The show must (safely) go on

Home Column The show must (safely) go on

Mohawk knew they were bucking the trend. After all, CCA Global, Abbey and CarpetsPlus had all canceled their winter conventions and opted to go virtual. Same for Shaw’s biennial SFN conclave. The National Wood Flooring Association Expo moved from Baltimore in April to Orlando in July. And, of course, the granddaddy of them all, Surfaces, moved from the last week in January to June.

Mohawk understood the importance of getting its new products in front of customers, especially given it was the biggest launch in its near 150-year history. So, it went all in with the seven-city Momentum Road Show. Things haven’t gone completely as planned, but Mohawk remained diligent. The two Canadian events were canceled because of restrictions. Chicago pivoted to Indianapolis. Atlantic City won’t happen because New Jersey leadership follows the same arguably unsuccessful, restrictive New York game plan. So, kudos to Mohawk leadership for staying the course despite the obstacles.

I attended the initial event in Dallas a couple of weeks ago. It went off without a hitch. Every safety precaution was met and exceeded. Temperature checks. Constant disinfecting. An appointment-only plan to maximize social distancing.

Every retailer with whom I spoke was not only excited to be at a live event but never felt unsafe at any time. Mohawk proved what many considered the unthinkable: live events can happen in this improving pandemic environment by taking the proper precautions. I thought I would publish what some of the retailers expressed to me in Dallas. I’m sure it was the same in Atlanta and will be in Indianapolis and California.

I sat down with Bill Sonntag, owner of Suburban Floor Coverings in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, who told me he “couldn’t wait” to get on a plane and come to this Mohawk event. “I had no reservations whatsoever. I would have gone to Surfaces if they would have had it.”

The reason? Seeing new product live is paramount to his business. “I don’t know how you continue your business if you are not seeing what’s out there.”

I asked him his thought on virtual events, since, as an Abbey advisory board member, he will be attending the virtual convention later this month. “I really don’t see the value in virtual events. I didn’t even sign up for the TISE event. When people go online to look at our product, it doesn’t look like it does live.”

Sonntag doesn’t take COVID-19 lightly but shared a perspective that many retailers have expressed to me over the past nine months: “I’m 72 and supposed to be at risk. My wife and I decided we weren’t going to hide from this; we weren’t going to lose a year of our lives.”

Richard Mathews, president, Flooring Source, made the four-and-a-half-hour drive from Friendswood, Texas. He told me that when Mohawk announced its Dallas road show, he was immediately on board. “I was never afraid to come. And never did I feel like I was in an unsafe environment. They definitely did their due diligence.” He also said it was important to see the new products live. “If you’re not there, you’re going to be behind.”

Kirt Krystynik, Buffaloe Floors and Up, Houston, offered the same sentiment. “No trepidations whatsoever. I’ve been coming to this event for 20 years.”

Krystynik said he is a big believer in live events. “I have participated in virtual events—I’m not a fan. I want to be in front of new product. I want to put my hand on it, I want to see it, I want to understand how it’s made. You have to have your hand on it to do that, which is the same reason we have kept our showrooms open with the right preparation. It’s the only way to do it or you’re not going to get sales.”

Charlotte Wuestewald, owner, Yampa Valley Design, Steamboat Springs, Colo., was also never apprehensive about coming to a live industry event in January. “Flying was easy, and Mohawk took a ton of safety protocols—temperature checks, everyone being spaced out as to when they can go on the showroom floor. It was great to see new product in person with no one climbing on top of you to get to the same display.”

So, there you go. In case you were wondering.

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Feb. 1/8, 2021

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