Surfaces 2015 plays to rave reviews

Home Inside FCNews Surfaces 2015 plays to rave reviews

Resounding positive sentiment motivates industry

February 2/9, 2015; Volume 28/Number 16 

By Steven Feldman

Las Vegas—“I was pleasantly surprised. It feels good again. It kind of reminds me of the old days. We came out of the tough times and there are no more frowns. People are jovial. They are smiling. If people are still standing, they are happy and cautiously optimistic about the year ahead.” So said Wade Bondrowski, director of sales at Mercier Wood Flooring, in what may perhaps be the best assessment of The International Surface Event (TISE) 2015.

Against the backdrop of the second annual Design & Construction Week—which this year featured the co-location of TISE, International Win-dow Coverings Expo and Las Vegas Market with the International Builders’ Show (IBS) and Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS)—exhibitors were quite pleased with TISE, both in terms of booth traffic and the quality of attendees, even if the numbers did not show an appreciable gain from last year’s event.

“Registration was pretty much flat from last year, but our exhibitors saw a significant influx of attendees from the Las Vegas Market, KBIS and IBS, people they normally would not have access to,” said Amie Gilmore, director, TISE. “They were coming over in busloads because we were running shuttles back and forth to all the shows.” She anticipated seeing more of those attendees on the final day of TISE given that the other shows closed on Thursday.

Gilmore believes TISE was stronger this year, not only because the show was up both in terms of space and number of exhibitors, but primarily because of the positive moods on the part of exhibitors and attendees. “The attendees are upbeat. Everybody feels they have been trucking along these last few years. Now they are feeling things are better and are optimistic about the coming year. We have been hearing there is a lot of business being done with exhibitors accumulating their largest number of leads in years.”

Indeed, exhibitors seconded Gilmore’s assessment. “I’ve been doing trade shows for 40 years, and this is the best show I’ve ever been part of,” said Mike Stupfel, president of Surface Art. “I’m not just talking about the traffic, but the quality of the customer at the booth. All the big hitters who weren’t in our camp are joining the fold now.”

Dan Natkin, senior director of residential products, Mannington, on Wednesday afternoon said the company had been “super busy” all day. “I don’t know if we’ve had more or less people [than last year], but in the sales deals I’ve been involved with, the purse strings have been untied a little bit.”

It was the same at USFloors, where Gary Keeble, product and marketing manager, told FCNews, “[Wednesday] was really busy, [Thursday] morning was really busy. We’ve done really well; it’s always a big show for us. Even when other people aren’t so busy we always seem to be.”

Thomas Trissl, president of HPS Schönox, was also pleased. “For us, the show has been very good; there was much more traffic. In the last two or three years, we got a lot of question marks about who we are. Now people are coming in with specific questions because they’ve heard of us and know what we’re capable of, especially when it comes to renovation.”

At the Kraus space, newly appointed president Ty West couldn’t have been more thrilled. “By 3 p.m. of the first day we had already eclipsed 2014 in terms of booked orders. This has been a fantastic show for us.”

Exhibitors also attested to the positive mood on the part of attendees. “The general mood seems to be upbeat—people feel more confident that this is going to be a better year and that, of course, is wonderful,” said Paul Murfin, co-CEO, IVC US. “Having said that, we’ve never been a company that relies on the economy or market—we’ve always grown against the odds. We’re less concerned about the economy and more concerned about what we do relative to the market and industry.”

Bill Schollmeyer, CEO of Johnson Hardwood, told FCNews, “We have had seriously good traffic. The mood is definitely upbeat, and that makes it fun. We’ve had a lot of buyers and bigger dealers. We sold containers, which is unusual for us.”

Peter Feldman, president of Prestige Mills, also found the retailers to be optimistic. “They are in a buying frame of mind and not afraid to make the investment.”

And Lori Kirk-Rolley, vice president of brand marketing, Dal-Tile, said there was “great energy” on the show floor this year. “When it comes to design, customers are taking more risks and trying new trends.”

As for exhibitor response to Design  & Construction Week, only a handful showed at multiple events. But for those who did, such as Armstrong, which also exhibited at IBS, there were certainly some logistical issues. “I have spoken with many people—competitors and others in the industry—and most do not like the shows held in conjunction,” said Mara Villanueva-Heras, vice president of residential marketing, Armstrong. “It has been difficult to get a cab and taking forever to get across town. And for those of us who display at both, it’s a challenge to manage both floors. Clearly you have a team to run each show, but there are certain people who need to be at both shows. We are trying to get Joe [Bondi] and Don [Maier] to IBS, which is across town, and they’ve got appointments here—it takes forever to get a cab.

