IWF '98: It Was Fantastic!

By Rich Christianson

If the tremendous turnout at last month's International Woodworking Machinery & Furniture Supply Fair is any indication, then the U.S. woodworking industry is in remarkably great shape.

When all was said and done, 53,744 participants had registered -- far and away a record for the 32-year-old biennial event. What's more, with demand for display booths outstripping available exhibit space in the Georgia World Congress Center, the neighboring Georgia Dome was pressed into service for the first time. As a result, a record 699,485 net square feet of displays greeted visitors to the four-day show.

As impressive as these figures are, they barely begin to describe the tidal wave of euphoria that engulfed the show -- from the floor of the cavernous machinery hall to the upper-level meeting rooms that were filled to the gills with exhibits.

With the rarest of exceptions, the literally hundreds of exhibit personnel that Wood & Wood Products editors and sales representatives talked with during and immediately after the show hailed it as one of, if not the best IWF, in recent memory. Many of the IWF '98 exhibitors we talked to said they generated three or four times more sales leads than they did at the 1996 show. Of at least equal importance, most of these same exhibitors beamed about the high-caliber of woodworkers who came to their booths. A common refrain was that this year's attendees not only knew what they were looking for, but in many instances were eager to purchase new equipment or supplies -- sooner rather than later.

These glowing reports dearly warm the hearts among those of us who constantly preach the need for wood products companies to invest in their future. No matter how successful a company might be today, to become complacent is akin to becoming a sitting target just waiting to be torpedoed by more aggressive competitors.

Hopefully the gung-ho attitude whipped up at IWF '98 will carry over into 1999 and beyond.

More Good Business News
To find more positive news about the health of the woodworking industry, one need look no further than our Ninth Annual Report of the WOOD 100, our tribute to 100 fast-growing wood products companies.

Not only did these companies rack up average sales growth of 31.9 percent last year, 40 of them look forward to 1999 being their company's "best year ever" while an additional 50 of them expect to have "good" 1999s.

Wood & Wood Products graciously thanks the companies who took the time to fill out the qualification forms and share details such as sales figures and reasons for their success with our readership. We are already putting together some big plans for the 10th Annual WOOD 100 next September. If you have some ideas that could help improve the WOOD 100 program or simply want to get on next year's mailing list, phone, fax, e-mail or "snail-mail" us.

Wood & Wood Products
P.O. Box 1400,
Lincolnshire, IL 60069

phone: (847) 634-4347
fax: (847) 634-4374

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.