February 2/9, 2015; Volume 28/Number 16
By Jenna Lippin
Las Vegas—The National Floorcovering Alliance’s (NFA) annual Specialty Vendor Showcase, which is held on the afternoon before the start of Surfaces, featured a record 38 vendors, about half of which were first-time exhibitors, according to president Dave Snedeker, division merchandise manager of Nebraska Furniture Mart.
“It’s a great outpouring, and that really comes from our members,” he said. “Our members reach out to these specialty vendors they are working with and let them know they should be involved with a bigger group. There are companies some of us had no knowledge of that could be valuable resources in 2015. We’ve got some diamonds in the rough here that we can really capitalize on.”
First-time exhibitors included Diversified Industries, which was highlighting its Floor Muffler underlayment. Vice president of sales Jeffrey Castor said it seemed to make sense to show at the event given that the company was exhibiting at Surfaces anyway.
“What motivated us to become [an NFA vendor] is that the group consists of the industry’s largest retailers, and most of them are buying direct and not through a typical distribution network,” he explained. “It was important for us to try to capture this business and develop a relationship with these retailers. We got our first new customer based out of Canada that has five retail stores. The second person who walked in our booth made a large order. [Exhibiting here] is definitely worthwhile.”
Novalis Innovative Flooring was also a first-time exhibitor, leveraging its representation of the Stainmaster LVT brand. As a number of NFA dealers are Stainmaster Flooring Centers, Novalis vice president Mark Hansen said there was a correlation that created a “great opportunity” for the company, connecting members and developing valuable relationships.
“We’ve never been involved with buying groups before, but this was just a wonderful scenario to get involved and learn,” he said.
With the strong showing of hard surface at the NFA event, Hansen explained that Novalis stood out from the rest because of its Stainmaster connection and its standing as a high-end producer out of China, complete with health product declarations (HPDs), environmental product declarations (EPDs) and the increasingly popular Declare label.
“Beyond that, we inventory our products in Calhoun, Ga., so we can give customers the best of both worlds: container-load programs and back-up stock, which doesn’t seem to be commonplace for overseas manufacturers.”
Hard surface did, in fact, stand out at the show, with many members responding positively to new products highlighted by exhibitors. For example, Gary Scheuermann, hard surface buyer for Nebraska Furniture Mart, said this year’s NFA Showcase was “one of the nicest setups.” What stood out to him were Provenza and Elegance, two hardwood companies that he decided to bring on board after seeing them at the show.
Sam Roberts, owner of Roberts Carpet & Fine Floors with nine locations in the Houston area, was interested in Stonewood’s 12-inch engineered product. “Wide widths, long lengths, sawn faces, distressed without scraping—that’s what is coming. I think [Stonewood] has done a nice job with that.” Also noted by Roberts was Dri-Tac’s Golden Bullet adhesive along with hand-stained, wide and long planks from Johnson Hardwood.
Overall, the NFA Showcase acts as an industry barometer for Roberts instead of a sales meeting. “I’m not here to make any deals; I’m here to see what I’m interested in.”
Jimmy Poulos, owner of Flooring 101 with four locations in Ventura County, Calif., noted the growing industry interest in composite product like USFloors’ COREtec. He cited his personal interest in Inhaus’ Zig, which was highlighted at the NFA event, as a composite that reflects the improvement of the category as it has become more popular. Hard surface is presenting a myriad of opportunities, Poulos said, as more people are putting it in the majority of their homes, with carpet reserved for bedrooms. “LVT requires less maintenance and will last 10 years instead of five [like carpet]. Plus, the area rug business is growing because people want to put them over hard surface.”
In terms of NFA goals in 2015, Snedeker intends to work on the group’s committee structure. “We need to solidify that just a little bit, making it more meaningful and getting more people involved—that is the key. We’ve got great people, a lot who want to improve and find ways to do so. Our goal is to find different ways of getting members involved, and working better and closer with our vendors.”
He noted the NFA had more people volunteering to be part of the board and leadership group at its last election than ever before. Snedeker plans to build upon that, continuing to follow the well-paved path created by the group’s last president, Phil Koufidakis, who runs the seven-location Baker Bros. chain in Phoenix.
“Phil did such a great job of getting us to where we are; my goal is to try to expand on that success. As the group gets bigger, one of the problems we have is that it gets less personal. The table we sit at gets bigger and we get farther away from each other. When it’s less personal people are afraid to speak up. This group’s strength is about being able to share, so my job is to make sure everybody knows each other better and makes the commitment so they’re not afraid to share in the group.”