HANNOVER, GERMANY - With LIGNA 2013 drawing to a close, its managers celebrated as the percent of international attendance hit a solid number: 40% of the 90,000 visitors were from outside Germany. A mix of suppliers and association members spoke at a press briefing Friday morning, six hours before the show formally ended, providing their take on the bienniel event.

North American attendance rose 52% to more than 3,000, they said. In fact, exhibitors around the floor remarked that they experienced a noticeable up-tick in Americans, and unexpectedly, in U.S. visitors in particular. The improvement likely reflects the strengthening U.S. market, and the fact that Canada has remained relatively stable during the downturn. Canadians are believed to have outnumbered U.S. attendees.

The strong foreign attendance and overall number help secure's LIGNA's claim to being the largest  woodworking show among the global wood industry exhibitions.

“LIGNA once again lived up to its reputation as a showcase for innovations and global meeting place for industry decision-makers,” said Dr. Jochen Köckler a member of the managing board at Deutsche Messe, which runs the show.

“More than 90,000 professionals from 100 nations attended this year’s LIGNA. Any company aiming to boost its international business was sure to be here in Hannover,” commented Köckler.

As a barometer of the global wood manufacturing business, LIGNA 2013 provided some mixed signals. For example, the overall area of the show totalled 124,000 square meters - about 1.3 million square feet - with the  exhibitors count at 1,637. The LIGNA 2011 end of show report reveals 1,765 exhibitors, occupying 130,000 square meters (approx. 1.4 million square feet) - a drop in exhibitors that German media industry questioned during the end-of-show press conference, noting stalwarts such as DeWalt and Festool were not at the show.

Dr. Köckler and some other members of the panel said the decline in exhibitors was mostly a product of consolidation among smaller industry suppliers. The decline in square footage was also part of a conscious decision by show management to make the show more compact.

Dr. Köckler noted that while North American attendance represented  “a new record for LIGNA,”  Russian attendance was also notably on the rise, based on date gathered by iPad-equipped surveyors around the halls.

“We are highly satisfied with the run of the show,” said Dr. Bernhard Dirr, director of the German Woodworking Manufacturers’ Association within VDMA, based in Frankfurt. The revamped site layout, featuring a more compact treatment of topics throughout halls 11 to 17, could well be retained for future events, he indicated.

But Raphel Prati, director of communications for Scm, offered a different opinon.

"We need to change how we organize this fair," he said, calling for the event to be even more international in flavor, and to make the experience more accommodating for visitors.

"It needs to be less stressful," Prati said.  "We need more space for visitors, perhaps add lounge areas where people can meet and not always feel under the pressure of a sale."  

Wolfgang Pöschl, CEO of Michael Weinig, said his firm experienced more non-German interest.  "We experienced a major turnout by professionals from Eastern Europe, particularly Russia, and huge attendance from the U.S. and other key export markets," Pöschl said, noting "a great deal of momentum is coming from the wood construction sector."

Show management centered  conference sessions around lightweight panel, and increased  emphasis on innovations in surface technology and innovative materials for furniture production. Wood industry education and careers were a big focus in the show. Winning entries of a student furniture building competition were on display. A large exhibit area was set aside for institutions of research and education, with a job board, and a sound stage that was frequently occupied with students and recent grads speaking on camera and online to potential industry entrants.

The next LIGNA runs May 11-15 2015, again in Hannover, Germany

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