Dezeen Magazine

Salone de Milano coronavirus fears

Salone del Mobile "consulting with stakeholders and the government" amid coronavirus fears

The organisers of Milan's Salone del Mobile furniture fair are discussing how to respond to Italy's coronavirus outbreak, as fashion and eyewear events in the city are disrupted by the virus.

A source told Dezeen that the fair, which is the world's biggest and most important furniture event, is "consulting with stakeholders and the government" and would make an announcement in the next few days.

The statement came amid rising concern over the impact of the virus on Italy's leading business city.

Eyewear fair and Armani show affected

Yesterday the organisers of MIDO, the world's biggest eyewear event, announced it was postponing its 2020 event in the city due to the virus.

The 50th edition of the fair was due to be held from 29 February to 2 March at Rho Fiera Milano, the same fairground that hosts Salone del Mobile.

"We took this decision out of respect for the current alarming situation and for our exhibitors and visitors," said MIDO president Giovanni Vitaloni. "As this health crisis is developing in Italy, we could not but choose to postpone MIDO's 2020 edition."

MIDO has yet to announce new dates.

Meanwhile, fashion designer Giorgio Armani presented his runway show to an empty room yesterday after advising guests to stay away. However, aside from this, Milan's fashion week went ahead as normal last week.

Trade body calls for Salone to postpone

Last week Italian trade body Confapi Matera called on the organisers the Salone del Mobile to postpone the event over coronavirus fears.

The trade body, which represents small and medium businesses in the Matera district of southern Italy, said it feared the fair risked being a "flop" for exhibitors including local furniture companies if it went ahead.

"Numerous cancellations are arriving in Milan, especially by the Chinese and Asians in general," said Confapi Matera president Massimo De Salvo and director Vito Gaudiano. "The risk of flop of the fair worries local entrepreneurs who will have to bear the costs of participation."

Held each April, the Salone del Mobile is considered the most important furniture trade fair in the world. The 2020 edition is due to be held from 21 to 26 April. Last year the event welcomed over 380,000 visitors from over 181 countries. Of its 2,418 exhibitors, 34 per cent were from overseas.

Italy hit by coronavirus

Italy has seen Europe's worst outbreak of the new Covid-19 coronavirus strain. Two hundred people have tested positive and seven have died across the northern Lombardy region, of which Milan is the capital, and the neighbouring Veneto province.

The Italian government has declared a state of emergency and quarantined a dozen northern Italian towns following the outbreak, which began late last week.

Milan mayor Beppe Sala announced yesterday that schools and universities in the city would close for a week while the authorities try to contain the outbreak. Milan's Duomo cathedral has been closed to the public in response, and the Venice Carnival ended two days early.

Design, architecture and tech events affected

The current coronavirus outbreak, which was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, has already impacted numerous design events in China and beyond.

The Design Shanghai trade fair and the Festival of Design architecture conference were postponed due to coronavirus fears. Earlier this month Barcelona's Mobile World Congress, the world's biggest mobile phone show, was called off because of the virus.

Italian lighting brand Fabbian and Dutch firm Signify announced that they would not attend the Light + Building fair in Frankfurt next month, citing coronavirus fears.

"Our colleagues and partners have been forced to cancel their flights for the Light + Building trade fair in Frankfurt and, given that many other stands have already pulled out, we have decided not to participate in the trade fair for the aforementioned reasons," the brand said.

"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 Signify CEO Eric Rondolat. "The health, safety and wellbeing of our employees, customers and partners is and remains our number one priority."

However, Light + Building organisers said that rumours that multiple brands were pulling out of the fair were unfounded.

"As of now, cancellations amount to 24," a spokesperson told Dezeen. "None of those are related to health concerns. In fact this is a normal number within Light + Building’s two-year cycle and mostly has to do with reasons that concern individual exhibitors. All market leaders will be present."

Virus impacting global supply chains

The epidemic is causing global travel and supply chain disruptions. Factories around the country were ordered to close and many remain shut.

Design brands that manufacture products in China or rely on components from the country are bracing for disruption. Last week Apple announced it would miss revenue targets due to delays at Chinese suppliers, while UK lighting brand Tala said it expected to be impacted.

"The business has undertaken a critical analysis of our inventory and are pleased to let you know that we are currently in a strong stock position," the brand said. "However, we anticipate our faster-moving lines are likely to be affected in the next few weeks."

As well as imposing quarantine measures, Chinese officials have been using technology to help stop the spread of the virus. Robots and drones are being used to deliver supplies in closed-off areas and to spray disinfectant over streets in locked-down neighbourhoods.

The global coronavirus death toll now stands at over 2,600, with more than 79,000 people in 36 countries confirmed as infected.