Improving economy gives show best feeling in years
by FCNews staff
Las Vegas—Immediately after the curtain was raised on the stage that was Surfaces 2012, it was apparent to everyone from manufacturers to contractors to retailers that something was different in the air at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.
The show held a feeling of renewed optimism for the flooring industry, according to insiders from all ends of the flooring spectrum. And renewed optimism wasn’t the only thing that was a highlight at Surfaces this year. Hanley Wood, owners of the show, claimed a 10% in-crease in attendance, while exhibitors and attendees alike noted steady traffic throughout the three-day event.
“You could tell something is changing and the overall mood of the people was better,” said Scott Levy, executive vice president of operations for Scranton, Pa.-based Arley Wholesale, a tile distributor.
Jeff Train, vice president of operations for EarthWerks, echoed this sentiment and also told FCNews there is buzz about the remodel industry making a small comeback in 2012. “The mood has been positive; people seem to be a little more optimistic all over. There are a lot of people wanting to remodel. They realize they are going to be in their homes for a while.”
Lindsay Ann Waldrep, vice president of marketing for Crossville, said not only did she notice the mood change but also saw distributors and retailers were arming themselves with knowledge to help better their businesses. “The people we saw at our booth were not only interested in new product but also in learning more about programs such as our contractor-focused 5-star rebate program, social media and how Crossville’s Q2R program can benefit retailers.” She cited high interest in Structure, a new launch. “For Crossville, Surfaces was fantastic. Structure, which received amazing feedback at the show and from our distributors, took center stage.”
Kelly Cooper, marketing manager for Surfaces, called this year’s edition “the best Surfaces in the last four to five years. There was a different type of energy on the show floor than in recent years. You could see a difference in the attendees’ faces, the conversations they were having on the show floor, the engagement with the exhibitors. There seemed to be a lot of activity and a high level of business being conducted. There was definitely more spring in the attendees’ steps.”
The return of Mohawk to Surfaces, albeit its Western regional event held in a large ballroom adjacent to the show floor, also created a buzz. Signage seemed to be everywhere, and an unannounced flash mob in the middle of the show floor on day one signaled the company’s presence at the show.
Unofficially, more than 600 retailers registered for the Mohawk regional, and it can be assumed just about all found their way to the show floor. “I think that was an absolute bonus for the show,” Cooper said. “It solidifies the importance of Surfaces and how critical it is for the entire industry to be there. Surfaces is the industry event that everyone needs to support.”
Arley’s Levy said Surfaces gave him the chance to see some great products and catch up with key people before tile’s big show, Coverings. “We did see some fabulous introductions from one of our Chinese factories, and we solidified some projects that we have been working on. We had very productive meetings with our domestic factories and are encouraged by their production capabilities and their attention to detail.”
There were also a number of first timers on both the exhibitor and attendee side that were impressed with what the show held for them. “This is the first time we’ve exhibited at Surfaces and we’re very happy with the overall reception from attendees; it’s gone very well,” said Rachel Coleridge-Smith, marketing and events manager for Super-Click, an LVT manufacturer that was debuting its patented locking system to the North American market.
This year marked HomerWood’s first time back at the show since 2006, according to Wendy Wescoat, marketing manager, who called the event a success for the company. “We [had] a wonderful show. This is a great stage for us to show off our new products and talk with distributors and dealers about HomerWood’s unique story of Amish craftsmanship combined with cutting-edge design and service.”
Nancy Jackson, president, Architectural Systems, added, “For a small, first-time exhibitor it’s been a very rewarding show for us. The overall reaction from attendees has been nothing but positive.”
First-time Surfaces attendee and contractor Rob Gee of Property Solutions, based in Bodega Bay, Calif., scoured the show floor on the first day and was able to go back and snatch up the goods he feels will make a difference in his market. “We were seeking products with visuals that have texture and have found what we are looking for.”
As always, Surfaces 2012 gave retailers something to be excited about in terms of product introductions. “I went into Surfaces with the thought laminate is dead, or a dying category,” said Gary Cissel, director of flooring for Nebraska Furniture Mart in Omaha. “When I got to the show, I was pleasantly surprised with the level of innovation I saw in the laminate category. Very impressive—it was good to see.”
Sam Roberts, owner of Roberts’ Carpet & Fine Floors in Houston, saw a multitude of new offerings at Surfaces that got him excited for 2012. “I think the new Stainmaster TruSoft fiber has outstanding potential for the better goods portion of the carpet business. Dixie’s array of those products is extremely handsome. And Gulistan had a new, flecked cut-pile that was on the floor in its booth and in Stainmaster’s as well. I thought the item was a nice take on that look and was very well colored and tailored.”
Marjorie Benson of Friendly Floors in Port Charlotte, Fla., not only was able to see some of the industry’s newest offerings but was also able to make a connection that could lead to better business for her retail store. “I was excited about the [Beaulieu] Bliss products I saw and Couristan has some nice new things. I found a wood flooring company called Urban Floors that I would not have found had I not come here; they are not distributed in my region in Florida, so I’ll be able to buy direct from the manufacturer. In our area, wood floors have gotten more popular.”
In addition to the new products on the show floor, the educational seminars were a hit with attendees. “Every year I take five or so classes,” said Roland Thompson of Kehne’s Carpet One in Frederick, Md. “This year there were so many good topics I took about eight classes and thought each one was excellent. I learned some new things and was reminded of stuff I already knew but needed to apply. The instructors were first class; they knew their topics.”
Surfaces 2012 also marked debut of the Best of Surfaces competition, the industry’s newest recognition program and one that is certain to become the benchmark for product innovation in the years to come at the premier trade show.
“The Best of Surfaces awards competition was another exciting thing we introduced this year that also furthered our partnership with Floor Covering News,” Cooper said. “It brings value to our exhibitors by allowing them an opportunity to gain recognition for the products and programs they bring to the industry. Surfaces is the most important industry event, and to be able to bestow upon our exhibitors a ‘best of’ award is a very high achievement.”
Cooper added that the Best of Surfaces competition was well received in terms of manufacturer interest. “We will improve upon it going forward, but it will certainly be a mainstay of the show in the years to come.”
Exhibitors step up for 2013
Another good indication of the show’s success was the interest in the 2013 edition, which will be held Jan. 28 to 31 at Mandalay Bay. For the first time, Surfaces had an on-site sales office offering savings to those exhibitors who re-signed prior to the close of Surfaces 2012. According to Cooper, 112 companies took advantage of the savings, and 35% of the space is already sold, with about 4,000 square feet representing companies taking larger spaces. “There are even three or four new exhibitors that took out space for next year based on the activity they saw this year.”
Surfaces will again be offering the product showroom option to exhibitors, something that has proven to be very successful in recent years. Unlike prevailing thought, the showroom option is no less expensive than exhibiting on the showroom floor; in fact, showroom space comes at a 15% premium, Cooper said.
“The product showroom option is working well for both exhibitors and Surfaces,” Cooper said. “Some companies want more of a personalized feel: things not so spread out. The companies that go this route like the ability to have semi-private spaces off the show floor and have more intimacy with their customers.
Alloc and All-Tile, for example, had great shows and have re-signed for next year.”