So, another Surfaces is in the books. What’s this for me? No. 19? Seems like only yesterday I was walking aimlessly around the Sands Convention Center in 1995. All I remember saying to myself was, “I traded in my career in horse racing for this?” In retrospect, it was the best decision I ever made.
Surfaces. How is it possible, dear diary, for something to be so exhilarating and exhausting at the same time? Such a juxtaposition. Yet every year it seems to be over in a flash. How busy were we? Four days in Vegas and not one wager on a horse race, not one bet placed on a single game. Thirty minutes of three-card poker and a few rolls of the dice were it.
Inevitably, I was repeatedly asked, “How are you finding the show?” before the person opines his or her thoughts. Here’s what I’ve realized, and it is the same every year: Everyone is positive, except those suppliers who chose to walk the floor in lieu of exhibiting. Maybe they feel the need to justify their decision to sit on the sidelines?
So what were my thoughts on the show? First, I thought attendance was healthy. The Hanley Wood folks reported a 4% increase. At times I thought it was greater than that. You see, dear diary, the show is much more spread out than what we were accustomed to at the Sands. You have numerous product showrooms off the show floor that attract attendees throughout the day and some large companies take advantage of this—Armstrong, Tarkett, Congoleum and Formica, to name a few. You have some educational sessions that overlap show hours. Then there’s lunch, which will take many people off the show floor between 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. If you’re not looking at the food court or Mexican place, you are walking. And waiting. Finally, the Mandalay Bay is unlike the Sands in that it is not so easy to traverse from upstairs to downstairs. Count the number of people in the hallways at any given time next year and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
So why do I believe this was the strongest Surfaces in quite some time, dear diary? In a word, exhibitors. Not one with whom I spoke was disappointed. Some said they saw more people the first day than they did the entire show last year. Others cited the quality of attendee—the proverbial buyer vs. tire kicker. Many mentioned the optimism that seemed to permeate the entire show.
The next question I’m constantly asked is what I took away from the show. Well, anyone who did not spend the last week of January in a coma realized Surfaces was all about LVT and soft carpet. Specific companies? I loved what IVC did with its “city” theme. Thought Quick•Step’s booth brought some creativity to the party. Beaulieu and Dreamweaver totally got their points across with their Indulgence and Cashmere soft collections, respectively. While not a household name, Provenza had some of the neatest wood collections on the show floor, some reclaimed, some color infused. You never walk away from Emser or Crossville’s booth disappointed. And that’s just off the top of my head.
I also thought exhibitors did more this year to attract attendees. I’m thinking about “The Magic of Max,” where a magician wowed the crowd at the Max Windsor booth. I’m thinking the 3-D theme at the Kane Carpet and White Oak spaces. I could go on and on.
Those who were there witnessed it all; those who did not, well, there’s always next year.