For over 30 years the Japan Home & Building Show has been one of the most important events in marketing calendar of foreign companies selling into Japan. However, this year there were many challenges facing the event, some resulting from the 3/11 earthquake while others were self-inflicted.
Several years ago the show organizers decided to change the date of the 2011 show so as to time it with the planned UIA event at Tokyo Forum. I personally expressed my concerns over this numerous times as I have seen how such date changes have hurt other shows. Especially with the JHS’ long history, everyone expects it to take place in November. However, they believed that holding it in conjunction with the UIA event would inject new energy into the show.
These plans were greatly complicated by the March earthquake. By having bumped up the show, the organizers also bumped up the recruiting period of the show to late spring, which was still the dark period when no one knew what tomorrow would bring. As a result, purse strings were tightened and I am sure the JHS had trouble signing up exhibitors.
The earthquake and the nuclear disaster also worried the expected 10,000 overseas UIA attendees. In April there was even talk of cancelling the UIA event. However, they moved ahead with it as the situation in Fukushima gradually improved.
As we set-up for the show, I wondered and worried about how it would turn out. As feared, the attendance fell dramatically, from 87,000 to 43,000. Luckily though the quality of the visitors greatly increased as many more architects came to the show for the first time. This was undoubtedly due to the cross-marketing with the UIA event. We even received many overseas guests who came for the UIA event. Overall, even though the overall numbers were down, we felt just as busy as last year since the architects were spending more time with us asking questions about products.
The other thing that I had been wondering about was how much traffic we would receive related to reconstruction efforts in the Tohoku area. Over the three days we met with many builders, developers, and distributors from the earthquake/ tsunami affected areas and they seemed to be getting themselves prepared for the big reconstruction projects. I learned that developers from across the region and even other parts of Japan are buying up all the available elevated land near the coast for such projects. However, they are experiencing labour shortages and are thus looking at overseas suppliers that can help with packaged homes and other solutions.
Despite the drop in attendance I was very pleased with the results of the show. We were able to make a great number of new contacts including ones involved in the reconstruction efforts. This helps us prepare for the Nikkei Show next March where reconstruction projects will definitely be taking center stage.