January 8/15, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 15
By Lindsay Baillie
Atlanta—The Southeast Flooring Market, now in its second year, was held Jan. 3-4 at the Cobb Galleria Centre here, exemplifying the importance of regional shows to the independent flooring retailer. Attended by 1,069 dealers from 19 states—a 52% increase from 2017—the market boasted 65 exhibitors showcasing both hard and soft surfaces.
The show was unofficially born to piggyback on Shaw and Mohawk’s Southeast regionals, the only time in which both are held in the same venue. In the past, smaller suppliers would show product in various meeting rooms throughout the convention center and adjoining hotel. But last year trade show company Market Maker Events was asked to come in and organize the smaller exhibitors in its own ballroom with Shaw and Mohawk as the bookends.
“The Cobb Galleria came to us and said, ‘This has grown past our ability to manage it,’” said Lori Kisner, managing partner, Market Maker Events. “Because of the proximity to Dalton, this has helped draw more exhibitors and attendees. It’s easier for someone to just drive down.”
Kisner and her team attribute the large number of attendees that made the trip this year to both old-school marketing initiatives and exhibitor outreach efforts. “We made over 8,000 telephone calls starting Nov. 1 and sent out two direct emails. We also reached out to the manufacturers and asked who they wanted to be there. We really pushed [the manufacturers] to invite their customers.”
When the dust settled, the market attracted attendees from Virginia to Florida and over to Louisiana. “As a by-product of our marketing we have a lot [of people] from Indiana, Michigan and a couple from Minnesota,” Kisner explained. “Our biggest pick-up is from North and South Carolina and Tennessee—because we we’re really focusing on those states.”
The Southeast Flooring Market saw growth not only in attendees but exhibitors as well, more than doubling the count of 28 in 2017. This number is only expected to increase in 2019, which is fine because in addition to another hall at its disposal, the show also has approximately 10,000 square feet it can occupy in its existing hall.
“We’re going to grow with this event,” Kisner stated. “We’re going to let it evolve to what it needs to. Our goal is for people to leave this event saying, ‘This was a great show.’”
While growth is certainly a goal, Kisner wants it to stay a Southeast show. However, she is interested in developing additional regional shows throughout the United States.
Attendees see the value
Veteran attendees took note of the event’s increased traffic. “I’ve watched the show grow from literally nothing,” said Sandy Mishkin, board of directors, CCA Global Partners. “I think this show is only going to get bigger and better.”
Eddie Brown, owner of My Little Store, a mom-and-pop store based in Crossville, Tenn., felt the show’s larger presence was a bit overwhelming. “It’s almost too much to see.” He attends the Southeast Flooring Market each year to meet with manufacturers his store is already doing business with. “We also enjoy seeing the other dealers and sharing best practices.”
For first-time attendee Rhonda Kennedy of Carol’s Interiors and Floors, Homosassa Spring, Fla., the Southeast Flooring Market provided an affordable, easy-to-get-to venue. Her store, which was destroyed by fire a couple of years ago, is preparing to reopen and she is looking to restock. “The show has been very informative. There is so much product to see.”
What sets this show apart from a national event, attendees say, is the amount of time attendees can spend with the vendors. “From the manufacturers I’ve spoken to, unlike at [national shows], you can spend a good amount of time talking with your customers,” Mishkin stated. “There’s more of an intimate atmosphere.”
While the Southeast Flooring Market might seem like a potential competitor for larger, more inclusive events such as Surfaces, Kisner suggested both events actually complement each other. “Regional shows can sometimes help national shows. You can’t look at them as competitors; you have to look at it as they can coexist. You have small retailers who are never going to make it to a national show. Being able to give them options helps.”