February 2/10, 2020: Volume 35, Issue 16
By Steven Feldman
Another Surfaces in the books. No. 26. Seems like only yesterday I was stopping by booths that flew Wilsonart and Formica flags. And Ingvar Backhamre had showgirls at the Tarkett space. And carpet was king. And the show encompassed two floors at the Sands Convention Center. I digress.
How times have changed, dear diary. Nowadays (does anyone even use that word still?), wherever you look it’s WPC. SPC. Rigid. Rigid/wood hybrids. Everyone has their own iterations. Companies that sell real wood are feeling it. Retailers are needing to sell more jobs to make the same money because the margins are not as great. But at the end of the day, like Ol’ Man River, the industry and Surfaces just keep rolling along.
So, what is sticking in my brain just four days after walking off the show floor? For starters, you had to feel for the exhibitors in the Chinese Pavilion. The Coronavirus scare rendered this area a veritable ghost town. There were reports of two cases at a local hospital in Clark County. Fake news. I even witnessed someone asking a person of Chinese descent if he was contagious. Such is the world we live in today.
On a more uplifting note, the close of Day 1 saw Piet Dossche inducted as the 50th member into the WFCA Hall of Fame. Hard to find a person more deserving—and more responsible for the show floor being inundated with WPC/rigid suppliers. Also hard to find a recipient delivering a more rousing speech—admonishing his competitors, now and in the future, who attempt to turn the category into a commodity. “You have a responsibility” and “protect your margins” were the battle cries during his riveting speech.
Surfaces was also the coming out party for Karastan hard surface, and the assortment more than befits the luxury brand. Preceded by an event atop the Delano Hotel, the Karastan reveal played to rave reviews for two and a half days.
Speaking of Karastan, Mohawk once again stole the show with its expanse of real estate. The open floor plan defined by its hero brands. Brilliant move.
Innovations—I saw a few, but then again, not too few to mention (with apologies to Frank Sinatra, although the millennials won’t get that one, dear diary). RevoTile from Daltile, a locking porcelain solution, could help the category contend with the cost and shortage of labor. PVC-free SPC was unveiled by a few companies, Torlys being one that comes to mind. I was seeing some ESPC, which is a rigid core sandwiched between two layers of vinyl. Happy Feet, for one, was showcasing that.
Then there was a bit of déjà vu, dear diary. Remember about 20 years ago when I wrote about Bob Shaw and garage carpet? Well, we never wrote about it again because the product really wasn’t constructed for garages. Flash forward to last week, and Mr. Shaw—now the mastermind at Engineered Floors—is at it again, this time with a better mousetrap. You know that Kinetics product from J&J? That resilient/carpet hybrid? He is taking that technology, rebranding it as LifeTiles and guess what? He is targeting the 32 million garages where slips and falls are all too common. So we take an existing product, use a peel-and-stick system that makes for easy replacement and find a new application for it. That’s how you grow a category. Brilliant.
But possibly the biggest innovation on the show floor was digital printing on a rigid core. This takes clarity to another level given the absence of a film wear layer, and it also has environmental advantages. Raskin Industries is the first to take this product to market with its ready-to-ship RI Digital collection. (Mannington plans to follow suit later in the year with some never-before-seen designs.) Look for this to be the wave of the future and the highlight at many resilient suppliers’ booths next year.
What about people? Randomly…great seeing Karndean’s Ed Perrin at the 10-year customer appreciation event. Is this the last Surfaces for Tom Lape? Katie Ford is style personified. Doug Jackson (Cali) and Michel Vermette (Armstrong Flooring) may be more than just attendees next year. John Wu (Novalis) is a class act. Paul Murfin (Taylor) seems the most relaxed I’ve seen him in 20 years. Casey Johnson is doing some good things at Happy Feet. I’m forgetting many, I’m sure.
Just think: Only 357 days until my next drink at Eye Candy.