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Travel Issues Slow Traffic At K/BIS

UPDATE! Chicago — Flight cancellations by American Airlines combined with weather delays on Thursday have impacted attendance at The Kitchen/Bath Industry Show & Conference (K/BIS) being held here at the McCormick Place exhibition center.

Exhibitors told TWICE that some dealers and even their own staff members have opted to miss the show entirely due to ongoing flight delays. Exhibitors are hopeful that traffic will pick up on Saturday.

Despite the travel issues, the weak economy and a weaker housing market, the exhibitor roster is among the largest in the show’s history, with over 1,000 companies showing their wares.

The show, owned by the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA), serves as the key retail trade event for the major appliance industry, which is mounting a massive showing of premium, feature-rich laundry, refrigeration, cooking and kitchen cleanup products.

To help herald the product launches, majap exhibitors have amassed a roster of celebrity spokesmen, including Ty Pennington from “Extreme Home Makeover” (Sears), celebrity chef Jonathon Waxman (TurboChef), and renowned product designer Robert Brunner (Zephyr), who will be making booth appearances throughout the day.

Other big-name attractions include keynote speaker Christine Todd Whitman, the former governor of New Jersey and administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and HGTV’s Candice Olson, who will lead a Design & Inspiration conference session.

The show officially kicked off last night with the NKBA Board of Directors’ Gala and Cocktail Reception at Union Station which was sponsored by Best Buy, its Pacific Sales home center subsidiary, and Electrolux. The event was highlighted by the announcement of the 2008 NKBA Design Competition Pinnacle Award winner and the 2008 Hall of Fame inductees.

Yesterday also marked the U.S. retail market debut of Fulgor USA, a new division of Fulgor Europe, the 60-year-old Italian built-in oven and cooktop manufacturer. Taking up residence in a North Shore Italian restaurant, the company introduced its flagship line of Leonardo Classico ovens and cooktops to dealers and distributors in a day-long series of presentations.

K/BIS will run through Sunday. — Colleen Bohen contributed to this report.