Surfaces continues to evolve, offering more value and extending its reach

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Volume 27/Number 19; January 20/27, 2014

Executive Interview

When the floor covering industry converges in Las Vegas from Jan. 27 to 30 for The International Surface Event, the Super Bowl of flooring, it will find an event jam-packed with opportunity. First, it will find the debut of TileExpo, which has attracted more ceramic and stone exhibitors to the show. Attendees will also find more education, both off the show floor and on, as well as a bevy of exhibitors showcasing their latest and greatest. FCNews publisher Steven Feldman recently sat down with show associate director Amie Gilmore for a preview.

 

Given the improved economy and, with it, optimism throughout the industry, are you anticipating a nice increase in attendance at Surfaces 2014?

We have definitely seen an uptick in preregistration. Attendees are booking their housing, registering and making a commitment to come to the show. I believe we are on track to have a very successful event.

 

What do you feel are some of the primary goals of Surfaces?

Our show is known as a buying show with new product introductions. We hope exhibitors showcase their new products, meet and develop new contacts and have a great time networking with the industry at the same time.

 

What are you most excited about for Surfaces 2014?

I’m most excited to introduce the newly launched and rebranded International Surface Event to the industry— now that we have added TileExpo to the mix. Surfaces and StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas are strong events so we are positive that the addition of TileExpo will create more synergies between the shows, bring additional and new exhibitors and grow our attendee base.

 

How has TileExpo been received?

We’ve been pleased with the response. In the few months since the announcement of the launch, we have signed up new tile companies and some are returning after a number of years. And we have had conversations with many more companies about exhibiting, if not in this year’s show, then they have expressed interest in participating next year as well as at The International Surface Event East in October in Miami. We’ve also been able to add more tile education to the show floor as well as the education program.

 

What’s new at the show this year?

There are several new things. We are hosting an Emerging Professionals happy hour on Wed., Jan. 28, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. It’s a networking event to engage some of the newcomers in the industry where they can discuss ideas, business endeavors, maybe even how they may have handled like problems in the past. We also have a new tile certification area on the show floor, sponsored by the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation, where tile installers can learn industry installation standards and techniques. We are also working with the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) on a program in conjunction with the National Hardwood Lumber Association where children from Las Vegas will come to the show and perform a song called “Truth About Trees. ” The lyrics explain how using wood is not a bad thing and is actually good for the earth. They will be coming in on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. to perform on The Event Main Stage.

 

Talk a little about the mindset behind the Emerging Professionals event.

We talk a lot about succession planning because we have many family businesses in this industry. So, with that, there are a lot of “up and comers” in the industry. Who better whom to share stories with than each other? We want to have programs for this audience and let them knowthere is a place for them at the show. We not only want to have programs for them to learn, but also to network.

 

The Business Enrichment Center is back for 2014. I’m assuming it was a hit last year?

We launched that at Surfaces 2013 and it was well received. For those retailers who can’t get off the show floor, they can take a break and learn something in these education programs right on the exhibit hall floor. The Business Enrichment Center offers quick snippets in a show floor environment.

 

The Social Media Lounge is back as well?

This was also launched last year and very well received. We have 15-minute mini sessions on social media, how to use it in your business and incorporate it into your plans. This year the plan is to have the lounge look more like an Apple store. We will have iPads and also free Wi-Fi where retailers can check their email.

 

You also launched a Surfaces app last year, which you’re doing again. Talk about some of the app’s capabilities.

First, I want to mention that FCA Network and Dreamweaver are the app’s two largest sponsors. As for the capabilities, attendees can plan their day, find exhibitors’ booth numbers and navigate throughout the event. This year there is a new GPS feature that can take attendees from point A to point B. They can also learn more about the exhibitors, all of which have profiles. As well, attendees can find an education schedule as well as housing.

 

Surfaces in recent years has had a stigma of being a West Coast show in terms of attendance. Is there any truth to that?

With any show—regional or international—you are going to have a natural draw within a 350-mile radius in addition to the rest of the country and internationally. However, in 2013, we not only saw an increase in East Coast, Midwest and Southeast attendance, but international as well.

 

So, if you are getting representation from the East Coast, talk about the mindset behind Surfaces East.

One of the things we are looking to do with Surfaces East is provide a gateway to Latin America and South America, as well as attendees in the Southeast and Northeast who don’t travel to Las Vegas. Back in 2007, when we launched StonExpo East in Atlanta, our research revealed that thousands of attendees came to that event and didn’t travel to Vegas. We are also looking to attract manufacturers and distributors that may not do business in the West, or that specialize in commercial products.

 

Some flooring manufacturers question the timing, wondering what their focus should be.

The January event has always been geared around new products and will continue to do so. It’s the first show of the year, and that’s all about new products. By having an additional event, they can showcase some of the products they have already introduced to a new audience, and if they have a commercial focus, bring those products as well.

 

Have you gotten many flooring manufacturers to commit?

Right now we have many of the Wools of New Zealand companies signed up, like Stanton and Prestige Mills. We have several association partners on board as well, including Surfaces show sponsor World Floor Covering Association, StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas show sponsor Marble Institute of America and the National Wood Flooring Association. We will have a pretty good gauge on participation when we leave Las Vegas, where exhibiting companies can book space for The International Surface Event East.

 

Talk a little about next year, when the show is going to be part of Design and Construction Week.

First, the show will be held one week earlier, Jan. 21-23, 2015, as it is co-dating with the International Builders Show (IBS), Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) and Las Vegas Market. There is nothing like that in the world that brings together such a large exhibitor and attendee base. It’s six events filled with exhibitors and education. This is important because attendees can come to Las Vegas one time and see everything that’s new in flooring, stone and tile, anything new in the home building industry, as well as kitchen and bath design. There will be thousands of exhibitors and hundreds of education programs to choose from. We will be cross-badging and running shuttles between Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas Market and the Las Vegas Convention Center. So it’s really an opportunity for exhibitors to take advantage—book space at Surfaces and you will have access to all these people. We will be doing cross marketing.

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