What to expect at INDEX Dubai 2021

The region's biggest and best interiors trade show returns with a bang.

21 Apr 2021, words by Saul Taylor in Design & Architecture

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The region’s biggest and best interiors trade show returns with a bang. We speak to INDEX’s commercial director, Katie McBride. 

As the event director for the DMG Events agency design portfolio, Katie McBride is responsible for the smoot running of INDEX Dubai, its flagship international trade show for interior products. Celebrating its 30th anniversary at the end of May, INDEX expects a healthy attendance and is hopeful it will herald a return of international visitors. McBride gave us the lowdown.

Katie McBride
Katie McBride, Commercial Director

What does your job at DMG Events entail? 

Katie: My job is to ensure that visitors who attend are left inspired, informed, and entertained. We do this by staging an event that includes the most innovative products, creative and interactive features that inspire our audience, and seminars covering topical subjects which are delivered by the best speakers. 

I’m very people-focused and by ensuring that my events also foster a culture of community, I’ve found great success in growing large-scale established events in my previous roles. As well as making sure that the events exist to drive sector specific economic growth in the region in which they operate. I am very much looking forward to also bringing this to INDEX.

What is the purpose of INDEX?

Katie: INDEX is a platform for connections between people and products. Over the past 30 years, INDEX has been the only route for international furniture brands, manufacturers, and designers to access the expansive Middle East interiors market: whether that’s by finding distributors, local designers, and retailers or even by testing product ranges with the buying audiences here. Many international brands use INDEX to launch their brands and test their products before opening a branch here or securing deals with local distributors.

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How has INDEX evolved since it first launched 30 years ago? 

Katie: When INDEX was created in the early 90’s, it was born to meet the high demand for finding interiors for both consumers and commercial projects. It was also one of the original events that launched at the Dubai World Trade Centre and as the event grew, so did the exhibition venue. 

As construction in the UAE has developed over the last few decades and the demand for international products has grown, we’ve seen a big increase in international exhibitors at INDEX with many now setting up a permanent office in Dubai. Whilst we still expect the event to feature international products, many are now participating through their local offices and in recent years, we’ve also seen a big increase in the number of local producers and distributors, and we expect this trend to continue. 

Our aim over the next few years is to position INDEX as the meeting place for the interiors industry supported by content and networking events outside of the main exhibition allowing the industry to meet, learn and be inspired.

What makes INDEX so unique in the region? 

Katie: I think what makes INDEX unique is its adaptability in the market. If you’re a Palace Manager or Hotel Designer sourcing unique or bespoke products, you’ll find it at INDEX. But also, if you’re fitting out a large-scale commercial property and need high volume/ value products – you can also find them. We offer products covering the whole spectrum and for many different projects.

 Because INDEX is where international companies come to launch their products, it’s also the place where buyers can source innovative products that aren’t yet available in the Middle East.

Which brands should we be looking out for?

Katie: We have some great international brands participating in INDEX this year, many of whom are returning after being absent for a few years and some exhibiting for the first time. Look out for Cosentino, GEBERIT, VitrA, PRESTO, Scientechnic and Eichholtz, to name a few. It has been great to see that despite difficult times, we’ve seen a huge influx of gorgeous new designer furniture coming to the show from France, Poland and Italy this year. “A Gallery” is also bringing artwork by the famous Christy Lee Rogers to the show, and we have lots of product launches and innovations on debut. I could go on, but you will have to visit for yourself to see the variety of products and experiences on offer.

Who are you expecting to attend this year’s event? 

Katie: We’re expecting to see the usual mix of interior designers, retail buyers, architects and property developers. When we’ve been speaking with our exhibitors, we’ve found that many of them are also looking to meet end-users, whether that’s restaurant owners or franchise owners, so we’ll be targeting buyers from this sector. This year, INDEX is also located alongside The Hotel Show which means we’ll see thousands of buyers from the hotel and hospitality sectors.

Is there hope for any international visitors? 

Katie: Initially, we felt that this year’s show would be a local event as travel restrictions would make it difficult for regional visitors to attend. However, 27% of our pre-registered visitors are international, similar to what we would expect in a normal year, so there is still a possibility of a large volume of visitors from the GCC and MENA regions. A lot depends on the regulations in the visitors’ home country at the end of May, but we’re grateful that Dubai has made it very easy for travellers to visit trade events.