Hometech shelters under friendly fire

Despite being promoted as the biggest and best instalment yet of the Dubai-based household appliance and consumer electronics industry exhibition, Hometech 2006 has prompted mixed reactions from exhibitors.

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By  Michael Thorne Published  June 12, 2006

|~|Hometech-2006---(ITP-Bus-Pi.gif|~|Despite claims by EPOC Messe Frankfurt of a 30% rise in visitors over 2005, numbers appeared noticeably down on the show floor.|~|Despite being trumpeted as the region’s premier trade event for the household appliance and consumer electronics industries, Hometech 2006 has been criticised by some quarters for failing to meet the lofty ambitions set by organiser EPOC Messe Frankfurt. While EPOC continued to stand by its claim that visitor numbers were up 30% on Hometech 2005, many exhibitors surveyed by ECN doubted this figure, and expressed their frustration about the lack of “serious” buyers present on the show floor. “The overall organisation and the pre-show promotions were very good this year – much better than last year’s show. Yet, despite this, the walk-in rate was very poor,” GE’s sales and marketing manager, MEA, Hassan Kebbi, tells ECN. “We attended the show to promote our new product range and forge new distribution partnerships in the Middle East and Africa. However, we were unsuccessful on both fronts. “I didn’t meet any buyers from Egypt or North Africa for example, although there were buyers from the GCC. Last year’s event attracted plenty of buyers from both North and sub-Saharan Africa.” EPOC’s promotional activities prior to the event were enough to guarantee a 50% increase in floor space and the involvement of the largest number of exhibitors in the show’s brief history. Despite assurances from EPOC that the event would feature an expanded roster of focused consumer electronics exhibitors, representation from this sector of the market was limited. E-Home Automation showcased its range of home networking solutions while Iqua chose Hometech to preview its range of bluetooth devices, which are expected to be officially launched at this year’s Gitex Dubai. Iqua was represented at the exhibition by local distributor Al Fajer Establishment, which also showcased products from vendor partners such as Fogscreen, Sonaki and air conditioner manufacturer Sabro. Bucking the general trend, Al Fajer’s business development manager, Sari Azzam Abdul Razzak, declared the show an overall success for his business. “We got a lot of contacts and a lot of leads – some of which were unexpected,” he tells ECN. “It’s up to us now to follow them up. I think the other companies who were not happy expected to do huge deals, which you just can’t expect from an event like Hometech. “While there definitely appeared to be fewer buyers in attendance this year, my estimation was that there were many more key decision makers circulating on the show floor, which provided a great opportunity to make some solid business contacts.” This year’s event attracted a strong contingent of Egyptian manufacturers, six of which attended the event as part of the Egyptian Exporters Association (EEA). Egyptian home appliance manufacturers Olympic Group and Kiriazi opted for independent stands, with the former vendor boasting arguably the most formidable presence at the event. Olympic showcased a range of home appliance products such as washing machines, gas cookers and refrigerator units. The company’s regional export manager, Khaled Hegab, believes that this year’s show failed to deliver. “This was the third consecutive year we exhibited at Hometech,” he explains. “In 2004, we received a very positive response and last year also proved a success for our company, which led to us opening a regional office in UAE. As a result, we almost tripled the size of our booth this year, anticipating that this year’s show would also prove a success,” he tells ECN. “However, last year’s event attracted many more buyers. We’ve discussed the situation briefly with EPOC Messe Frankfurt and they’ve promised us that they will review this year’s event to see where things went wrong. “The show was not only disappointing in terms of overall visitor numbers but specifically the percentage that was there who were serious about doing deals. Most of the delegates window-shopped and took away catalogues but that was about it,” he says. Hegab claims that many other exhibitors were disappointed with visitor numbers and that the organisers had not successfully targeted the “right attendees” in its pre-promotional activities. “I’m debating whether we’ll be back next year. If we get some guarantees from EPOC that the situation will improve next year then maybe I’ll consider it. It’s a question of cost. We increased the size of our stand this year by a considerable margin and did not receive the return on investment that we expected so we will be looking for solid guarantees – if we don’t get them we’ll have to seriously consider our options.” Representatives of the Consumer Electronics Association of America (CEA) attended Hometech for the first time in a bid to gauge the current state of the regional consumer electronics sector. The CEA organises the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in America, the largest annual industry exhibition in the world. ||**|||~|tekka200.gif|~|Tekka presented cooking demonstrations in a bid to promote its range of induction cookers.