by Steven Feldman
With Surfaces 2012 now behind us, there’s only one question on everyone’s mind: How was it? Ask Hanley Wood, the owner of the show, and they’ll tell you attendance was at its highest number since 2008. Ask most exhibitors and attendees, and they’ll tell you they were busy. Ask people who advise other people to not attend Surfaces and they’ll tell you the halls were cavernous.
Here is what you need to know about Surfaces: Traffic was one of three things—up, down or flat. Ridiculous statement? Maybe. But no more ridiculous than trying to judge the show based on a handful of perspectives of people traversing the show floor at any given time.
Here’s why. First, the show was on two levels, so the attendees are spread out. Second, both the morning and afternoon educational seminars overlapped show hours, taking show goers off the floor. Third, with many major companies choosing to have product showrooms adjacent to the show floor—Armstrong, Congoleum, Pergo, Mohawk’s Western Regional—attendees were spread out over the vast Mandalay Bay convention center. Fourth, given that just about every retailer has cut staff over the last four years, many cannot afford to be out of their stores for multiple days. So I’m sure in many instances people who once came for two or three days may have only come for a day or day-and-a-half. That creates the sense of a lesser crowd, but it’s one of those things where perception is not reality. Fifth, the show empties out between noon and 1:30 p.m. for lunch.
Now, consider this: If every company brought three people last year and two this year, attendance would officially be down 33%. Does that matter? It’s all about quality and not quantity. Exhibitors prefer one serious buyer to five tire kickers any day of the week.
Here’s what does matter:
1. Almost every exhibitor with whom I spoke was more than satisfied with the show. They were doing business, they were picking up distributors, they were selling displays. Most claimed to be very busy, at least for the first day-and-a-half.
2. For the first time Hanley Wood, taking a page from NeoCon’s playbook, gave exhibitors the opportunity to reserve space for Surfaces 2013 before the curtain fell on this year’s edition. The initiative was successful in that about 35% of the show floor is already booked. Among the companies that have already secured space are Beaulieu, Mannington, Home Legend and Earthwerks.
3. The FCNews booth attracted more attendees than the last two years combined. How do I know? For one, I have my sight. Two, we had more Award of Excellence ballots and subscription cards filled out than the last two years combined. And trust me, it was not because we had a better location on the show floor.
4. The seminar rooms that housed the extensive education program were indicative of a better crowd. By Hanley Wood’s own admission, the rooms last year were about half-full while this year it was more like two-thirds full.
5. The energy and optimism on the show floor was higher than it’s been in years. I
believe in my heart of hearts the people who suggest this was not a good show either have not attended in a few years or have an agenda. I’ve heard some retail group executives practically sound the show’s death knell, but they are also the ones who tell their members not to attend and dream of it going the way of the dinosaur. The last thing they would want to do is stir up member interest in Surfaces.
So now I ask you: How was it?