KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

May 06 2011

Posted by

KBIS 2011…Was it all really necessary?

Another KBIS has come and gone. As I arrived home from Las Vegas with a bag full of brochures and several pockets jammed full with business cards, my feet, as well as my head, are numb. It was a good show, smaller, less crowded and easy to get around. I do not know the final numbers of those attending, but it was easy to see that there were fewer vendors than in past years. I have been attending KBIS for nearly 25 years and the last few have been getting smaller and smaller.

Who was there did not surprise me so much as who wasn’t. The biggest names in the industry chose not to show, and the void left by their absence was staggering. If brands, such as Kohler, Masco, Dacor and ROHL had taken flight, I would have to ask: Would there had been a show at all?

I spent two days at the show and for the first time ever I saw the whole show in one day. I spent the second day catching up with old friends and associates, sharing tales of economic disaster and trying to pump each other up with visions of hope and prosperity. What struck me as odd was that there was little new product, design or innovation and definitely nothing surprising or awe-inspiring. If I had to find a word to best describe the overall theme of the show, it would have to be “blah.” The show was blah, bland and boring! There wasn’t anything there that I did not already know about, read about or had seen online. To be honest, I am sure that many of the displays, presentations and products were the same booths from last year’s KBIS in Chicago. Who do they think they are fooling? We come to KBIS to be lifted up, to be enlightened and inspired—none of which happened. This left me thinking: Do I really need to take time out of my schedule to come and see what I already have in my own showroom? And I have to ask myself…was it all really necessary?

So maybe it is time to rethink KBIS altogether. In this modern world of instant communication, Facebook, Twitter and blogs, as well as the ubiquitous iPhone, we need to ask ourselves is KBIS relevant in the larger scope of things?

I am not advocating the demise of the show, but I think we as an industry need to see how we can better leverage this annual event. The networking and education opportunities not withstanding, why do we need KBIS every year?

I suggest we take a page from our European cousins and consider a biennial event, such as the LivingKitchen show, which is held every other year in Cologne, Germany, as well as Eurocucina, held every other year in Milan. At both venues, the kitchen and bath industry has seized the idea with religious fervor.

The idea of a biennial show works well on several levels. First, the cost of doing the show is spread out over two years, allowing for greater investment and planning. Second, the time between shows allows for true product development and innovation to take place, so each show is new and fresh and not just a rehash of last year’s booth with a new coat of paint. And lastly, I think the most important is the effect on the visitor, who will come to the show with great expectation and excitement, and will most likely experience an environment that will stimulate and educate. With a biennial event, the visitor will feel the need for brotherhood and community, making the show a truly unifying experience.

I think we need to open the dialogue with the powers that be and challenge the notion of an annual show. We need to question the reasons we attend and look for and suggest new ideas, concepts and viewpoints. I believe in the power of the individual and I have decided to put words into action by skipping KBIS in 2012. As such, I will look forward to KBIS 2013 with anticipation, hope and expectation.

Kevin Henry

This entry was posted on Friday, May 6th, 2011 at 6:00 AM and is filed under Miscellaneous. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1.  kjustus |

    Kevin, While I wasn’t able to attend KBIS 2011 myself, I appreciate your honest review. I am interested to hear what others think about your suggestion to make it a biennial event and think you make a valid argument in favor. Thanks for posting.

  2.  Bermuda Bob |

    Greetings, Kevin !!!

    As a “kitchens person” might I credit you for your candor about K-Biz, and also point out that without the cornerstone of every kitchen – appliances – the future of K-Biz may be untenable …

    If a show calls itself “The Kitchen and Bath Industry Show” run by “The National Kitchen and Bath Association” they can not continue without making it attractive for the Appliance Industry …

    A kitchen is not a kitchen without appliances and NKBA needs to understand that … Until they do, and bring those on-board who can affect that inclusion, they will slip further into the purgatory of triviality …

  3.  Franke |

    Franke has not exhibited for four years for all the reason cited. The cost per booth visitor is going up and up and up. Franke supports our industry and especially independent distribution and design professionals but we do not understand NKBA’s approach.

  4.  Kelly M |

    I think you’re also being a bit harsh on vendors, Kevin. Like us, they’ve also been hit hard by the recession. R&D isn’t up on the list of priorities and hasn’t really been for mid-sized or smaller companies since 2008. I think once we climb out of this, we’ll see more of the sparkle come back to the “biz” part of KBIS.