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The future of the Salone del Mobile

After the postponement to 2021 of the most important design fair, companies are thinking about their restart

The future of the Salone del Mobile After the postponement to 2021 of the most important design fair, companies are thinking about their restart

The Salone del Mobile in Milan was due to take place this week (and with it the Fuori Salone), one of the most important fairs of design and furniture, that welcomes over 400 thousand visitors every year. It is in conjunction with the event reserved for professionals that the city of Milan comes to life, with dozens of exhibitions, installations, free events, aperitifs and cocktail parties around the city. 

To try to make up for the lack of the entertainment given by the Design Week, the FAN Collective group has tried to transform the classic appointment for a Negroni at the legendary Bar Basso into an online experience. Going to the website of the famous Milan restaurant, you can virtually draw on a handkerchief of the Bar Basso following the theme of the day.  

Beyond the calendar of events open to the public, what remains are the numbers of a sector that will be heavily affected by the postponement of the Salone del Mobile. After the initial decision to postpone the event to June, given the growing spread of the Coronavirus pandemic all over the world, the definitive confirmation of a postponement to 2021 (in the month of April, as per tradition), a cancellation that will cause the city of Milan has estimated damage of over 120 million euros. 

While many are still harbouring (faint) hopes for a streamlined, lightened version of the Salone in September, the companies that were waiting for this event, for the many contacts and the many orders it generates, each seek their own way to meet to this lack, finding new ways and methods to meet buyers and employees of the sector. At the moment the most effective, and perhaps the only, solution is for many the digitization of the event, an operation similar to that carried out also in the world of fashion, in the last days also by the London Fashion Week

The most interesting innovation in this sense is Fuorisalone Digital, a new platform that is added to e Fuorisalone Magazine, in which from June 15th to 21st, the days in which the 2020 edition should have taken place, different formats will be staged digitally, aimed at bridging the gap between brand and audience. There will be two new platform tools, TV and Meets, and two new channels, China and Japan. These important innovations will allow brands, designers, sponsors and partners to present themselves through video on demand, live streaming, webinars, articles, live talks, product previews, films, documentaries, interviews and concerts. 

Not only online presentations of the parts of the catalogue already made, but also training activities and online courses for the network of producers, as in the case of Lema. The Meridiani company also evaluates the possibility of creating virtual catalogues to be shown individually to its customers. Others, like Cassina, think of an initial online presentation, before setting up the collection in the showrooms as soon as possible. Online industry events are also multiplying, such as Clerkenwell Design Week in July, the London Design Festival in September and Orgatec in Cologne in October.

It is worth noting that for many of these realities digital is new and partly unexplored territory, given the nature of the sector, which more than others requires contact and physical experience of the product. Poltrone Frau and Natuzzi had launched their new e-commerce stores just before the pandemic, with a new online sales service. For many, it will be a channel to be enhanced in a very short time, not only as a sales point but also as a meeting place with their community, an attempt carried out by B&B Italia with the launch of a podcast. 

Beyond the individual companies involved, the Salone del Mobile, and more than it the Fuori Salone, is a great moment of collective aggregation, with a turnover for the city of Milan generated at 90% by foreign visitors, with the catering and the hospitality industry among the most profitable sectors. It is not difficult to imagine what the losses caused by the cancellation of the Salone will be, along with the objective impossibility of setting up the event in these circumstances.

Waiting to understand when the showrooms will open again - and when we will return to sip a good Negroni at the tables of via Plinio - digital is the only way to go.