Peter Powell

The saga of dueling trade shows in Europe has come to an end. But the near two-year journey is certainly a life lesson for those wondering how many places exhibitors and attendees are willing to go and how often.

The International Trade Fair for Refrigeration, Air Conditioning, and Ventilation (IKK) in Germany was, in my opinion and that of many others, the premier HVACR event in Europe, especially for refrigeration. I traveled to that show for the last 12 years - of its 27 years - and always found items of interest including many that ended up directly impacting HVACR contractors in the United States and Canada.

It was there that I first learned of global pressures to phaseout CFCs and then HCFCs; of ways to create ice on a rotating evaporator rather than by harvest or auger methods; and that outdoor condensing units can be works of art blending into a building rather than being a rectangular bulk of metal hidden away.

But while I, as an attendee, always experienced an exceptionally smooth running show, there were rumblings in the background, especially among many exhibitors, who came to dislike the moving of the show between north German cities in odd numbered years and a southern city in even years; as well as having to commit to it every year. Many of those vendors preferred going just to even years and staying in Nuremberg, both for its ample convention complex and the tourist lure of the city.

In 2006, organizers of IKK, primarily an organization of German contractors, decided to make the expo an every other year event and stay in the south, but relocate to Stuttgart starting in 2008. For various reasons including some cost issues, many manufacturers balked at that plan and instead decided to start their own expo called Chillventa and schedule it for this coming Oct. 15-17 in Nuremburg.

The formal announcement of Chillventa came near the end of the 2006 IKK expo. In fact, Chillventa billboards and electronic advertising turned up at numerous locations in Nuremburg to catch the eye of departing attendees of IKK.

And for close to 18 months both Chillventa and IKK continued to be promoted as “must see” events for everybody’s 2008 calendars. In fact, this past January at the AHR Expo in New York City, I was approached by IKK representatives telling me their show was still a go - while Chillventa was itself providing a steady stream of updates regarding its expo.


It was just that there was not room in this industry - and this economy - for two shows aiming for the same exhibitor and attendee target audiences to take place in cities some 118 miles apart and just a week between them. Somebody had to blink and a few weeks ago came this announcement from Messe Stuttgart: “IKK will not take place in 2008 in Stuttgart as a result of a discussion between the VDKF (German Association of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors) and Messe Stuttgart. The VDKF and Messe Stuttgart realized that the existing result did not do justice to the standard of the brand name IKK and that of the Stuttgart Trade Fair Centre as a high-tech location and, therefore, withdrew from the competition.”

The “existing result” was a reference to anticipated participation of exhibitors and potential attendance. The statement said the “the trade fair would be underachieving.”

So we are back again to a major trade show in Nuremberg in the fall of an even numbered year. It was just getting back there was a little bumpy.

All this really came down before some of the recent run-ups in travel costs. But the situation in Europe, as well as new cost concerns, signal a couple of important factors when considering one of the prime target audiences for such expos - HVACR contractors.

Contractors are going to be very careful about picking the trade shows they want to go to. Those shows better deliver the products - and technology - that will directly benefit them. The days of “If you build it, they will come” are over. Promoters will need to aggressively and completely detail the benefits of attending their particular expos. And they will need to deliver.

Publication date:07/07/2008