By Megan Salzano
Not immune to the impacts and pressures created by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, TISE organizers broke the news in mid-August that the flooring industry’s premier event would be postponed from January to June 2021. At the time, Dana Hicks, TISE show director, Informa Markets, said the decision to move the dates from Jan. 25-28 to June 16- 18 was not reached easily and a host of extraordinary factors were taken into consideration.
“While the live in-person event is being postponed to June 2021, TISE is dedicated to continuing to provide the critical, first-of-the-year product sourcing and purchasing opportunities the industry needs—a huge value the TISE event has and will continue to always provide,” he added.
The flooring industry has had some time to digest the news and opinions run the gamut, but all-in-all the industry seems to acknowledge the decision was prudent.
Flooring manufacturers across various product categories have praised the show’s decision to postpone for several reasons. First and foremost, safety. “Given the current COVID-19 environment and the drastic change in business and personal travel habits, we strongly believe Informa not only made the right decision to move the show to June, but really the only deci- sion,” said Jonathan Cohen, president of Stanton Carpet.
For Shaw Industries—which postponed its own biennial convention for its Shaw Flooring Network (SFN) of aligned retailers and instead is hosting a series of virtual events that kicked off Sept. 1—the decision hit close to home.
“We understand the postponement of TISE 2021 was not a decision that was made lightly,” said Scott Sandlin, executive vice president, residential division, Shaw Industries. “These decisions are tough ones because we all want to be in front of our customers any chance we get. Shaw faced a similar challenge when we decided to shift to a virtual format for our 2021 SFN convention. There’s no doubt that face-to-face events provide great networking opportunities, but we’re confident that technology can keep us engaged until the day we can connect in person again.”
Wendy Booker, vice president, marketing and product development, AHF Products, also said the decision was the right move and expressed optimism for the future. “People are understandably still wary of being in large groups from around the country and the world; being in close proximity, shaking hands and, especially in our case, touch- ing surfaces. I think all the things that drew people to in-person events and conferences before—the networking, the educational programs, seeing and touching and testing new products—will draw people back once we are comfortable traveling again and hopefully have a vaccine in place. We will find the balance between virtual and live events.”
Peter Barretto, president and CEO, Torlys, said a June event might have a better chance of success vs. January. He also said he supported the change from an exhibitor’s point of view (vendors must spend a lot of money in challenging, uncertain times with extremely unpredictable attendance, he noted) and from the attendees’ perspective as it pertains to safety.
While optimism abounds, though, questions still remain. Jamann Stepp, vice president of hard surfaces, The Dixie Group, noted that time will tell whether the move will be advantageous for all parties. “I understand the mindset behind the postponement,” he told FCNews. “My concern with having the show in the summer is that it’s the summer. It’s vacation season and midway through the year. Most of us are going to show our products in some shape or fashion in early first quarter and try to get samples into the marketplace and rolling out in the second quarter. I think it might be a challenge that far into the year.”
Torlys’ Barretto echoed those sentiments, noting the potential for even more postponements in the future. “Depending on what happens, June may also be too soon for an event that needs to draw thousands of visitors,” he stated. “Time will tell.”
Many specialty flooring retailers have also praised the show’s decision. Sam O’Krent, president and CEO, O’Krent Floors, for example, said it was wise to postpone the event.
“Health precautions will always win out over profits and networking in our world,” he explained. “Of course, we are disappointed as we have not missed a Surfaces in more than 20 years, and we’ll look forward to attending next summer. For us, it’s a risk/reward question and we are currently not willing to risk our health in exposing ourselves to travel and large gatherings. From a business standpoint, we’re positive that the manufacturers will find a way to bring their new introductions to market.”
For others, such as Adam Nonn, president and CEO, Nonn’s Kitchen Bath & Flooring, the decision, while sensible, raises questions. “I can understand the decision behind the postponement with pretty much every other major show also delayed, canceled or going virtu- al,” he said. “The difficulty for us having the show in June is that traditionally is one of our busiest months of the year. For me to go out with the same amount of team members is going to be very unlikely vs. January, when we tend to be a bit slower.”
Nick Freadreacea, president, The Flooring Gallery, said he also understands the decision to postpone, but questioned the viability of the locale in June. “My first reaction is that June would not be an advantageous time to host Surfaces,” he told FCNews. “Even if the mills could adjust their introduction of new product schedules to match that date, it would not serve the retailer to order any sampling as most would not arrive until the following year. There may be people who could use it as a mid-year vacation, but Vegas is really not that family friendly. Plus, the extreme heat that time of year is not a big attraction. I have always been a huge supporter of Surfaces and would have to think hard before making a decision on that date.”
When it comes to product introduction timelines for next year, Nonn said the move could force manufacturers to rethink their go-to-market strategies, perhaps for the better. “The manufacturers have to look at launching products differently than they have in the past,” he explained. “So much technology is out there these days. I’d challenge them to see how they can do this better and more efficiently than they have traditionally done. I also think this could make the manufacturers a lot nimbler and more flexible.”