Return of major players to show floor fuels excitement
February 1/8; Volume 30/Number 16
By Ken Ryan
Las Vegas—The International Surface Event (TISE) was up 10% in attendance this year, its highest yearly increase in nearly a decade. But that was just a number. What really defined Surfaces 2016 was the kind of energy and excitement that many attendees had not experienced for some time.
“It was over the top for us,” said Keith Campbell, chairman of Mannington, which celebrated its 100th anniversary with a constellation of new products and off-the-floor events.
“Surfaces is alive and breathing,” said Tom Lape, president of Mohawk Residen-tial, which made a triumphant return to Surfaces. “It’s all about energy and excitement, and we had plenty of that here. We were quite pleased with the turnout.”
Flooring dealers felt the positive vibe as well. “I thought the show was the best it has been in a number of years,” said Jim Mudd, president and owner of Sam Kinnaird’s Flooring, Louisville, Ky. “I thought having Mohawk and Armstrong and a few others back on the main floor again was absolutely great.”
For the second straight year, TISE coincided with Design and Construction Week, which featured the co-location with the International Builder Show (IBS) and Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS). For Informa Exhibitions, owners and operators of TISE, Surfaces more than exceeded expectations. “The show was amazing on all fronts,” said Amie Gilmore, show director. “Exhibitors blew it away with their fantastic new booth designs and fabulous new marketing campaigns. We booked a record amount of space on site this year for the 2017 show.”
The one-floor layout was generally positive although some found the positioning of StonExpo, which included large stone fabrication machines in the center of the showroom, rather odd. That being said, there was a reason for the placement. Gilmore explained that there is access to outside air and water in only that part of the hall, so in order for the machines to function for demonstration they needed to be kept there. “However, from what we heard and saw, [with this layout] many attendees saw exhibitors and products they may never have seen before,” she said.
Mudd agreed. “I really felt the best part of this year’s show was having everyone on one floor. I saw suppliers that I always try to get to but being on another floor it never happens.”
Exhibitors were almost universally impressed with the traffic and the quality of the appointments. “My internal gauge on traffic is how often I can step off the floor, and Wednesday and Thursday I had zero chance,” said Dan Phelan, vice president of marketing, Northwest regional VP, The Dixie Group. “We were definitely a destination over here.”
Dan Natkin, senior director, residential products for Mannington, said the return of Armstrong and Mohawk added to the overall success. “I think it solidifies the value of the show,” he said. “Our sales have been through the roof. Almost double what we did last year.”
Surfaces was not lacking for product innovations across all categories, including the burgeoning WPC, a subsegment of LVT, which seemed to be cropping up everywhere.
While FCNews will cover the specific product categories throughout this issue, following is an overview of each group:
While it is no secret that carpet is not growing as fast as hard surfaces, there are segments within carpet that are flourishing, according to David Duncan, senior vice president of marketing and residential operations, Mohawk Industries. “Style and design is what is growing, and the mid to upper end of the market with an emphasis on styled-pattern unique looks is what’s selling.”
Mohawk offered dealers plenty of high-end goods in its grand return to Surfaces. It showed new collections and line extensions of its three carpet fiber platforms—triexta, PET and nylon. Specifically, Mohawk introduced Natural Surroundings, the next generation of SmartStand Silk, featuring a lower-luster treatment that helps eliminate footprints. “A lot of high-end retailers said if we could de-luster it they could sell it,” Duncan said.
Indeed, low-luster yarns were in at Surfaces. Invista showed low-luster yarns in 10 new constructions to achieve a wool/silk look. Others are following suit. “Dixie has done a nice job of blending low and high luster fibers to get that silk yarn effect,” said T.M. Nuckols, senior director of product strategy for Invista, which shared booth space with The Dixie Group.
To remain relevant, carpet mills know they have to excite the masses with styling and colors that are going to wow consumers. To that end, niche mills including Stanton and Kane Carpet pushed innovations to the forefront at Surfaces with impressive new looks and vibrant colors that did not go unnoticed. In fact, Stanton captured a Best of Surfaces award in the Style & Design category for Sound Waves.
