6 Nov 2014
Record Attendance for Europe's Leading Children's Products Fair
Cologne's Kind + Jugend welcomed more exhibitors than ever before, as well as more visitors from further afield. Child safety, stylish design and environmental responsibility remained the key elements for many of the buyers this year.
The organisers of Kind + Jugend ["Children and the Young"] had a lot to live up to this year. Speaking prior to the event, Andrew Ratcliffe, a board member of the European Nursery Products Confederation, said: "From our point of view, Kind + Jugend is the world's most important business and networking platform for the nursery and juvenile sector." So did this year's Cologne-based expo deliver?
Well, it certainly attracted a record number of exhibitors and more visitors from abroad than ever before. Its 2014 iteration welcomed 1,052 exhibitors from 51 countries, as well as more than 20,000 trade visitors from 109 countries.
Commenting on the 2014 turnout, Katharina C. Hamma, Chief Operating Officer of Koelnmesse, organiser of the event, said: "The high level and quality of exhibitors at Kind + Jugend, the constantly impressive attendance figures and the greater level of internationality among the exhibitors and visitors confirm the significance of the event.
"The industry's top buyers and decision-makers now travel to Cologne from all over the world. Significant growth was seen this year from China and South Korea, as well as from several European countries."
Among the countries making the journey to Germany this year were more than 60 Hong Kong businesses. There was also a dedicated Hong Kong Pavilion, organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, featuring eight companies that had signed up for the 11,500 mile round trip.
One such company was Unison Worldwide Limited, a Hong Kong business that was attending K+J partly in hope of finding a European distributor for its multifunctional stroller. Pinpointing the company's USP, Gloria Kam, one of its directors, said: "We are committed to developing products that are innovative, practical and humanistic. We believe that, as time progresses, products, must also evolve according to people's pace of life – we aim to make products multi-functional, multi-purpose and durable."
Kowloon-based Dragonforce Kids was also in Cologne with a specific agenda in mind. Already well-established as an OEM clothing manufacturer, the business is now looking at selling its own designs to customers. Explaining its ambitions, John Wong, a Manager with the company, said: "We already supply clients in Belgium, Finland, Germany and the Netherlands, but we are looking to grow sales of our own products in more European countries."
Another business looking for enhanced European distribution was the Scientific PU Foam Company Ltd, which showed Pony Alex, a 3D puzzle that won the Best of Fair award at the Hong Kong Toys and Baby Products event earlier this year.
Vaneffa Ho, the company's General Manager, said: "After simple assembly, the puzzle turns into a rocking horse – Pony Alex. Unlike traditional riding horses made of hard materials, this is completely soft, yet sturdy."
On the first morning of the show, Wellplace Industrial Ltd, another Kowloon-based business, secured a French distributor for its baby-carrying range, including one product that transforms from a bag into a travel cot. Locke Ng, the company's Manager, said it was still looking to secure additional distribution agreements.
Out across the wider show floor, there was a notable buzz, with packed aisles and certain booths proving a definite draw to innovation-hungry buyers. Doing particularly well was Cosatto, a UK pushchair and nursery furniture company, that was debuting its autumn/winter collection at the show. The company, which already trades in a number of Asian markets (including Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan), said it was now looking for other distribution partners across the region.
Gillian Toogood, the company's Associate Sales Director, said: "From new highchairs to a whole host of travel systems, including our new category car seat and our latest Ooba three-in-one, our autumn/winter collection has a lot to offer."
A returning exhibitor to this year's show was Close Parent. Established in 2006, this was the fifth consecutive year that the UK-based nappy and baby products company had appeared at the event. With the business already selling into Malaysia and Singapore, Hester MacAnara, the company's Business Development Director, announced that the company now had Hong Kong and China firmly in its sight.
She said: "In terms of our travel products, we have unveiled our Caboo DX carrier, our take on a true hybrid carrier. Whilst maintaining the closeness and positioning synonymous with Caboo, we have added more structure at all stages, improved functionality across all positions and added a number of new innovations and materials designed to help regulate the temperature around the baby."
Smiling Baby e.U., an Austrian company, was also keen to demonstrate its design credentials. The recipient of a prestigious Red Dot design award in 2014 for its SUPAflat high chair, the company was looking to capitalise on this recognition.
Managing Director, Christopher Supa, said: "The SUPAflat high chair has been designed to merge quality, safety and ease of use with an attractive appearance, one intended to blend seamlessly into a contemporary home environment.
"The chair can be folded to a width of only 4cm when not needed and within only three seconds. This facilitates ease of transportation as well as a space-saving advantage when it comes to storage."
Another award-winner at the show was the French company Babymoov, a specialist in the development of baby equipment and children's toiletries. At the Innovation Awards 2014, the company's zero-emissions camera won the World of Baby Safety at Home category.
Commenting on the win, Christelle Defarge, Babymoov's Communications Director, said: "Our innovative approach of developing a baby monitoring device that works completely without electro-magnetic waves was the reason the jury backed the product."
Aquanest, another of the company's innovations, also attracted the jury's attention, going on to win in the World of Baby Care category. The product, a patented heating system, keeps the temperature of a baby's bath constant over a period of up to 10 minutes.
Moving more on to the fashion and outdoor front, Trunki – a British brand with distribution in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan courtesy of Hong Kong's Bloom & Grow – used Kind + Jugend to launch its 2015 range, including the ToddlePak, its range of "fuss-free" toddler reins.
Rupert Clark, Trunki's International Sales Manager, said: "ToddlePak fits from the front and fastens securely at the back in one quick, simple movement. The clip allows parents to adjust the shoulder and waist-straps simultaneously for a secure fit."
One of the home teams making an impression on the fashion front was Frankfurt-based Lässig Fashion. The company, which has had a Chinese distributor since 2014, was at the event to promote its Green Label Collection, including its Neckline Bag.
Claudia Lässig, General Manager of the company, said: "We hope this will allow fashion-conscious mothers to make a real statement on the playground or at the changing table next season."
Kind + Jugend 2014 took place at Cologne's Koelnmesse for 11-14 September. The event will return to the city from 10-13 September next year.
Simon King, Special Correspondent, Cologne