UPDATED: Frontline pulls out of Kbb Birmingham over coronavirus fears
The company have withdrawn from the event 'due to a duty of care to their colleagues'
In a letter circulated to customers this afternoon, sales and marketing director Michael Sammon said that the firm had been 'advised that there are likely to be significant numbers travelling from heavily affected areas of the world' and that it had subsequently decided to withdraw from the event in light of the 'duty of care we owe to our colleagues'.
'As a result of the recent Coronavirus outbreak and in light of the guidelines recently issued on the Gov.uk website, we’d like to inform you that Frontline Bathrooms Ltd has decided not to exhibit or attend KBB 2020. This has been a difficult decision, but the wellbeing of our staff must be our number one priority,' he said.
'We are set to lose a significant amount of investment; but feel supported by our peers in knowing it’s the right decision.'
Frontline is the first exhibitor to publicly confirm its withdrawal from KBB 2020, but Sammon indicated that 'other companies in the industry... plan to take the same precaution'.
'To those still exhibiting, we wish you a fantastic show, and although KBB will be missed from our marketing calendar this year, we are already looking ahead to 2022,' he wrote.
In the meantime, he said, 'we will be looking at a ‘Plan B’ to showcase our fantastic new ranges for 2020 - watch this space!'.
Event organisers have been contacted for comment.
Responding to Frontline's statement, Alvin Biggs, managing director at RAK Ceramics, criticised event organisers' handling of the scare.
'Kbb Birmingham is an important part of our marketing calendar and one that, like many others in the industry, we invest a lot of time and money in. While I respect the decision of some manufacturers not to attend this year due to ongoing coronavirus concerns and understand that a lot of uncertainty surrounds the management of the outbreak, I am disappointed to say the least in the lack of directive from the show organisers thus far,' he said in a statement to KBBDaily.
'This is a matter of public health concern and a clear statement really should be forthcoming in regard to the Chinese contingent due to exhibit at the show in order to allay concerns and set minds at rest, not just among exhibitors but show visitors too.
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'What we all want is to have a successful and safe event and I would urge Informa Markets to take a more proactive approach in doing their duty to ensure that happens.'
Days after Frontline's announcement, Kbb organisers confirmed that Chinese firms would be represented in a digital pavilion rather than attending in person, due to travel restrictions put in place in response to the epidemic.
In an email to exhibitors on Monday, event director Mark Gordon said organisers 'are continuing to closely monitor' the coronavirus risk, but that Kbb Birmingham is 'going ahead as planned'.
'We continue to follow all safety advice and precautions as recommended by the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as well as the World Health Organisation (WHO), seriously. Attendees are recommended to maintain good hand, respiratory and personal hygiene,' he added.
'Our attendees and exhibitors can all be reassured the rest of kbb Birmingham is going ahead as planned. Registrations for the show are tracking significantly ahead year on year with the highest recorded registrations received last week, and it’s entirely business as usual for this amazing event.'