September’s Salone del Mobile Uncertain, Trade Show President Exits

MILAN — There seems to be no rest for the Salone del Mobile international furniture and interior design trade show as the upcoming edition slated for Sept. 5 to 10 is still to be confirmed and speculation is mounting that the event will be canceled and rescheduled for April 2022.

Talk of a potential cancellation of the event started circulating over the past few days here as several furniture and design firms, big and small, were said to be motivated to skip the upcoming Salone entirely considering the ongoing uncertainties related to the coronavirus pandemic and the expected lack of foreign buyers and visitors, casting a shadow on the September fair.

Last week, the government helmed by Prime Minister Mario Draghi greenlit trade shows starting from July 1, de facto allowing the furniture and design event to go ahead as planned. But exhibitors seem unlikely to jump onboard and this has prompted the longtime event’s president Claudio Luti to step down from his role.

In a note issued late Thursday night by his family design firm Kartell, Luti said: “I respect all decisions, but I don’t agree with the lack of will to join forces in such a delicate moment and try to define a concrete pathway to go ahead with the Salone, which could also represent a symbol of the country’s restart.

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“I do recognize the difficulties and uncertainties that currently prevent us from casting a light on all the uncertainties related to the pandemic scenario, but what has been missing is a shared will,” he added.

Federlegno Eventi, the trade show organizer, acknowledged Luti’s resignation but has not named a successor.

The association also said a decision on the trade show’s upcoming event will be taken over the next few days. This is expected to take into account the cancellation-related penalty that Fiera Milano, which hosts the fair, would be contractually allowed to demand.

The Salone del Mobile and the related Design Week, accompanied by events across the city, is the most important global event in Milan, which is considered the international capital of design. In particular, it’s one of the key trade shows for the Fiera Milano company because of its international attendance.

In 2019, 386,236 people from 181 different nationalities visited the event, which hosted 2,418 exhibitors at the Fiera Milano fairgrounds, 34 percent of them from foreign countries.

According to figures provided by Confcommercio the event usually brings around 200 million euros to the city.

Carlo Sangalli, the association’s president, described a potential cancellation of the Salone as a “serious mistake,” noting that the rollout of the vaccination campaign and sanitary measures issued by the government would allow everyone to “look with optimism to the event.”

“The Salone del Mobile is among the most important events in Milan…after its cancellation last year, a restart would also have a symbolic meaning,” he said.

Last year, as the first wave of COVID-19 cases was spreading in Italy and abroad, Salone said it would skip the 2020 show entirely, hosting instead the 60th edition in April 2021. The second wave of the pandemic hitting Italy over the past few weeks scuttled that plan, prompting organizers to push it to September.

To celebrate its 60th anniversary, the September edition of the Salone del Mobile was expected to be flanked for the first time by the biennial Euroluce, EuroCucina and the Salone Internazionale del Bagno trade shows dedicated to lighting, kitchen design and bathroom furniture, respectively.

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