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More Foreign Exhibitors Show Up For Builders Show in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS — The International Builders Show here is taking on a more international flavor as a growing number of suppliers from abroad hope to get their products in American homes. From saunas and cabinet doors made in Canada to ornate, ceramic eaves from China, this year’s trade show floor includes 330 foreign exhibitors muscling for space on the massive convention floor. While international exhibitors still are the minority of participants here, their number this year represents a 23% increase from last year’s show, according to the convention’s organizer, the National Association of Home Builders. The show’s number of foreign exhibitors has increased each year since 2012. Several factors are spurring foreign suppliers to flock to the U.S. Of late, those suppliers have an added cost advantage in the U.S. because currency-exchange rates have strengthened the U.S. dollar against their currencies, making their products cheaper for American builders. Some, such as the Chinese, are looking to the U.S. market amid slowdown in construction in their country. They see room for growth in the U.S., where construction starts of 648,000 homes last year amounted to only 63% of the annual average since 2000. Meanwhile, the builders association made a concerted effort in recent years to recruit more international exhibitors, in part to offset losses of domestic exhibitors during the recession. The group hired representatives in markets such as Canada, China, South Korea, Taiwan, France, Italy, Germany, Poland and Pakistan. The largest international contingents at the trade show come from Canada, a huge supplier of lumber to the U.S.; China, a big supplier of fixtures and building components; South Korea; and Taiwan. Among the new exhibitors this year is Dave Byers, owner of Barrel Enterprises Inc. near Sussex in New Brunswick, Canada. His company makes homes, yurts and saunas out of Canadian lumber. The catch: all of his structures are round. “Round is the new square,” Mr. Byers said on the IBS trade show floor near a display of his company’s tubular sauna, which sells for $8,500 to $15,000. “Everything I do is round because not a lot of people are doing it.” Why start exhibiting in the U.S. this year? “I’ve been focused on the European market for the last six years,” he said. “And we realize the U.S. economy is coming back, so this would be a great show to exhibit at.” He added that he has connected with distributors from nine states at the show. Other Canadian exhibitors include Corruven Inc., a maker of corrugated wood composite panels; Bos Brothers Inc., which produces wooden cabinet doors; and ClairiTech Innovations, which makes a home-humidity control system. The conference’s increase foreign exhibitors comes as imports of home-building products have been on the rise. Commerce Department data shows the U.S. imported $806.3 million of wood kitchen cabinets and countertops in the first 11 months of last year. That was up sharply from $736.5 million in all of 2013 and from $579.5 million in 2012. David Crowe, chief economist for the builders association, says U.S. imports of building products likely will continue to rise in the coming years, if only because home construction in the U.S. will increase. “It’s just the fact that, over the next two or three years, we’re expecting our production of single-family homes to double to get back to normal,” Mr. Crowe said. “So that means a big market for producers.” The China Chamber of International Commerce has brought a steadily increasing number of Chinese exhibitors to the conference in recent years, delivering 50 for this week’s conference. Luigi Yao, a director of the chamber’s overseas exhibition department, said that Chinese businesses gravitate to the service and professionalism of conferences such as the builders show. “The trade show is the most important way of doing business in the U.S. and Europe,” said Mr. Yao, while seated at one of the many clusters of Chinese exhibition booths, called China Pavilions, on the trade show floor. “Most exhibitors are small and medium-sized businesses in China. So the IBS show is important.” Among the Chinese products showcased at IBS are various plumbing and lighting fixtures; ornate glass panels created by Qinhuangdao Xinhua Glass Processing Industries Co.; and decorative, ceramic eaves and roof ornaments produced by Luoyang Dannuo Gardens & Building Material Co. While imports often mean lower prices, some builders remain leery of delivery delays and, in some cases, inconsistent quality. While it’s a bonus to hit on the next wildly popular offering like Asian bamboo flooring, builders don’t want to get stuck with a disaster. During last decade’s boom, builders found themselves settling lawsuits and making costly repairs after using Chinese-supplied drywall that corroded homes’ electric systems and stank like sulfur. “Generally, we see (foreign suppliers) as less expensive,” said Lance Wright, a partner in Texas home builder CastleRock Communities LP. “But our biggest concerns are quality concerns. You can see what happened with drywall.” Source: The wall street journal Posted and edited by Hanbao News Department