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The key topics of this year’s Kind + Jugend are individualization, sustainability, mobility and digitality. Jörg Schmale, Director of Kind + Jugend, draws a first conclusion after the kick-off of the fair.
Two years ago, the + Jugend was expanded by one hall. Are there any plans for further expansion in this respect?
Even though the Kind + Jugend was able to record its best result ever this year, we still have to remain realistic. We cannot close our eyes to the fact that there are always consolidation movements within the industry, in other words companies are merging or being taken over. The industry is in motion and the Kind + Jugend moves together with it. Therefore, we at the Kind + Jugend continue to focus on contents and topics that we develop in line with market requirements and expand. Against this background, we maximally plan with marginal enlargements.
Do you have any plans for new topics in mind?
First and foremost, we want to strengthen and expand the areas already presented at the fair. One example are certainly the areas of games, learning and reading, but also paramount topics such as sustainability and ecology.
Which topics will be the focus of this year’s Kind + Jugend?
Alongside the previous central themes of safety and comfort, more attention is being paid to aspects such as individualization, sustainability, mobility and digitality. Manufacturers are increasingly developing their own strategies to support retailers and not least consumers in a targeted manner. Using sustainability as an example, we can see very clearly that the industry pays attention to the needs of parents and children and launches many new products and ideas.
For the first time you will be presenting an international start-up area at the Kind + Jugend. What has been the response from visitors so far and which innovations will still be presented until the 22 September?
We were able to see in advance that the start-ups were very well received. On the first day of the fair, it became apparent that the visitors were quite curious about these newcomers. Needless to say, we very much hope that the start-ups will also be successful. The exhibited products fit very well into the theme worlds of the Kind + Jugend. This ranges from auxiliary wheels, which can be used to provide strollers with an electric drive, to toys, furniture, fashion and decorative items.
The aspect of sustainability is also becoming more and more important for consumers. Accordingly, you have been listing sustainably producing manufacturers separately since this edition. Which intention do you pursue with this?
At the first attempt, we focused on sustainable textiles. This was well received by exhibitors with these products. We are assuming that there will be a respective demand for this range, as parents are increasingly paying attention to both pollutant-free products and sustainability, especially when it comes to textiles for children. With this initiative, we also want to reach other product groups in the future and will be using the trade fair to talk to manufacturers and interest groups. Our aim is to provide buyers with good access to suppliers who competently cover certain topics.
How do you explain the growing interest in sustainable products?
In times of ongoing climate discussions, students participating in Fridays for Future, a boom in organic products or vegan concepts, it is understandable that European parents in particular are very concerned about the environment in which their offspring grow up. They ask what materials are used in the production, what carbon footprint they have and how they are disposed of. Many retailers have therefore included sustainable products in their product ranges. The whole topic is perceived as enriching and an addition to the existing assortments.
Are you satisfied with the number of visitors on the first day of the fair?
On the first day of the fair we can already register a large number of visitors, both from Germany and abroad. Traditionally, we do not publish concrete figures until the end of the fair.
In July, revenues in the retail sector decreased by 2.1 percent compared to the previous month. How do you explain the lower demand in July?
Overall, the consumer sentiment in Germany has deteriorated a little. This has, of course, also been noticed by specialist retailers. In general, however, I think the baby and toddler equipment sector is very well positioned and innovations and new topics are helping to keep demand high.
The winners of the innovation award were already announced on the first day of the fair? How important is this in the industry?
The innovation award has been awarded since 2005 and has since become an integral part of the Kind + Jugend trade fair. Owing to the great work of our competent, international jury of experts, the award was able to convince right from the start. It is now regarded as the most important prize in the industry and beyond. For the nominated companies and especially for the award winners, it has developed into a very useful marketing tool that communicates the special suitability and benefits of a product to customers. At the fair, the special show with all nominated products of the innovation awards is a public magnet, which vividly draws attention to current trends and tendencies. This year, 200 products participated – more than ever before.
What do you think has changed in the children’s industry in 2019?
Not least through the Fridays for Future movement, there is an even greater focus on what is important for children and their future. Ecology, sustainability, controlled consumption, longevity have always been important to the industry, but have now become a stronger focus.
With your event program you promote novelties and trends. What trends do you see for children’s furniture and hardware in 2020?
In both segments there is a clear trend towards “gender” neutrality – products that fit both girls and boys and thus leave plenty of room for individual development. The trend towards natural materials has played a major role in furniture for some time now. It goes without saying that furniture should continue to “grow with the times”. When it comes to hardware, manufacturers use lighter materials, cooling fabrics and reusable elements. Technology and engineering also play a major role here to ensure safety as well as mobility and handling.
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Image: Kind + Jugend