in Leipzig explained: “We were able to meet many suppliers – for instance, for online shops – and gained contacts from places as far apart as Cologne and Madagascar. LED solutions are quite simply sustainable and efficient.” Claas Bargfrede from HEKU GmbH in Visselhövede added: “The business performance of systems suppliers in the consumer goods sector depends on customers looking for sustainability. There is always a need for customers to discuss ecologically sustainable options – for example, alternatives to disposable cutlery, tableware, etc., as well as streamers, packaging, drinking straws, etc.”
The trade fair Asia-Pacific Sourcing for tools, leisure, home and garden products manufactured in Asia that takes place every two years was again held parallel to the IAW. Visitors to both events welcomed the continuation of this successful collaboration which at no extra cost gives them access to both trade fairs at one location. This extends the scope of their networking, as well as offering a bigger range of exhibits and other spin-off benefits.

Trade fair organizer Kerstin Manke drew a positive conclusion: “We can all be proud that we have realized a really excellent 29th IAW and achieved good attendances despite the lure of excellent weather and the start of the Cologne carnival. The many happy faces and relaxed atmosphere are proof that we made the right decisions about the trade fair and for our partners. We will be able to build on this success and I am confident that the next event in autumn will be even better.”

The International Trade Fair for Retail Promotions and Imports is Europe’s biggest trade fair for orders. The next IAW will take place in autumn – from 18-20 September 2019. The dates for the 2020 spring fair have also already been agreed – from 10-12 March. Both events will be located in Halls 6 and 9. For further information and to register for tickets or book a stand, simply visit: www.iaw-messe.de.


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