March 4/11, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 20
By Steven Feldman
I awoke on the morning of Feb. 28 to a torrential downpour. I took a peek out my downtown Atlanta hotel room window and watched as traffic began to build. It was the morning of Domotex USA’s much anticipated debut. Was this going to prove an ominous harbinger of things to come at the Georgia World Congress Center?
Two and a half days later, the jury was still out. Was Domotex USA a success? In a word, depends. Depends on the true expectations of show management. If expectations were that this would be a competitor to Surfaces, a show that would attract a throng of East Coast retailers, then Informa has nothing to worry about. If the goal was to connect manufacturers with manufacturers and manufacturers with distributors—that may be another story.
Many in this industry have been asking for my takeaways. Based on conversations I had with attendees and the exhibitors who gave the upstart show a shot, here’s what I gleaned…
1. The sentiment from exhibitors was the show was much too late. Domotex had no choice. Atlanta this year played host to the Super Bowl, rendering earlier dates impossible due to a scarcity of hotel accommodations. Next year’s show dates are Feb. 5-7, smack on the heels of Surfaces. Some told me they thought Domotex should have waited until 2020 to launch.
2. Basically every exhibitor told me they saw precious few retailers, and those they did see were local with maybe a scattering from Florida. Conversely, they were seeing small and mid-sized distributors and manufacturers. They called it a manufacturer networking show. It didn’t come as the greatest surprise given Domotex approached FCNews, the most influential publication for retailers, with a pittance of a budget compared to other shows that attempted to launch an East Coast event to promote to you—retailers. That didn’t inspire much confidence on our part. One manufacturer who requested anonymity said they brought more people to the show than retailers they saw.
3. I did see some high-profile retailers walking around. Floor & Décor had a contingent of about five people, and there was Jason McSwain, president of the National Floorcovering Alliance. Then again, Floor & Décor is based in nearby Smyrna, Ga.
4. Many manufacturers that passed on exhibiting chose to walk the show, taking the proverbial “wait-and-see” approach. Each and every one I spoke with told me attendance, or lack thereof, justified their decision—a decision that will not change for next year’s event.
5. On the other hand, most companies that did exhibit said they will return next year, believing they need to give Domotex USA a couple of years to prove its worth. And then there are companies like The Dixie Group, which will return because the Dalton-based company wants to support Georgia.
6. Many exhibitors said the impetus for exhibiting this year was their strong relationship with Domotex by virtue of its Germany and China events. Others cited the fact it is much less expensive than Surfaces. That’s why you saw some exhibitors in Atlanta that otherwise sneak suites or hold off-site events during Surfaces.
7. Everyone questioned Saturday hours. The unanimous sentiment was that two days are more than sufficient.
8. The center stage on the show floor was a good idea. The seminars/ presentations were easily accessible.
At the end of the day, the future of Domotex USA will rest on whether the industry determines the need for an East Coast trade show on the heels of Surfaces. Remember, many East Coast retailers will already have attended Surfaces, the Shaw and Mohawk regionals, Carpet One/Flooring America or some combination thereof before Domotex.
These shows are somewhat symbiotic: If the manufacturers come, retailers will follow. If retailers show up, manufacturers sign on. One doesn’t happen without the other. Or it doesn’t happen at all.