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5 Things to Know About Industry Trade Shows

By Kit Selzer

Every year, I join designers, builders, dealers, and other editors for a sneak peek at the newest building and remodeling products. The annual trade show where manufacturers from all over the world reveal their latest innovations is actually two shows in one: the National Kitchen & Bath Association's Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS, pronounced KAY-biz, for short) and the National Association of Home Builders' International Builders' Show (known by most of us as Builders' Show).

Because these shows aren't open to the public, we editors do our best to share the highlights by writing about new products throughout the year. Beyond that coverage, here are five facts you might like to know about KBIS and Builders' Show. Some might help you navigate your next purchase; others (including these photos of the show floor) are just for fun.

1. Most new building and remodeling products get their start here.

Although there are smaller trade shows and informal launches throughout the year, KBIS and Builders' Show, generally held in January or February, are the industry stars. Manufacturers focus their efforts on making a splash with new products at these shows. A third show, the Consumer Electronics Show held in early January, also comes into play. That's where all the new high-tech electronics—which include some building and remodeling products such as smart appliances, thermostats, lights, and other cool products—make their first appearance.

2. By the numbers, it's a biggie.

More than 100,000 of us did our best to cover 1 million square feet of convention show space in Las Vegas in a recent year. That's like zigzagging across more than 17 football fields. Many of the 2,000 booths included sets that look like actual rooms with walls, flooring, countertops and backsplashes, appliances that work, windows and doors that open, and bathtubs that appear ready to welcome bathers. These sets are all amazingly assembled like giant dollhouses over a few days before the show opens, then disassembled even more quickly when the show ends.

3. Products introduced at these shows are usually available beginning in the fall.

Feedback from design pros and vendors help guide decisions about whether or not manufacturers move forward with their new products. Sometimes they'll show prototypes to test the waters, claim ownership of an idea, and stand out from their competitors. Products that are more buttoned up are typically on track to start hitting the market in September and October.

4. We get to see products in action.

Some manufacturers enlist professional chefs to demonstrate cooktop and oven features by making appetizers on the show floor, where I happily volunteer for a taste test. (Research can be a tough job.) I've also been handed a sledgehammer and encouraged to try to break a new kind of house siding. (You have to be ready for anything!) My favorite working displays, though, are shower and faucet sprays I can touch. (Recirculating pumps make running water in a convention center possible.) I'll never forget the time I saw an attendee get a little carried away with a new pulldown kitchen faucet and end up soaking his companion.

5. It's where the next stainless steel will be unveiled.

Appliance finishes are one example of the kinds of trends we editors are looking for when we attend KBIS and Builders' Show. We saw the steady rise of the commercial look. And when stainless steel became mainstream, every appliance manufacturer began looking for the next big finish. Other metallics, bright colors, even custom panels that encourage personalization are all attention-grabbers. Currently, the finish that's coming on strong is a version of matte black. Stay tuned to see if it bumps off timeless stainless steel.

Photography: Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) and the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA)