By Steven Feldman—So how was Surfaces? That’s the question I’m being asked by anyone and everyone who didn’t attend the rescheduled-from-January edition. Now, this is just my gut talking, but I get this vibe that those who didn’t make the trip to Vegas were seeking a negative response to justify their decision. What gives me that idea? Comments like these: “I heard the show was about a third the size of a typical Surfaces.” Or: “I heard no one showed up.” (Well, if you heard so much then why are you asking?)
Some of that is true, some of that isn’t, but none of it matters. Here’s why: Surfaces 2021 was neither about attendance nor number of exhibitors. It was about something much more important: bringing the industry together for the first time in a year and a half. Sure, the National Floorcovering Alliance has hosted two meetings in Georgia. Market Maker Events moved forward with its trio of regional shows. And, yes, Mohawk’s Momentum Tour made four stops during the winter. But this was the first “all-industry” event.
Why was this so important? It provided the backdrop for people to reconnect after nearly 18 months, and it allowed people to feel normal again. It proved that trade shows are safe, and masks are not needed. For many who have avoided airplanes for the last 16 months, it showed that air travel is safe and no more painful than normal. It trailblazed for all the conferences, conventions and meetings that will take place between July and December. Last but not least, it served as the appetizer before the feast that will be Surfaces 2022.
This show was not about numbers. Heck, let’s face it: A flooring market in June has minimal value when retailers have had the new stuff in their stores for months. Manufacturers devised their own methods of showcasing new product to retailers in the absence of the traditional January Surfaces. And Vegas in June, where the thermometer scorched 115 degrees one day that week, is not appealing. But here’s the thing: People showed up. It may not be reflected in the “official” numbers. But non-exhibiting manufacturers were seen walking the show floor, conducting meetings in and around the show—and imbibing at Eye Candy.
The dealers who were not walking the show floor might have been in Vegas for the NFA meeting the day before—which, by the way, did not see much of a falloff in exhibitors at its specialty vendor showcase. The FEI Group went forward with its annual cocktail reception and packed Skyfall like any other year. The only difference was that June allowed for a sun-drenched room.
What about the show itself? I honestly thought traffic was good until about 2:30 p.m. on the first day. There were people in the aisles, there were people at Mohawk. Surfaces 2021 moved the education program to the show floor, and whenever I looked, most of the seats were taken. I felt show management would be pleased.
On day two, I sat down with the Republic Floor boys. They took a smaller booth and brought 15 people instead of 40. Rotem Eylor told me they had made many appointments and were exceptionally busy that first day.
The one commonality was that the conversation was the same at every booth: containers cost four times what they did a year ago, everyone has product on the water and once it gets to these shores good luck getting it off the boat and onto a truck. Logistics wasn’t the only issue; labor is also a concern. Manufacturers and retailers alike are finding it hard to locate live bodies. They applaud the states that are doing away with that extra $300 a week, so hopefully relief is on the way. “We’re competing with the government for workers” was a common refrain.
I’ll sum up the week in one sentence that was the unanimous sentiment: It was good to be back.