“The challenge is the audiences typically aren’t the same,” she continued. “This show is primarily for flooring retailers in the flooring business. I have some former coworkers who are in the business but not in flooring who came not knowing about the show, heard ‘Surfaces’ and thought it was countertops, walls, etc., and came all the way expecting something different. If you’re going to combine KBIS and IBS, that’s a huge show. Coming here, it’s not the same people.”

Category overviews

While FCNews will cover the specific product categories throughout this issue, here is an overview of each segment:

Carpet

“Who let the dogs out?” might have been an appropriate theme for carpet companies at TISE; Stainmaster PetProtect seemed to be everywhere. A year ago, two mills carried PetProtect products; today nine do, and many of them expanded their portfolios at the show.

What some called the reintroduction of nylon into carpet was evident at the show. While polyester has been the dominant fiber since the recession, Engineered Floors is bringing nylon back into the conversation with new solution-dyed fibers. Both Engineered Floors, with its Dream Weaver brand, and Phenix introduced new products using solution-dyed fibers.

Retailers said the new visuals in pattern goods that resemble the woven goods of the past were impressive; several credited Lexmark with outstanding new introductions of these kinds.

Kane Carpet earned retail praise for its imported specialty patterns and use of vibrant colors; Camelot Royalty was cited for its distinctive designs.

Resilient

With LVT taking over the industry and sheet vinyl making a comeback, particularly fiberglass sheet, resilient manufacturers are seemingly taking more chances lately, having confidence that the market will respond well to most products emerging from the category. The most recent result of this movement? WPC (wood plastic composite).

While each company delving into composite products has a different name/classification for its own offering, all have a similar formula that aids in water resistance and ease of installation. The trailblazer in this subcategory is USFloors’ COREtec. The company has teamed up with Beaulieu America for the COREtec One line in its Bliss collection, while Shaw has released its own similar product called Floorté. And more companies are continuing to dip their toes into the composite pool, as was evident at the show.

Other than composites, wood/stone blends are hot in visuals, while larger-format planks and tiles are maintaining popularity. Many companies have also worked on developing product catalogs that include consistent looks across all constructions, making customization and product selection a breeze for end users.

Hardwood

Manufacturers continue to focus on delivering quality, fashion-forward styles for consumers who want the luxury feel of hardwood floors in their homes. This was apparent at TISE 2015, where rustic, distressed looks with dark tones and mixed or dual stains were on display.

The color spectrum for hardwood floors has never been broader, experts say, ranging from whitewashed to chocolate and everything in between. Floors with aged looks that might have been discarded a decade ago are now in vogue. Marked by scuffs and scratches, or made of reclaimed wood, this old, retro look was exceedingly popular at the show. Thanks to innovative new processes, manufacturers don’t have to look through an old house or barn for these boards—technology produces floors that have been treated to look reclaimed.

Wider/longer planks are no longer a trend, becoming mainstream. As well, handscraped was big five years ago, but is now standard, while matte finishes are trending.

Laminate

Whether they exhibited additional SKUs or completely new collections, laminate manufacturers brought only the best to TISE 2015. The most popular products took on the look of reclaimed wood with heavy attention placed on also having the feel of the real thing. Manufacturers utilized a number of design and 3-D digital printing techniques to provide the best imitation, down to the blade marks, beveled edges and high-variation planks. In fact, attendees responded to the visuals and textures exceptionally well.

In regard to visuals, influences of gray can still be seen while whitewashes and lighter woods like maple and oak are becoming more popular. To create an even more realistic wood look, high variation planks are trending this year. Longer and wider was the name of the game and multiple color tones could be seen on individual planks as well as throughout sets.

Ceramic tile

The big trend in tile is advances in inkjet technology, which allow for greater levels of realism in design. Wood looks are here to stay, manufacturers assured, and other printed looks such as marble, metal and fabric were abundant. Cutting-edge technology allows for higher resolutions, creating deeper textures, color variations and more differentiation between pieces.

Format size continues to grow, and “larger format” was one of the most repeated phrases throughout the three days.

The mixing of different mediums was another design trend seen at this year’s show, like square, glass mosaics paired with a larger format plank, creating contrasts of textures, colors and shapes.

The feeling amongst manufacturers was that of optimism looking forward into 2015. Companies are pushing boundaries in terms of technology and design, and consumers are taking more risks, more willing to put effort and style into their homes.

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