By Ken Ryan Las Vegas—If nothing else, the 2021 International Surface Event (TISE) here at Mandalay Bay signaled the return of business as we know it for a flooring industry clamoring for in-person, face-to-face meetings on a grand scale. Although smaller in stature compared with typical Surfaces events, TISE 2021 nonetheless provided the forum for exhibitors and retailers to spend quality time together after nearly a year and a half of being apart.
“It’s nice to be the first show to bring the industry together, that a return to normal was OK,” Dana Hicks, Informa show director, told FCNews. “That feeling will continue. People will leave this show and feel differently and go back to business in a way they did before the pandemic.”
Scott Humphrey, CEO of the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA), said it was a “big ringing of the bell” that we are open for business again. “Kudos to Informa for officially opening up our industry,” he said.
That Las Vegas opened restriction-free to fully vaccinated individuals on June 1 added to the positive vibes at the show. At one point during the spring, it appeared as though attendees would be asked to mask-up while on the show floor, which was a turnoff for many, according to Informa. “However, June ended up being a perfect time for a show,” Hicks said. “With Vegas opening up, it afforded us a better show than expected. Everyone is excited just to shake a hand again and see their industry friends.”
With the 2022 event just seven months away, Surfaces 2021 served as the primer for what will likely be a robust show starting Feb. 1. Hicks said Informa is “north of 80% of where we typically pace” for the 2022 show. “We’re peaking toward a big show. Every bell-wether company in the industry has committed with the same square footage or greater. Sales have been soaring. In fact, sales activity on site here has been very strong. A few companies who were here have asked for bigger space in 2022. For TISE, 2022 will be as strong as our 2020 show—and 2020 was a very good show in terms of sales and attendance.”
Exhibitors who attended the June Surfaces said they had no regrets. In fact, they were glad they attended, saying it was important to support the industry. Republic Floor, for one, seized on the opportunity. Rotem Eylor, CEO, said their only question was whether to downsize their booth or go big. They went for the latter, opting for an expansive space not far from anchor exhibitor, Mohawk. “For us, I’m happy most of our competitors didn’t come; it shows they don’t have commitment to their customers,” he said.
“Amazing” is how Eylor described the quality of foot traffic at his booth. “We started at 8 a.m. [before the show opened] with meetings and went to 6 p.m. [after the show ended]. I’m happy and blessed.”
Other exhibitors who weighed the merits of attending said they were happy with their decision. “This show was worth it,” said Billy Ko, CEO of Johnson Hardwood Floors. “This tells the industry, ‘We’re back.’”
Ko said Johnson enjoyed many quality visits with customers, both existing and potential new ones. “It’s been a year since we last saw some of them. Most people would say Surfaces was better than expected.” To top it off, Johnson won a Best of Surfaces Award in the Style & Design category.
John Lio, director of marketing for DriTac, said it was important for his company to support the flooring industry by being at Surfaces 2021—and being one of the few adhesives companies at the show was a plus. “There’s a number of big players in our space that are not here,” he said. “Continuing to keep ourselves in front of everybody is one of the reasons we are here.”
Karndean Designflooring took advantage of the captive audience with a strong booth presence as well as an after-hours event at Topgolf that was well attended. “We’re really excited about the opportunity to be in front of our customers,” said Jenne Ross, marketing director. “When you go digital, you solve the problem but you don’t necessarily get to have the organic discussions that springboard into the creative ideas for future problem solving. Here, you get to offer meaningful ways to help grow your business and your partners’ businesses because it gets you out of the normal routine.”
Retailers give a thumbs up
Dealers were well represented at Surfaces 2021, buoyed by pre-show events (Floors & More and NFA) and the presence of Mohawk, which used Surfaces as the last stop on its Momentum Roadshow. One dealer, Mike Nelson, executive vice president of Great Floors, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, welcomed the opportunity to be at the show. “It’s great to have a little normalcy and get back to a traditional trade show and be in this environment again. It has met our expectations.”
Greg Loeffler, COO of Pierce Flooring, with locations across Montana, added, “The key is that we are meeting again in person as an industry, and business has always been conducted that way in flooring.”
Eric Mondragon, hard surfaces buyer for the flooring division of RC Willey, Salt Lake City, was one of the dealers who stayed for Surfaces 2021 following the NFA specialty vendor show on Surfaces eve. “What impresses me is that we are in an industry that has thrived during the pandemic and that the flooring industry has found ways to still come together to conduct business as usual,” he explained.
Tweaking the format
Informa experimented with several new features at the show including the use of digital badges, which was implemented as a hands-free safety precaution because of COVID-19. Hicks said the digital badges greatly cut down on wait lines at the registration booth. However, not all attendees were in favor of it. Hicks said Informa is considering a hybrid solution next winter, perhaps giving attendees an opportunity to print their badge from home or at work; he also encouraged attendees to use or create their own company badges.
This year’s show started at 10 a.m. (compared to 9 a.m. in previous years) and ended at 4 p.m. (compared to 5 p.m.) during the first two days (the final day was 10-2). Informa said it is likely to keep the 4 p.m. end time for the first two days as it allows attendees to return to their rooms and freshen up prior to evening activities.
Karndean hosts event at Topgolf in Vegas
Every year Karndean Designflooring typically kicks off Surfaces with an annual customer appreciation event, but this year they hosted a more intimate pre-show event with customers, vendors and partners at Topgolf, located high above the MGM Grand.
The event’s 140 guests enjoyed an evening of in-person reunions, entertainment and golf, of course. Prizes were raffled off to raise funds for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). TAPS offers immediate and long-term emotional help, hope and healing to all those grieving the death of a loved one in military service to America, regardless of their relationship to the deceased or the circumstances of the death. Raffle tickets generating $1,500 were topped off with a $2,000 donation from Karndean for a total gift of $3,500 for TAPS