EISENWARENMESSE - International Hardware Fair Cologne 2012 - Review

Here is a brief diary of my visit to Cologne for the Bi-annual Eisenwarenmesse:

Saturday 3rd March 2012

I picked up Calum, commonly known as "Mr Toolstop", and we headed to Glasgow Airport. Calum has been to the last 2 Hardware Fairs but this was my first.

Once we had checked in for our flight there was time for a couple of beers which we drank whilst watching Arsenal overcome Liverpool with another late winner after going behind early in the game.

We flew via Amsterdam where there was some time for a couple more beers whilst watching Mr Bean.

It's OK to watch Mr. Bean in Dutch, he doesn't really speak much.

Once we landed in Cologne and checked in to the hotel there was time for a few more beers in the Corkanian Irish Bar before heading back to the Martitim Hotel with a Kebab.

Sunday 4th March 2012

Woke up with a slight headache and headed off to the fairground.

It is a vast affair with about 10 huge rooms filled with stands showing as many different variations of tools, hardware, instruments and equipment that you could ever imagine.

Calum thought it was smaller than on previous occasions, maybe this is a sign of the times, maybe more to do with technology and how much smaller the world has become because of it.

Nevertheless, the directory of exhibitors is a 600 page brochure, with pages listing brands, manufacturers and suppliers of goods with their contact details and where they could be found within the Kolnmesse Building.

The first hall we went into was one of the Asian halls where suppliers of wares from the far east show off their products. This can be a minefield because you don't know whether you are dealing with the manufacturer, a third party or someone 3 or 4 stages down the supply chain.

That's where Tom comes in. Tom runs an import firm in Edinburgh and has offices in China which can quickly check on the quality and integrity of the various suppliers we spoke to.

We were particularly interested in some suppliers of tape measures as well as test and detection products. There were also some very lovely Asian ladies presenting their products to us - life can be so hard at times.

We moved on to another hall which had some names we recognised. One of the first we came across was Draper and we were warmly welcomed by Graham who showed us a new product due out later in the year.

It was a kind of wrecking bar but inside the steel tube was another steel rammer which meant that there was double impact when you brought the tool down so made this a perfect hand tool for breaking up tree roots, concrete blocks and the like. 

Talking of trees, we met a guy on a stand showing some innovative forestry products such as log splitters, log carriers and fancy barrows which carry a massive load in weight but are easy to lift.

We also spoke to the guys from Rollins who supply Bulldog, Channellock and Arrow and a girl from Senco who presented Calum with a Man Bag.

After some lunch in an Asian restaurant which had run out of rice we moved into Hall 10 where we had chats with the guys from Toolbank, Norbar, Thor, Monument and Wera. The Wera stand was one of the busiest we saw over the 2 days and we had the chance to try out some of the impressive new Impaktor bits.

The Evolution Power Tools stand was very well presented and we had a good chat with another Tom about their products. Most interesting was their new Evosystem which comprises an engine with various different attachments (or outputs) which can quickly convert the machine into a petrol generator, pressure washer, pump and eventually a vibrating poker.

We were surprised at the lack of the major professional power tool brands like Bosch, Makita, Dewalt, Hitachi or Metabo.

None of these were represented, again, maybe a sign of hard economic times and the need for these brands to be channeling their marketing budgets in different ways.

In the evening we went for a meal which presented me with my first opportunity to try Pork Knuckle which was very good indeed. It came with Bratwurst, sauerkraut, beer, wine and more beer. We had been joined by a couple of Northern Irish Tool Dealers, Michael and David who happily joined in with the beer and wine. After dinner we headed off to Flanagans for Karaoke where I sang a Deacon Blue number and David had a go at Garth Brookes.

Monday 5th March 2012

Sore head again, maybe worse than yesterday but we're up early and into the fairground for it opening. We wanted to hit the Asian Halls, there were 3 of them, each on 2 levels, each with thousands of stands, all the same size exhibiting their wares. We were pleasantly surprised at one of the first stands we visited. They supplied instruments such as inspection cameras, infra-red thermometers and the like and we were very impressed by the range and by the apparent quality of the products.

As the morning progressed Calum arranged to meet with a customer of ours from Greece so I let him get on with that and continued around the Asian stands. I saw door handles and hardware from India, hand tools from Taiwan, Power products from China and picked up as many catalogues, business cards and CD's as you can think of. My arms were aching, my feet were sore and, due to the last 2 nights festivities, I was also knackered.

I made my way over to the hall displaying all sorts of Access Equipment and met up with Calum again.

We went to the Hailo stand which as far as I can remember was the biggest stand we saw. They had waitresses bringing food, drinks and sales staff speaking to as many visitors as possible. We spoke to Carlton who told us about their great products including stepladders, platforms, towers and bins. Great products and a possibility for the Toolstop website.

We then visisted Telesteps and Derek was enthusing about their brand new 3.8 metre telescopic ladder. Derek refused to make us a coffee so we left him and went in search of our own.

I spotted a little shop in the concourse which was selling chocolate. In the shape of tools. Check out the photo! I bought some for my kids but have since eaten most of it myself.

We met Brett from Sparky Power Tools, a brand I must admit having never heard of before. However, seemed like a decent range of tools, all made in Bulgaria and fitting for the Toolstop website.

After that, we went on to the Scheppach stand and had a word with Robert. We had only recently been dealing with them and it turns out to be a very good seller on our site.

After a very tiring couple of days with a lot of walking, standing, travelling and drinking, we made our way home.

My first Hardware Show was a great experience, I was amazed at the scale of the exhibition, the number of products out there in this sector, the number of variations of products both in style and quality, the number of companies trying to deal in these products, the amount of money spent on a 3 day exhibition, the number of people interested in these type of products. Basically, I had my eyes opened to a world of opportunity. I got some ideas which we will hopefully offer our customers in future.

I also realised that I'm too old to be out 2 nights in a row.

If you were at the International Hardware Fair in Cologne 2012, let us know your best bits in the comments below.

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