May Design Series axed

24 Jun, 15

Go back to the drawing board advises editor of Kitchens & Bathrooms News, Philippa Turrell

No-one likes a know-it-all but you don’t have to have the intellect of Stephen Hawking to realise the May Design Series was struggling to find favour with the kitchen and bathroom community. The writing wasn’t so much on the wall but spray-patterned all over it. The May Design Series was formed of kbbLondon, Interiors London, DX for technology and the Arc Lighting show, targeting professionals in design and architecture. It did have potential for those who wanted to embrace all design. It boasted a stylised look and had a vision seeing kitchens and bathrooms , as part and essential to residential and commerical interior design. And I so wanted to love it. It had the looks but it just didn’t have it all.

Yes, the bathroom and kitchen ‘suburb’ was a real departure from the previous incarnation of kbbLondon, which was just a much smaller, less representative show than its established kbbBirmingham counterpart. But the kitchen and bathroom section remained quite small and there were complaints there wasn’t enough representation, particularly from bathrooms. Although it should also be pointed out that those bathroom manufacturers who did exhibit capitalised on the event, with JT making a sale on Day Two before the show even opened its doors.

Then it was announced the show would run every year and the following event, just months after kbbBirmingham, May Design Series was held again. This time, it was bigger…much bigger… with a floorspace that spread across two halls. But, in all honesty, it was a bridge too far. In an attempt to build a much bigger show, it had lost out on exhibitor curation. And although The May Series was across a voluminous space, making for a show with a European-flavour, it couldn’t deliver the right scale audience. So the event suffered from a lack of footfall and the energy was quashed. That was apart from its Conversation Series of seminars, which was bustling, but no sooner had the sessions ended, they dissipated into the volumes of the hall.

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It felt like the show was a band working on its tricky second album, still trying to find it feet, and desperately needing to find the right notes to find a hit.

Then at what has turned out to be its last event, the final farewell, the image had changed again. Gone was the identifying colourful markers and replaced instead by an illuminated tunnel. Surely this has been seen at interior design shows before? Where was its own identity? And although participation in the kitchen and bathroom side had arguably improved, some exhibitors were left deflated by, once again, a lack of footfall – certainly on the expected figures.

Basically if one theme could be said to have been a thread throughout the show it has been over-promising and under-delivering.

And now the show has run its course, returning instead to more niche, individual shows and alternating kbbBirmingham and kbbLondon events. But here’s the question. How, or indeed, will the kbbLondon show differ from its larger counterpart? Will it continue to be a smaller sibling of the main event, to capture manufacturers launching in the years between kbbBirmingham shows, and delivering the same audience but just in a different location? Or will it once again, try to have its own focus, joining retailers with the design and architecture community?

What is for sure, is that it needs to go back to the drawing board, to identify what it is going to be, who (and realistically how many people) it is going to attract before making yet another promise which could be broken. If it is to return to the kbb-type stable, then it must be at the same size as kbbBirmingham or at least deliver a different retail or design and architecture audience as required by the exhibitors. Otherwise, kbbLondon it is forever destined to be at best less significant, or at worst will become obsolete.