This year’s annual pilgrimage to the Milan Furniture Fair will long be remembered for all the wrong reasons – I’m talking the volcanic dust cloud that brought havoc to European travel. Every year I look forward with anticipation to the Fair, it is the first entry made in the diary and the barometer that we set our store by.
TUESDAY : the Fair starts on the Wednesday and I have got in the habit of arriving a day earlier in order to take in the flavour of Milan and visit as many outside showrooms in the centre of the city as possible. It started well, as for a change the weather was beautiful, the showrooms had pulled out all the stops and even some of the streets had been decorated. After popping in to several cocktail / launch parties, an early night is called for to prepare for the days ahead.
WEDNESDAY: and am at the Rho Fiera showground by 08.30am to pound the halls. First impressions are that a lot of the companies have dusted down their back catalogues and re-introduced rejuvenated versions of classic designs with up to the minute technology. Vibrant colour abounds and everyone I speak to appears buoyant and positive for the future.
Having walked eight of the halls by lunchtime, time to reflect on what I’ve seen and re visit the companies of interest. This year I have specific products to find at certain price points and therefore will spend most of my time visiting companies that do not make up the core of our suppliers as decisions in the main have already been made with them and the Fair is used to plan for the future 12months. Homeward bound 7.30pm and the metro is packed, a quick change and then onto dinner with one of my suppliers (always a good night)
THURSDAY: another beautiful day starting at the Via Tortona show area with the Poltrona Frau group of companies, amongst the new products is a fully upholstered “Green” sofa (Cassina) that will be totally recyclable, available from October it will be with us here in Chester shortly afterwards. Onto several other outside showrooms before making the trek out to the Rho Fiera showground again to pound more halls.
By the end of the day have formulated future plans for the next twelve months agreed future models for our bedroom furniture, wall storage, occasional tables and lighting, just dining and seating to be completed. Arrive back at the hotel at 9pm for a quick shower and change before attending a formal private dealer dinner. This is the high light of the day, time to relax with our competitors, catch up on old times, swap stories, discuss who’s seen what and generally confirm that I have not missed anything that I should see and of course enjoy the hospitality of our hosts, this is a late one and arrive back at the hotel in the early hours.
FRIDAY: taxi arrives to take me to the B & B Italia showroom my final stop before catching the plane home. This year a radical change by them and am able finally to complete my seating plans for the next year (new models arriving from July onwards). Receive a call from home to say that I should prepare for an extended stay in Italy due to this volcanic eruption in Iceland.
Thought it was a joke little did I know how it was going to disrupt everything and turn into an epic trip.
Decided it would be prudent to check in at the airport – discovered my flight is cancelled and am transferred onto a flight on the following Sunday night. Realize that this could take some time so made arrangements to trim costs and booked myself into a lakeside hotel at Lake Maggiore (a third of the price of a night in Milan) and also a much prettier location to kick my heels.
SATURDAY: after the hectic last few days, chill out time in this beautiful part of the world.
SUNDAY: decide I could get used to this so travel to the Rho Fiera and pound the halls again. Advised by the airline that Sunday’s flight is also cancelled and it will be Wednesday at the earliest before I possible could get a flight home. At this point decided action was required so started making plans to visit several of our most important suppliers in Northern Italy over the next few days.
MONDAY: transferred to Venice to spend the day on a new CAD design programme being introduced by one of our bedroom suppliers (saves making a second trip in June that is already planned)
TUESDAY: transferred to the beautiful little town of Sacile (this is a little jewel of a place) and central to half a dozen factories we deal with.
Airline yet again postpones the flight this time for a possible 5- 7days. Having got together with a couple of other people who like myself are trapped in Italy we decided the only way open to us is to make our own arrangements home.
WEDNESDAY: having already made arrangements to travel to Monzano in the Udine area in the north east of the country, our homeward journey was to start from their by car. We travelled up through the Dolomite mountain range and into Austria past Strasbourg and onto Munich, then by train to Cologne.
THURSDAY: onward to Brussels, then Bruges and finally Zeebrugge before catching the overnight ferry to Hull.
FRIDAY: back to Manchester airport to collect my car and finally arriving back in Chester exactly seven days late.
What a fantastic trip, the fair was eventful and will be long remembered possibly for all the wrong reasons though. On a positive note our current suppliers are all working hard to bring quality designed well priced products to market, my company is proud to continue our partnership with them and likewise go forward. New products will continue to arrive over the next few months to keep us ahead of the game and finally I had an enforced holiday travelling through Europe.
What more can anyone ask for?...
Member since: 24th January 2011
Steve is Commercial Director of thebestofchester.
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