The growth of hard surfaces has re-invigorated the rug category, and in so doing has created add-on sales opportunities for dealers. Several mills unveiled new custom rug programs; in many cases the rugs are cut to order from broadloom.
What came first, LVT or Surfaces? It’s hard to tell these days as an increasing amount of the resilient offering continues to take share of the show floor. Seemingly every hard surface manufacturer is trying to come out with the next big thing in LVT, which appears to be WPC, also known as composites, enhanced vinyl, engineered flooring, etc.
While USFloors’ COREtec is the leader in the composite game, both major and niche companies are introducing their own takes on the subcategory. Differences range from small variations like the color of plank backing to major construction dissimilarities like composition of the product’s core (this is where the WPC argument comes in as many of these offerings don’t contain wood—the “w”).
“There is a lot of hybrid flooring, but the common thread is the decorative LVT top,” said John Wu, president and CEO, Novalis. “LVT is still the best looking synthetic floor you can find, plus it is easy to maintain and durable. LVT is the all-encompassing category and will continue to grow. WPC’s popularity will simply help push LVT to the next level.”
Visuals in tile continue to impress with new trends emerging in addition to unique spins on old favorites. Wood looks, for example, remain popular without any hint of diminishing. “Of course, wood looks are still trending,” said April Wilson, director of brand marketing, Dal-Tile. “It continues to increase in popularity and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.”
Brick looks and hexagons also came into play on the show floor with larger formats taking the stage. Neutrals and grays are warming up with optimism in the design community giving way to brighter colors. “Neutrals are always going to be around,” said Lindsey Waldrep, vice president of marketing for Crossville. “When you’re making decorating decisions in a [changing] economy you are going to stick with something that will always be timeless. When things are good, people are willing to take risks, and brighter colors are riskier as far as trends go.”
This year, manufacturers are focused on selling a whole room vs. a floor. This was seen throughout the tile category by way of new merchandising systems and products suitable for numerous applications. “By layering textures and finishes you create a much more dramatic space,” said Kim Albrecht, senior brand marketing manager at Dal-Tile. “This is what homeowners want, but they don’t know how to achieve it so our dealers are important in helping to pull the look together.”
Hardwood introductions at Surfaces continued to reflect the broader, industry-wide trend toward wider widths and random lengths, combined with low-luster matte finishes designed to bring out the natural characteristics of various wood species. Another common theme across the show floor was the application of double-staining processes augmented by wire brushing.
“Wire brushing is still trending very heavily,” said Tammy Perez, director, hard surface, Mohawk. As a case in point, she cited two “show stoppers”: the American Vintique and American Design collections. Both lines feature the popular wire brushing, double-staining process as well as the company’s signature ArmorMax finish.
Other creative applications of staining techniques and color combinations also drew a lot of attention at the show. At Mannington’s booth, for example, visitors were treated to several installations featuring mixed stains and colors to create what Dan Natkin, senior director, residential products, called a “visual patchwork” for the consumer or designer.
“When you look across the different species we have here, you’ll notice there’s a lot of color play,” he explained. “We’re mixing the stains, each one-third in a carton, to create even more interest.”
In terms of texture, manufacturers continued to promote the popular hand-scraped look but with a twist—the trend is moving toward more subtle scraping treatments compared to the aggressive techniques seen in years past.
“Bigger is better” took on a whole new form this year through thicker products with many companies launching 14 mil collections. Reclaimed and rustic looks continue to increase in popularity with an emphasis on clean, contemporary textures. Whereas high gloss has been the go-to look in the past, manufacturers said matte finishes are trending.
Introduced last year, the popular mix of gray and beige (called “greige”) remains prominent with whites, white washes and European-style lighter colors being added to the mix for those regions interested in coastal themes.
Following in the footsteps of hardwood, extra randomness and variation was evident throughout the show floor with mixed widths, multiple lengths and even multiple species represented within one product.
These trends are not just for the floor, however; many manufacturers cited projects their dealers have completed in which laminate is used on walls as full-feature presentations.