COVID-19 Pandemic Forces KBIS, IBS to Digital-Only Format

2019 IBS sign

The Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) and International Builders’ Show (IBS), the kitchen/bath and housing industry’s leading showcases for new products and services, are being transformed into a digital-only experience for 2021, the on-site portion of the shows cancelled due to ongoing health and safety concerns and travel restrictions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Officials from the National Association of Home Builders and the National Kitchen & Bath Association – owners of IBS and KBIS, respectively – today “regretfully” announced the reformatting of the annual three-day event. The co-located shows, previously scheduled for Feb. 9-11 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, are staged each year as focal points of “Design & Construction Week,” the premier trade event for the North American residential design and construction industries.

The newly formatted, digital-only DCW 2021 will still take place the week of Feb. 8, with extended programming, and a “robust, all-virtual event,” show officials said. Design & Construction Week will return to Orlando as an in-person event Feb. 8-10, 2022, added show organizers, who as recently as last week were proceeding with plans to stage the live events.

KBIS and IBS, like trade shows and conferences worldwide, has been facing unprecedented challenges resulting from a global public-health crisis that has forced the cancellation of more than a dozen overseas and domestic industry-related events in the eight months since the coronavirus began resulting in government-mandated social distancing, travel restrictions, and widespread concerns over attending large indoor gatherings. In some cases, event organizers have converted live events to digital-only formats. Other events have been temporarily postponed pending developments tied to COVID-19.

Prior to today’s announcement, KBIS and IBS officials had been undertaking a coordinated effort to implement comprehensive protocols aimed at safeguarding the health and safety of attendees, exhibitors and vendors in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Onsite safety measures were to include one-way traffic aisles, contactless registration with remote badging, and enhanced cleaning protocols. Attendees would have also been required to wear masks and practice social distancing inside the convention facility.

But the live events became untenable in the face of the overwhelming challenges cause by the coronavirus, according to show officials, who were facing a substantial number of booth cancellations and space reductions, as well as a significantly lower show attendance. Design & Construction Week drew some 90,000 attendees this year to Las Vegas. Some 600 exhibitors took part in the 2020 KBIS, according to show officials.

“Out of an abundance of caution and concern for the safety of our exhibitors, attendees and the thousands of onsite workers who support the premier event of the residential construction industry, we feel the only prudent course is to make this year’s show a virtual event,” said Chuck Fowke, chairman of the Washington, DC-based NAHB.

“We have plenty of great virtual educational programs, innovative products, services and workshops on tap, and we are very excited about the 2021 show. It’s an opportunity to set a precedent for the industry by producing a dynamic virtual trade show, and we look forward to a very successful Design & Construction Week,” Fowke added.

“This difficult decision comes following months of lengthy conversations with NAHB and Emerald,” added Bill Darcy, CEO of the NKBA. “The safety and well-being of our attendees, partners, exhibitors, site workers and staff has always been our top priority. As we now cross the 16-weeks-out mark, it was time to transition to 100% focus on a virtual event.

“An all-virtual Design & Construction Week will be a different experience, but with it comes new opportunities to reach an even larger audience that would not have been able to participate on-site, for any number of reasons, including on-going travel restrictions. We pledge to transform KBIS into an exceptional show experience for everyone. And we will be back live — bigger and stronger — for DCW 2022.”

Registration for the virtual DCW event is free for all NKBA and NAHB members and, as with the in-person shows, attendees will have access to KBIS and IBS exhibitors and programming. The new virtual format will allow participants to see the latest product launches and take part in online education courses, from wherever they are in the world.

Support from the exhibitor community “has been solid,” show organizers said.

“With safety and well-being of attendees, exhibitors, vendors and trade-show staff as the priority, Kohler Co. applauds the difficult but appropriate decision made jointly by the NKBA and NAHB converting KBIS and IBS, respectively, to being 100% virtual,” said David Kohler, CEO of Kohler Co. “We look forward to the opportunity to connect with our trade customers and showcase our new products and innovations.”

“We cherish our partnerships with NKBA and NAHB. In our shared commitment to the health and safety of industry colleagues, we fully support their decision to reimagine the 2021 KBIS and IBS events,” said Thomas Yoon, President and CEO of LG Electronics North America. “As trusted partners, LG and Signature Kitchen Suite remain committed to working with these organizations to deliver engaging virtual experiences for the designer and builder communities, while continuing our major presence in The New American Home and The New American Remodel for 2021. We’re optimistic about the recovery ahead, and we look forward to reconnecting in person with industry partners in Orlando in 2022.”

—Eliot Sefrin, Publisher Emeritus, Kitchen & Bath Design News

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