By Steven Feldman
In a time when floor covering events are being canceled, postponed or switched to a virtual format, one organization in six weeks will be taking a leadership role in this industry and staging its fall event as planned. Well, maybe not completely as planned, but with the requisite modifications to ensure the utmost of safety precautions.
It should come as no surprise that this group is the National Floorcovering Alliance, a band of some of the most successful flooring retailers in the country. They will not be deterred by the doom-and-gloom media; they understand their businesses as well as anyone; and know what needs to be done to ensure the momentum they have seen in June and July continues through the fall selling season and beyond. This group is not only diligent but intelligent as well, so you know they would not be going full speed ahead if they saw an iceberg in front of them. Rather, they can alter course but still reach their destination.
The NFA should be commended if not given a standing ovation. The fall conference, scheduled for Sept. 22-25, will be the first formal industry event since mid-March, when Shaw pulled off its Circle of Distinction in Ft. Lauderdale before the world shut down.
You see, NFA members have realized a few things. First and foremost, the importance of this meeting given that the spring conference was canceled. It is here where they network face to face with each other and also meet with top-level executives of all their key vendors. So there is clear desire to make this happen.
Second, they have realized they can pull this off with the proper safety precautions in place. Sure, there may be some members who are either elderly or have pre-existing conditions that may preclude them from making the trip, or some who just may not yet be comfortable getting on a plane. I’m sure those owners will send someone in their stead.
And finally, they have realized something many people have, unfortunately: COVID-19 will be around for a while. This is something we are probably going to have to live with until there is a vaccine or proven treatment. And even then, it will take some time before the herds can be vaccinated. Of course, there will be people who choose not to get the shot—at least not from the get-go. But rather than hunker down, the NFA will push forward responsibly. They are the ones who survived the Great Recession as well as any flooring retailer because they stayed the course: they kept advertising, they got more aggressive.
I’m hoping their Savannah meeting can be a blueprint for future industry events, both for the people putting them on and instilling confidence in the respective attendees. I know this event isn’t as large as Surfaces, NWFA, NAFCD or the buying group shows, but I believe they all can happen by following the proper protocols.
Some of the things the NFA will be instituting are:
- Doubling the size of its meeting space for its vendor showcase.
- Temperature checks for every participant each morning.
- Clear face shields to be provided upon check-in that will be required during the vendor meeting to allow face-to-face interaction. The goal: maximum safety precautions while also accomplishing maximum ability to communicate effectively.
- Masks will be available.
- Dining venues will be indoor/outdoor with room for everyone to spread out safely and sufficiently.
- Buffets will be one-sided with professional servers doling out the food.
- Dining tables will have fewer chairs at each table, allowing more space between each person.
Also note that airlines like Delta, JetBlue and Southwest have been leaving space between passengers on the planes to promote social distancing as much as possible.
I don’t want any reader to think I don’t take this pandemic seriously. I talk to at least one of my doctors quite frequently. (Don’t worry; nothing serious.) They are among the best here on Long Island. They all say the same thing: wear a mask, make sure the people you come across (other than close friends and family) are wearing a mask, wash your hands thoroughly and frequently and stay 6 feet away from most people—and you have strong odds that everything should be fine.
We can choose to pause for a year and believe virtual meetings are as effective as face-to-face events, or we can go forward with our lives, our world, as responsibly as possible. We just have to be safe and smart. This is how we get back to normal. And the NFA is leading the charge.