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COVID-19 Pandemic Forces KBIS, IBS Trade Shows to Digital-Only Format

authors Eliot Sefrin | November 20, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC — The Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) and International Builders’ Show (IBS), the kitchen/bath and housing industry’s leading showcases for new products and services, are being transformed into a digital-only experience for 2021, the on-site portion of the shows cancelled due to ongoing health and safety concerns and travel restrictions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Officials from the National Association of Home Builders and the National Kitchen & Bath Association – owners of IBS and KBIS, respectively – “regretfully” announced the reformatting of the co-located live events, previously scheduled for Feb. 9-11 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. The annual shows are staged each year as the focal points of “Design & Construction Week,” the premier trade event for the North American residential design and construction industries.

“This difficult decision comes following months of lengthy conversations with NAHB and (show producer) Emerald,” said Bill Darcy, CEO of the NKBA. “The safety and well-being of our attendees, partners, exhibitors, site workers and staff has always been our top priority. As we crossed the 16-weeks-out mark, it was time to transition to focus 100 percent on a virtual event.”

Darcy said the decision to cancel the in-person portion of the show “was the result of countless hours of research, meetings with member leadership, talking with exhibitors and surveying attendees.

“Ultimately,” he commented, “the health and safety of attendees and exhibitors, as well as the ability to produce a signature event experience, outweighed all other considerations.”

KBIS and IBS, like trade shows and conferences worldwide, had been facing unprecedented challenges resulting from a global public-health crisis that has forced the postponement, cancellation or reformatting of more than a dozen overseas and domestic industry-related events in the nine months since the coronavirus began resulting in government-mandated social distancing, travel restrictions and widespread concerns over attending large indoor gatherings.

Prior to the decision to convert to a digital-only format, KBIS and IBS officials had been undertaking a months-long effort to implement comprehensive protocols aimed at safeguarding the health and safety of attendees, exhibitors and vendors in the face of COVID-19. Onsite safety measures were to have included one-way traffic aisles, mask-wearing and social distancing, contactless registration with remote badging and enhanced cleaning measures.

The live events became untenable, however, in the face of the overwhelming challenges caused by the coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic, including government-imposed restrictions and limitations on large gatherings, the inability of KBIS’s international community to travel to the show due to quarantine requirements and travel bans, and various company-imposed travel restrictions on employees.

Show officials had acknowledged they were facing a substantial number of booth cancellations and exhibit-space reductions, as well as an attendance projected to be far below the estimated 90,000 people who attended Design & Construction Week this year in Las Vegas.

An online poll of dealers and designers conducted by Kitchen & Bath Design News in early October found that 81% of survey respondents said they did not plan to attend the 2021 KBIS-IBS. A similar number (78%) said they do not plan to attend any trade shows through at least June of 2021.

The newly formatted DCW 2021 will still take place the week Feb. 8, allowing participants digital access to exhibitors, as well as to a mix of live and recorded video panels, discussions and CEUs, from wherever they are in the world, show officials said.

“An all-virtual Design & Construction Week will be a different experience, but with it comes new opportunities to reach an even larger audience that would not have been able to participate on-site, for any number of reasons, including on-going travel restrictions,” Darcy said.

Details about the virtual event will be unveiled as the event approaches, show officials added, noting that registration for the virtual DCW event is free for all NKBA and NAHB members and, as with the in-person shows, attendees will have access to both KBIS and IBS exhibits and programming.

Design & Construction Week will return to Orlando as an in-person event Feb. 8-10, 2022, show organizers said. Future shows are scheduled for Feb. 8-10, 2022 in Orlando; Jan. 31-Feb. 2, 2023 in Las Vegas, and Feb. 27-29, 2024 in Las Vegas, show officials added.

— ELIOT SEFRIN

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