March 28/April 4, 2016; Volume 30, Number 20
NWFA looks to ‘Floor It!’ at upcoming Expo
By Reginald Tucker
Charlotte, N.C.—In a city known for its rabid motorsports fan base, National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) is aiming to get specialty hardwood flooring contractors, suppliers and retailers revved up for the 2016 Wood Flooring Expo, which kicks off April 27–30 at the Charlotte Convention Center here.
Drawing the connection between automotive racing jargon and hardwood industry puns, the NWFA’s theme for the 2016 Expo—“Floor It!”—is meant to reflect the association’s forward progress as it seeks to build on its track record of a successful trade show and convention events. NWFA is billing the Expo as the “only show dedicated exclusively to wood flooring” with professionals from across the globe showcasing the industry’s latest products and services all under one roof.
“This year’s Expo will continue NWFA’s momentum for show growth,” said Michael Martin, president and CEO of the association. “The trade show floor has been sold out for a number of weeks, our hotel block is nearly at capacity and we’re on track to grow attendance again by double digits in 2016.”
According to Martin, 2016 marks the fifth consecutive year for significant growth of the NWFA Expo and for the association in general. (For the sold-out 2016 show 273 companies reserved 485 booth spaces.) He attributes the strong trend to efforts to rebuild the conference and exhibition while strengthening the services the organization provides for its members to help them succeed.
“We really value early indicators such as these to let us know we are on track,” Martin stated. “The industry has come together, especially in recent years, and set an increasingly high bar for Expo. We aim to exceed it.”
It appears the association is on course to do just that. The NWFA Expo was recognized by Trade Show Executive magazine as one of the top 50 fastest growing shows from 2012 to 2014. In each of those years the event grew an average of 25%. Furthermore, both conference registrations and hotel reservations increased compared to the group’s 30th anniversary Expo in St. Louis last year.
One element that keeps attendees coming back is the educational component. For this year’s Expo—which is sponsored by 3M and Flooring Pro Fastening—participants can choose from 20-plus sessions that cover topics such as marketing and sales, technical skills, architects/designers and business management. According to show organizers, the courses were developed to “unlock long-term opportunities for NWFA members” while fostering professional growth.
Exhibitors are geared to go
With so many activities planned for the NWFA Expo—both on and off the show floor—exhibitors are preparing for what promises to be a dynamic event. To that end, vendors have high expectations as they look to connect with a captive audience.
“Each year, the NWFA Expo is a perfect opportunity for networking and discussing industry issues with others,” said Luc Robitaille, vice president of marketing at Boa-Franc, makers of the Mirage brand.
“We can compare how we’re doing and look for ways to better address consumers’ needs. With all the industry players in attendance at this event, we get a real feel for industry trends in products and marketing.”
Over and above Boa-Franc’s expectations for this event, Robitaille believes the NWFA Expo represents an invaluable opportunity for the company to show its support for the association, “which—I would like to underscore—does a remarkable job training and promoting wood flooring,” he said.
Boa-Franc is not alone in its outlook for the NWFA Expo. Wickham Hardwood Flooring will also be making the trek from Canada to Charlotte as it seeks to expand its customer base. “We expect a lot of people will come to the show to see what we’re offering,” said Randy McCullough, public relations coordinator for Wickham. “We’re also hoping dealers and distributors will take advantage of the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar to the Canadian dollar.”
Like many other vendors, Wickham views the NWFA Expo as a great opportunity to secure new business while catching up with existing customers. In fact, the company is already gearing up to develop more business having recently hired additional salespeople to cover new territories, McCullough reports. His only wish is for an extension of the show hours in order to maximize face-to-face time with customers.
For other exhibitors such as Lauzon, the NWFA Expo acts as a platform for building momentum in the marketplace. “In the beginning of 2015 we were at the IBS [International Builders’ Show] and we won the Best Green product [for Pure Genius], so that’s the first thing we’re going to bring at NWFA,” said Yves Myrand, vice president of sales and marketing. “This is going to be a huge opportunity for us.”
Of course, the annual NWFA Expo wouldn’t be the event that it has come to be without the tremendous variety of new product innovations on display on the show floor. From light wire-brushing techniques to more aggressive hand-scraped surface treatments, low-luster oil finishes and fashionable “domestic exotic” species, vendors will be showcasing all of the trending looks that are in line with consumer preferences.
At the Mirage booth, for example, the focus will be on a new line of 7 ¾-inch-wide planks in lengths up to 82 inches. The new planks are available as part of its popular Imagine, Flair and Sweet Memories collections in maple, red oak and white oak.
Lauzon will highlight a new ¾-inch engineered product designed to address “cupping” issues common in some ¾-inch solid products. “This was developed specifically for contractors who told us they needed a product to deal with these issues,” Myrand noted.
Engineered products will also be the focal point at the Wickham space, which will feature a scaled-down version of the award-winning, eye-catching rustic timber frame booth displayed at Surfaces. “We will be showing a lot more engineered at the show this year—that’s what we’ve been concentrating on with our current lines,” McCullough explained. The company’s popular Mountain Home Collection as well as its new wire-brushed line will be featured as well.
And let’s not forget about the niche suppliers such as Olde Wood, which plans to unveil three new custom, prefinished wide plank flooring collections, including Reclaimed Antique, Traditional Plank and Mustang Collection. The latter consists of Stallion Plank, a distressed line featuring nail holes and variations of color, surfaces and grain patterns; and Filly Plank, which offers a more refined look with its smooth surfaces, characterized by a moderate, authentic mix of sound cracks, nail holes and variances in color.
When it comes to showcasing product at NWFA, “there is no better audience than people who are just as excited about flooring as we are,” said Kris Young, Olde Wood’s director of sales.
For a complete list of NWFA exhibitors or to register for the show, visit nwfaexpo.org.