Light + Building postponed; Signify leads cancellations due to coronavirus

Feb. 24, 2020
The world’s largest lighting trade fair will postpone the 2020 event until a yet-to-be specified date in mid-to-late September after Signify announced it would not attend the event planned for March.

Mondays tend to bring the most news no matter the business sector of interest, but this Monday, Feb. 24, was still surprising given that Signify (formerly Philips Lighting) announced it would not attend the Light + Building (L+B) event, and a short time later L+B organizers announced a plan to postpone the trade fair until a still-to-be-specified date in September. The coronavirus is the culprit, and specifically the realization over the weekend that a cluster of cases had been documented in Northern Italy. The move to postpone L+B is both precautionary and the result of incredible logistics obstacles that the organizers would have faced to go forward with the event originally planned for Mar. 8–13 in Frankfurt, Germany, and easily the largest event globally for the LED and solid-state lighting (SSL) sectors.

Rumors had persisted for a couple of weeks that L+B would have to be cancelled due to exhibitors cancelling their participation plans, and even contractors deciding not to travel to the event for tasks such as booth construction. Still, last week Messe Frankfurt insisted the show would go on even as another global event, the Mobile World Congress, was cancelled in Barcelona, Spain.

Still, there was little hard evidence to the fate of L+B beyond some smaller companies cancelling attendance plans until today. An Italian lighting company called Fabbian had withdrawn, as had a large cabling manufacturer, Prysmian Group, and a wireless connectivity alliance called Z-Wave. Signify, however, is the largest lighting company in the world and would have occupied the most prominent exhibit at L+B in the Forum building at the front of the fair.

“Although we were looking forward to meeting our customers and presenting our newest innovations at Light + Building, we must contribute to helping to contain the issue,” said Eric Rondolat, CEO of Signify. “The health, safety, and wellbeing of our employees, customers, and partners is and remains our number one priority.”

Zumtobel is another prominent lighting manufacturer that would not have been at L+B. But that company made the decision not to attend based on other factors back in December. Zumtobel is launching its own Light Forum showplace near its office in Dornbirn, Austria. And Zumtobel was barely present at L+B two years ago.

Of course, moving such a large event to a different date only seven months away will also be a challenge. Some exhibitors will have other plans, and the logistics will remain a challenge. Hotel rooms are generally tough to come by in Frankfurt. And the fair will need many support workers to host the event.

But it appears that there was little option beyond cancelling the March event. The cluster of coronavirus cases in Italy combined with the spread in other geographies was going to place Messe Frankfurt and the City in the position of escalating health checks and enforcing more stringent travel restrictions. But the organization insists that there is strong demand to host an L+B in this season and thus has launched the September plan. Meanwhile, organizers of the aforementioned Mobile World Congress event will simply skip this year. According to reports, the organizers will not have to refund money paid by exhibitors based on clauses in the exhibit contract. We’d presume that L+B could have similarly cancelled, but the biennial L+B schedule sure left that an unattractive option.