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Economy Hits Kitchen/Bath Show Hard This Year

The dramatic and extended downturn in the major appliance business has taken a toll on next week’s Kitchen/Bath Industry Show (K/BIS), which has long been the premier event for the white-goods trade.

Given the state of the industry, the economic climate and the prohibitive cost of exhibiting, most majap manufacturers will have a limited profile at the show, with only a handful of vendors actually represented on the show floor.

The diminished exhibitor support for K/BIS, which runs here May 1-3 at the Georgia World Congress Center, mirrors the reduced appliance real estate at January’s International Builders Show in Las Vegas, the industry’s No. 2 showcase, where attendance was similarly spotty.

Of the industry’s largest manufacturers, only GE, LG and Haier are exhibiting at K/BIS, although Electrolux, BSH and Samsung will be represented at Sears’ booth.

Others on the short list of majap exhibitors include Air King, Breezedry, Dacor, Faber, Kobe, Kupperbusch, Peerless-Premier and TurboChef.

Absent from the show floor will be Whirlpool’s Maytag, Amana, Kitchen-Aid and flagship Whirlpool brand, although its Jenn-Air unit will be taking booth space.

Other prominent no-shows include Sub-Zero/Wolf and Viking.

The National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA), the non-profit trade association that owns the K/BIS, downplayed the defections.

“Are there some exhibitors that have pulled out of K/BIS 2009? Yes,” said NKBA CEO Don Sciolaro, “but contrary to recent misconceptions, the vast majority of the large exhibitors will be exhibiting at K/BIS again this year.” Sciolaro cited GE, LG and Sears among the big majap exhibitors, as well as major kitchen and bath names like Armstrong, Moen and Toto.

“K/BIS 2009 is very much alive and well,” said NKBA president Suzie Williford. “The show will once again bring together hundreds of exhibitors with tens of thousands of attendees.

“Between the show floor and the conference’s wide range of business and celebrity speakers, K/BIS 2009 is going to be one of the most valuable and exciting shows ever,” she said.

Indeed, K/BIS will feature the most celebrity speakers ever seen at the show, Williford said, including keynote speaker and former Arkansas Governor and presidential contender Mike Huckabee; Richard Tretheway and Carole Fruehauf of TV’s “This Old House”; John Gidding of HGTV’s “Designed to Sell”; Aida Mollenkamp of Food Network’s “Ask Aida”; and Steve Ford, son of President Gerald Ford, who appears in “The Young & the Restless.”

In addition, business speakers will include economist Terry Savage; “Green to Gold” author Andrew Winston; and former Thermador, BSH, Mills Pride and Elica executive Harry Gianetti.

What’s more, ABC’s hit TV show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” will be exhibiting at the show for the first time, with appearances slated by celebrity designers Paul DiMeo, Didiayer Snyder and Ed Sanders.