Surfaces 2011: Move to Mandalay finds favor with exhibitors, attendees

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LAS VEGAS—If Surfaces 2011 serves as a bellwether of the flooring industry for the coming year, then the industry has plenty to look forward to in the months ahead. Most exhibitors had nothing but good things to say about the show, the move to Mandalay Bay and the quality of traffic. Retailers also took a liking to the new venue as well as the layout.

All eyes were on this year’s edition of Surfaces, more so than in years past. The move up the strip (or down, depending on one’s perspective), the co-location with StonExpo, the impact of the economy, and the decision by certain manufacturers to show their wares in private ballrooms or take a pass on the event entirely created an air of uncertainty for Hanley Wood, proprietors of Surfaces. But when the dust cleared, it was smiles and satisfaction all around.

Best of all, it wasn’t just the large exhibitors who came away with the knowledge they had made the right decision to show. “We always wonder back and forth whether we should write the check and [go through with] the expense of coming here,” said Don Karlin, vice president of sales, J. Mish. “Maybe it’s because you spend a year forgetting about how much activity you get when you’re here. There were moments during the first two days of the show where there were more customers than we had people to handle them. That’s a good thing.”

That sentiment was echoed by Perry Coker, president, Lamett North America, who touted the value of Surfaces. “From a cost and time perspective, there is no way a company our size can take what we are showing in this booth on the road to each of our distributors. It’s good to have a show like this once a year. We get to show all our existing customers everything we do and have the opportunity to gain new customers in the process. Day 1 was solid with appointments.”

Jonathan Cohen, COO, Stanton Carpet, not only saw customers, they were the right customers as they came with their wallets in tow. “The show has been excellent. We had many of our top customers coming in, quality customers. Everybody is optimistic and people are buying. The first day and a half was extremely busy. We’ve been very pleased.”

Pete Ciganovich, COO, Lamipro/Woodpro/Trimpro told FCNews the same thing. “All our appointments with distributors and retailers have been showing up and all have been placing orders. We’re up 50% in orders over last year and 60% in samples committed.”

The idea that people were buying extended to the private showrooms, where Mannington devoted its entire space to Jay’s Bargain Basement. “We had the best first day of sales in our history,” said Ed Duncan, executive vice president, residential marketing. “We’re up about 10% over last year, which was a record breaker itself. We were mobbed the opening morning and it didn’t let up all day.”

Not every Surfaces exhibitor judges success by booth traffic. Those suppliers also came away more than satisfied. Take Alloc/Berry Floor, which, like Mannington, took the showroom route. “We only sell through distributors so our needs are different,” said Cindy Thornton, marketing director. “We’re fully booked with appointments, and they are doing more than just showing up. They’re cautiously upbeat and making purchases.”

Taking it one step further, Travis Bass, executive vice president, sales and marketing, Kronotex USA, said not only was there a very positive attitude among distributors, but “besides giving us excellent feedback, most want to know how quickly they can get the product.”

Aside from product, it was evident that people came to the show to learn. Hanley Wood told FCNews that a number of the pre-show education seminars on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings sold out, and that carried over to show hours. At the Mapei booth, Diane Choate, corporate communications, said the company’s demos were well attended with “upwards of 60 people sitting in every time we did one.”

It was the same story at DuoFast Floor Fastening Systems, where Rita Bockrath, marketing director, noted, “After we did a demo on the Installation Stage, we handed out over three dozen samples alone. The interest among attendees in our new products, specifically the epoxy, has been very high.”

Christopher Capobianco, a former retailer and currently an industry consultant based in Long Island, N.Y., said the educational opportunities have become better than ever, so this is a real reason to come to Surfaces. “There is now the opportunity for continuing education and the smaller size of the show means you can walk it in less time, so you can do both. It used to be harder to do.”

Surfaces’ new digs

It was hard to find one person who did not find favor in the move to Mandalay Bay. “With all the soft flooring up here and the hard surface downstairs, I think it’s worked out well,” said Ralph Boe, president and CEO, Beaulieu of America. “When we were at the Sands, we had more hard surface on the main floor with carpet, and now that it’s broken down and you’ve got people going back and forth, it spreads the audience out a bit. I also think with the location, [we have more] of a captive audience being way down on the strip.”

Retailers agreed. Harris Cohen, owner of Country Carpet & Rug, Syosset, N.Y., believes Mandalay Bay is a much better venue than the Sands. “The layout on the bottom floor was tremendously better. It was the same size as upstairs and the flow was better down there. The upstairs level was great because I felt it was a little more compact and didn’t have to weed through all the other guys to get to my suppliers. For me it was more focused.”

Gary Cissell, director of flooring, Nebraska Furniture Mart, thought shopping the two floors was easier because each level seemed smaller. “Also, the new layout means retailers come across diamonds in the rough that they may never have noticed in the past.”

Sam O’Krent, O’Krent’s Abbey Flooring Center, San Antonio, appreciated the “fresher” facilities, but also the fact that unlike the Sands, there was not the feeling that “second tier” vendors were on the bottom floor.

Other dealers liked the idea of having Surfaces and StonExpo in the same place. “The fact they combined the stone and granite show was phenomenal,” said Willie Mendoza, Celebrity Carpets, Beaumont, Calif. “About two or three years ago we made a business change toward general decorating and granite/ travertine. So having the variety of products at the show was really well done.”

From an exhibitor standpoint, the move in and set up were also a breeze. “It was a good experience; the service people were more than happy to help you out if you need something to move,” said Lou Calangelo vice president, national accounts, Royalty Carpet Mills. “I’m pretty impressed with it.”

-FCNews Staff

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