DOMOTEX asia/ CHINAFLOOR may be a once in a lifetime experience for many floorcovering merchants, but I look forward to attending again and here’s why—to keep up with a changing world.
Attending a trade show was a great excuse to dip my toe again in the large nation of People’s Republic of China. I first visited Hong Kong to see friends and to check out the antique textile market. Then I flew into Shanghai Hongqiao airport which was close to the exhibition hall of the new National Exhibition and Convention Center (NECC) in the Qingpu District of Shanghai. Registration via ExpoPromoter seemed easy online but I never received a promised QR code for admission. However, I had also applied for a VIP Buyer program from HALI magazine, so I received arrival, hotel and other various exhibition-related information to support a successful visit.
Left to right: Flooring Technology Talk; Iranian Pavilion housing several carpet export companies; Tianjin Dahao Carpet company featuring machine-made Chairman Mao pictorial
DOMOTEX asia/CHINAFLOOR is the largest flooring trade show in Asia, and statistically after the 2023 show, the world. Interest areas included residential and commercial carpeting; carpet technology; wood and resilient flooring; and other interior wall finishings. The target audience for DOMOTEX asia/ ChinaFloor was to be business owners/managers, architects, designers and other industry professionals.
My observations were that less than 10-percent of the attendees were foreign non-Chinese. North American, Russian, German, Australian and New Zealanders made up the foreign buyer contingent, while foreign exhibitors were Iranian, Afghani, Pakistani, Belgian, and Japanese.
I enjoyed speaking Mandarin with hand-knotted rug vendors who hail from Iran, Pakistan and India but reside in Shanghai. Afghani Abbas Atashkar was one salesman attracting attention from the domestic market.
One Chinese Axminster producer vendor is actually a joint venture with Couristan, HaiMa from Weihai Shandong. HaiMa utilizes 26 machines from Belgium producing rolls 13 x 82 feet in length. Stock rolls are available in 4-foot width and 25-foot lengths, but U.S. importers are levied a 25-percent duty which is not sunsetting anytime soon. Variations of the Axminster production includes all wool, souf technique and tufted details can be added.
Left: Carpet printer manufacturing machine; Tianjin Japan Carpet venture booth
Another Chinese producer of machine-made wool carpets was Shan Hua which has exclusive Wilton production for Stanton. They also sell via middlemen to Walmart, Dollar General some other low-end production. They reported the majority of their machine-made production is for export. The best-named carpet factory was ‘Like a Summer Bloom’ Carpet Factory where they made nylon polypropylene carpets.
One notable interaction was at the Khotan and Xinjiang combined carpet booth when the sales staff tersely answered questions in Mandarin about their production without any hope of making a sale due to the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act enacted in 2021 in the United States which prevents importers from dealing in goods partially made in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China’s far west.
According to one exhibitor who has shown at the original DOMOTEX in Hannover Germany, Thomas Yang of Yan Xing, liked the free entrance for local Shanghai retailers and it is a larger venue to accommodate the flooring industry. Most exhibitors had at least one salesperson proficient in English to answer questions from the foreign buyers.
“Human contact trade shows are coming back stronger.“ ROLAND BLEINROTH, PRESIDENT MESSE STUTTGART
At a special VIP reception, Messe Stuttgart President Roland Bleinroth observed publicly, “Virtual trade shows with avatars and digitized presentations worked to keep existing contacts informed but didn’t work well attracting new customers” and “human contact trade shows are coming back stronger”. Another global trade show executive, Thomas Baert, said, “Exhibitions are a chance to create a better world.”
One barrier to foreigners having a completely stress-free experience is the almost nonexistence of credit card or cash payment opportunities at a retail and tourist level. Ms. Karwala from Italian R&T Asia felt that a fix for foreigners is coming soon for WePay and AliPay. Her firm is working toward more multi-featured shows to attract architects and other specifiers from flooring to sunshades.
In the carpeting department, the hottest trends were toward printed polyester broadloom for the domestic Chinese hospitality market. Vendors showcased equipment and supplies with one vendor actually printing carpet at the show!
Minimum orders for Axminster production started at 200-square meters for qualified buyers. Axminister production in wool, while on the wane in the United States, has many industrial uses worldwide, including airplane carpeting in 80-percent wool and 20-percent nylon.
Events were not well advertised in English. For example, upon a deep dive into the trade fair’s website, I found matchmaking sessions organized by the European American Chamber of Commerce were featured but not mentioned by the show hosts. Nor was the plethora of food stands in the center walkways introduced to the buying delegation. A Chinese Original Carpet Show was listed in the catalog but not really showcased for maximum exposure. I did pop in to a talk about traditional Chinese carpet designs and their longevity and vitality for the future, it was well attended by young Chinese designers.
“The hottest trends were toward printed polyester broadloom for the domestic Chinese hospitality market.“ LESLIE ATIYEH
One U.S. buyer, Alex Hosseinnia from Dallas, TX, noted, “no big change in price of spun wool in 20 years—still $6 per kilogram.” He researched wool production in New Zealand as an university student, so has a particular interest in tracking the wool market. Hosseinnia noted that one impediment of making an order is the high rate of duty and shipping costs. Container shipping costs peaked during the pandemic and have now nearly returned to pre-pandemic costs.
“One impediment of making an order is the high rate of duty and shipping costs.“ ALEX HOSSEINNIA, Dallas Rugs
Overall, my impression is that the DOMOTEX asia/CHINAFLOOR is a no-frills essential trade show to experience first-hand new technology in the carpet industry. Where else will you find active display of AI-designed carpets, carpet printers and yarn spinning?
The next show dates are May 28-30, 2024.
Leslie Atiyeh, President of Atiyeh International, LTD with Alex Hosseinnia from Dallas, TX
Photos by Leslie Atiyeh