Steve Pham

Bowerbirds are fascinating creatures. The male of the species are the architects and interior designers of the avian world. They build intricate structures, or bowers, and industriously decorate the space as spectacularly as possible, using the most colorful objects they can find — shiny beetle wings, brightly colored flowers, leaves, nuts and fruits. The objects need not be organic in nature; bowerbirds have been known to collect manmade items as well, finding beauty in such mundane things as ballpoint pen caps, plastic toys, bottle caps, and the like. They use these items to decorate their bowers in as alluring a way as possible, all in an extravagant effort to attract a mate.

These wonderful birds came to mind when I attended the 2016 Piscine Global Europe exhibition in Lyon, France, last November. Holding a pool show in as glorious a destination as Lyon is a draw in and of itself. The third largest city in France, Lyon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site steeped in history, where narrow cobblestone streets dating from the Renaissance still serve Old Town residents. Cradled, as it is, in fertile wine country, it’s also known as the gastronomic capital of the world. Moreover, a strong dollar made everything downright inexpensive. Ah, Piscine, what a fine bower Lyon makes!

Pool and Spa News was an exhibitor, and when we arrived at the expo hall, I was struck by how elaborate and stylish the booths were. Most companies not only chose to have large sprawling spaces, but also built their booths high, to tower over attendees’ heads. It was apparent that Europeans took booth design seriously.

I noted other differences between the U.S. and French shows. Here in the States, education is a primary focus, with folks coming far and wide to partake of the numerous opportunities. That isn’t really the goal at Piscine. Organizers focus on how the latest pool products can help attendees’ bottom lines in both residential and commercial applications. Products were front and center, with large galleries offering many opportunities to showcase product innovation. Live demos for aqua fitness and water quality equipment also were scheduled around the clock.

Show officials and exhibitors alike made customer service a priority. Staff, mounted on Segway chariots, zipped around the show floor, acting as traveling information guides. Exhibitor booths were well staffed to accommodate the high number of attendees. Rumor had it that one of the largest exhibitors flew in nearly 300 employees to work the show!

A huge shout out to Selective Designs of Peachtree City, Ga., an APSP member honored in the Pool Vision design awards.

Speaking of which, I was happy to see a relatively strong American presence. Some firms, such as Loop-Loc and the Big Three (Pentair, Hayward and Zodiac), among others, have exhibited at Piscine for years, quietly carving out a share of the European market. Others, such as Pleatco and Mi-Way, were first-timers, ready to test the waters and make a splash, so to speak. Another positive presence was the abundance of U.S. spa manufacturers. Watkins Wellness, Marquis, and Passion Spas, to name a few, attracted more than their fair share of attendees with their gleaming hot tubs artfully placed in their booths and even on the walls.

It was enough to make any bowerbird proud.