|~|In terms of show highlights, home appliance manufacturer Tekka presented one of the show’s more innovative demonstrations. In a bid to promote its induction cooking technology, the company positioned mobile stovetops manned by chefs on the show floor, which served up tasty snacks to passers-by. The company saw Hometech as a useful venue for seeking new distribution partnerships in the Middle East. “The live cooking displays formed the centrepiece of our product launch,” explains Tekka’s marketing manager, Uday Shankar. “Induction cooking remains an unknown quantity in the Middle East and we are one of the few companies marketing this technology.” Tekka currently operates a regional office in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone with distribution deals servicing Qatar and Bahrain. While the company currently has local representation in the Saudi Arabian market it is yet to appoint a sole distributor in that country. “At Hometech we made some new contacts and generated quite a lot of cash sales,” says Shankar. “It also enabled us to strengthen bonds with our existing distribution and retail partners in the UAE.” Chinese manufacturers represented the single biggest group of exhibitors at the show under the umbrella of the ‘Chinese Pavilion’. Many of those involved were small companies looking to forge new wholesale or OEM deals in the Middle East and North Africa. Zhejiang Cuori Electrical Appliances (Group), which manufactures irons, vacuum cleaners and sandwich makers for a range of brands, including Nova, Elekta and C4line, was one of the larger Chinese manufacturers seeking deals with local vendors. Huanengda Electrical Appliances, which primarily manufactures electrical hair styling equipment, was also seeking OEM deals at Hometech. According to company representative Shmily Chan, the company is investigating the possibility of opening an office in the Jebel Ali Free Zone. “We want to develop our Middle East business and use Dubai as a base for this – it is a very important region for Chinese manufacturers to access,” she says. “We already have a lot of customers in the Middle East on an OEM basis through contacts we made at technology fairs in China. However, not so many people came to Hometech this year and it seems to me that not many buyers in the region know about it.”||**|||~|GE200.gif|~|Major vendor GE Appliances failed to forge any new distribution agreements at Hometech, according to sales manager Hassan Kebbi.|~|Not surprisingly, EPOC Messe Frankfurt’s exhibition manager for Hometech, Melissa O’ Gorman, denies these claims, reiterating the organisation’s claim that 2006 marked the strongest instalment yet of Hometech. “The show was physically so much larger this year that the crowd was spread more thinly,” she claims. O’Gorman says that EPOC Messe Frankfurt employs UK-based monitoring company Media Matters to control visitor registration and that the company stood by its claim of a 30% increase in attendee numbers. “Exhibitors’ expectations tend to increase each consecutive year because the first show they’re involved in they attract a lot of new buyers who are unfamiliar with their business. However, the more often they attend the show the more likely it will be that they’ll meet the same buyers again and again,” she says. O’Gorman admits that attracting more visitors from outside the GCC region to Hometech will be one of EPOC’s main challenges next year. The company plans to place particular emphasis on attracting buyers from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar and Kuwait in a bid to expand the scope of the event for potential exhibitors. “Abu Dhabi is also establishing a new exhibition centre and will be targeting business in Dubai, so it’s in our interest to promote the event aggressively in regional markets,” she explains. “Additionally, we want to expand more into home entertainment, home automation and consumer electronics; overlapping slightly more with Gitex. “There will always be negatives and exhibitors demanding more but you can’t tell how successful a show has been immediately after it concludes. Exhibitors need to follow up on their contacts. This has been the strongest instalment of Hometech so far – the numbers on the showfloor speak for themselves.” EPOC Messe Frankfurt exhibitions director for the Middle East Chris Hudson claims that Hometech 2007 will be three times the size of this year’s event. He says the show will boast new and expanded industry categories covering the full spectrum of consumer electronics, IT and convergence technologies. “This is on the back of inviting non-exhibiting companies to come to this year’s show to see what it’s about. We’ve got several partners onboard already, representing the big exhibiting companies and this should enable us to develop a show that caters to the whole region,” he says.||**||

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