Double-digit growth makes for bustling IWF

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With more buyers, more exhibitors, and more exhibit space, the 2016 International Woodworking Fair surpassed most measures that suggest a strong show.

Stiles dubbed its booth “Stiles City” at IWF 2016. It was the show’s largest booth at 26,000 sq. ft.

Attendees and exhibitors interviewed by Woodshop News say the biennial show, held Aug. 24-27 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, either met or exceeded their expectations. There was plenty of new products to explore, new technology to consider, and best of all, business to conduct. The atmosphere, in a word, was upbeat.

“We had double-digit growth in attendance, exhibit space and the number of exhibitors. The show floor was very active and exhibitors were seeing high demand for their products,” says Tom Onsrud, president of exhibitor C.R. Onsrud Inc. and the IWF 2016 chairman.

There were more than 16,000 verified attendees/buyers, up from 14,400 in 2014, according to the IWF.

Stiles, the fair’s largest exhibitor, reported double-digit sales growth and a 65 percent increase in lead increase in lead generation over its IWF 2014 performance.

“We appreciated the opportunity to meet thousands of guests and share our technology and solutions with visitors from across the globe,” Stiles marketing manager Chris Dolbow says. “We wanted to focus on inviting our visitors to journey with us towards improving their production and making smarter decisions about their future, providing strategic recommendations that make sense for their business.”

Cefla Finishing North America said the fair exceeded expectations. “The tremendous turnout and level of interest we saw points toward market potential that continues to grow,” national sales manager Brent Warren says. “The conversations we had indicated that companies liked what they saw and are ready to make investments.”

The show featured a machinery hall, dominated by CNC and other production machinery, and a smaller hall for hardware, computer software and material suppliers.

There was a thirst for knowledge as exhibitors presented solutions and potential buyers responded with questions about what they’d see in return from their investment.

Attendees visit Mozaik Software’s booth at IWF 2016.

Attendee James McGrew of James McGrew Cabinetmakers in Columbia, S.C., who was searching for an edgebander, is a huge proponent of attending the show for that face-to-face contact.

“This show was great. My first one was in ’96 so I remember it before the Internet, Google and the recession when the booths and vendors lined the hallways as well as the main floors. The industry has condensed and so much is done online that the old days of pressing the flesh are well on their way to becoming a chuckle in a history conversation,” McGrew says.

“The need to see and feel the machinery will always be there, especially for the small cabinetmaker who has little room to make a bad equipment purchase. A wrong decision for a $25,000 tool can put a shop under as quick as a drop in sales.”

Mark R. Lorge, and educator in the wood manufacturing technology department at Fox Valley Technical College in Oshkosh, Wis., has been attending IWF since 1986 for the same reasons.

“This was my 10th show and I’ve seen it go through boom years and lean years. I’m a firm believer that every post-secondary educator should attend this show and the high school woodworking instructors that are invested in this industry should attend as well. Where else are you exposed to the scope and variety of vendors and suppliers in woodworking?

“The opportunity to network with the industry leaders as well as colleagues from around the country and the world is invaluable. It may be easier to do a web search for a specific product than it is to attend this show. However, you will not get the total sense of the product you are searching for as well as the opportunity to do physical and esoteric evaluations in a working environment.”

This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue.

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