Surfaces strategies: How to get the most out of your show experience

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January 19/26, 2015; Volume 28/Number 15

By Jenna Lippin

Navigating Surfaces is a daunting task. With two levels of show floors and numerous offshoot showrooms, attendees must spend their time planning and strategizing to be sure they make the most of their time at the event. Setting appointments, browsing product and attending education sessions are top of mind for most show visitors. FCNews spoke with some top flooring retailers who have been attending Surfaces for years for their expert advice on tackling the show.

Jon Pierce, Pierce Flooring & Design, Montana

What we want to do at the show is touch base with the entire industry, see what’s new and hopefully find products in addition to what we already have that will entice business. We also take in a couple of education sessions to see what we can do better, whether that’s marketing, product or sales.

We always visit certain manufacturers like Mohawk, Mannington, Armstrong and Beaulieu.

We have what we call “appointment time” and “roaming time,” where we roam the aisles and see what we’re attracted to, what’s new and what’s different. We have core vendors and non-core vendors that we kind of roam around to find.

Our buyers also make appointments, so there’s a little bit of both—looking for inventory and scheduling set appointments.


Gary Cissell, Mill Creek Carpet & Tile, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri

Our Surfaces strategy is pretty simple: We analyze our floor first and look at our gaps. With that, we have a specific running list of product we know we need, or our weaknesses. Then we schedule appointments around our weaknesses and try to fill those.

We’ll schedule some appointments in advance, but not all of them. We’ll try to leave some free time. I think in the past my biggest weakness was having so many appointments scheduled I was never left with any free time to go scout, to look for other products that might fill a niche. This time we’ll schedule some appointments but we’ll have some free time, too. We’ll have our list prepared.

Nick Freadreacea, The Flooring Gallery, Kentucky and Indiana

The biggest thing for me at the show is to see if there’s something new and different out there. The difference with Surfaces from regional shows is you get to see everything.

I try to see both large and small manufacturers. Sometimes the little guys have the best ideas. I book up the entire time we go; it’s pretty solid every hour on the hour. I try to get a map so I can get them as close together as possible. For example, if you’re seeing Daltile on the first floor then Beaulieu on the main floor, you’ve got quite a walk. If you’re late you miss your spot and someone else is already there.

I definitely like to talk to other retailers [at the show]. Some are friends.

As far as [education] seminars, I go through the schedule and book those ahead of time. Education is absolutely important. They talk about everything from new installation techniques to new colors.

Deb DeGraaf, DeGraaf Interiors, Michigan

I think the biggest and most important thing for Surfaces is to go with an agenda. Go with appointments and go with questions versus winging it. There is so much to see in such a short period of time that I think you can get lost in all of the products and not really accomplish much at all. If your objective is to buy, then focus on the buying. If your focus is to expand a showroom or a product line, then keep with your objective. To me securing appointments and allowing yourself ample time for those appointments is what makes Surfaces a success.

Our objective this year relates to our recent membership with the National Floorcovering Alliance (NFA). For us that will be our biggest focus, getting to all those vendor partners. It is an opportunity to continue to develop relationships.


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