I was going to begin this column with my four favorite words, but I thought it may come off as pompous. Oh, screw it. “I told you so!” In fact, I will say it again because it felt so good: I told you so! I told you this industry was going to attend Surfaces ’22. I told you retailers wanted to reconnect with each other and their suppliers. I told you retailers wanted to see new product live and not on Zoom. And I told you retailers had gotten past COVID-19 and decided long ago to live with it and not run from it.
Were the attendance numbers on par with past, non-pandemic years? Clearly no. I am going to guess it was about 65%-70% of what we saw in 2019 and 2020. But I am also surmising that companies that traditionally bring four people to the show probably brought two this year. All I know is that every exhibitor with whom I spoke with told me two things: When it came to the retailers they saw, it was “quality” over “quantity,” and the show/attendance exceeded their expectations. That’s a clear win in my book.
This goes back to what I’ve been saying all along: Move forward. Don’t cancel events. Allow people to make their own decisions. Don’t try to control what people can and cannot do. Give them the choice to attend or stay home. And judging by what we witnessed at Surfaces, the majority want to attend. Those who wanted to wear masks did so, and those who did not, didn’t.
So, here are a few of my observations and takeaways from Surfaces 2022:
- The National Floorcovering Alliance specialty vendor showcase, held on Surfaces Eve, was as strong and well attended as any past event. Just about every NFA member was there. They are among the top retailers in the country, and they see the importance and value of Surfaces. That speaks volumes.
- Ron Sadri, owner of Provenza, told me on Thursday morning they had scanned about 775 badges the first two days. How many do they usually scan? Between 850 and 900. That’s about 85% for those keeping score at home.
- Cathy Buchanan of Independent Carpet One in Westland, Mich., told us she was so happy to see so many Carpet One members at Surfaces. Many CCA Global members who normally don’t attend made the trip to Vegas after their convention was canceled in January—thankfully the only domestic event that is likely to be scratched this year.
- The FEI Group party on Tuesday night at Skyfall had to be the event of the show. Full house. Everyone was there. Everyone was ecstatic to be back together. The two-hour cocktail reception could have gone on two hours longer and no one would have objected.
- Eye Candy, the proverbial s%&t show where the industry congregates following all the business dinners, was packed to the rafters each night in the middle of Mandalay Bay—just as predicted. Just like old times. How much were people clamoring for this? Even Megan Salzano-Birch, our resident germophobe, made an appearance. With no mask, I might add.
Random thoughts: Every major manufacturer told me they were exceptionally busy either with appointments or walk-ins pretty much throughout the first two days… Great to see the Shaw Floors brand return to the show floor for the first time in more than 15 years. The influence of new vice president of marketing, Nina LoCicero… The technology on display at Unilin, Välinge and i4F was impressive. Today’s innovations are tomorrow’s staples… Enjoyed spending a few minutes with the industry’s most famous sister-in-law power couple: Mohawk’s Laura Bartley and Shaw’s Nicki Rayburn… For those into sustainability, the Inhaus recycling program for SPC is a big deal… I still have not gotten my eye lift.
I don’t know if it’s me, but it just seems The Dixie Group is clicking on all cylinders… Loved the carpet on the floor at the Phenix booth… The incomparable Katie Ford knocked it out of the park with FCNews Live. She’s truly an all-star… People like Mohawk’s Caroline Humphries and Shaw’s Amanda Steele make my life easier. It’s behind-the-scenes people like them who rarely get the credit they deserve… Doug Jackson’s new name is Midas. Everything he touches turns to gold. Cali’s Surfaces debut couldn’t have gone any better… We won’t talk about the total number of cocktails I consumed over four days, but those folks who bet the over cashed their tickets.
Missed seeing Bob Shaw at Surfaces this year… Funny how so many people have shunned laminate these last few years but interesting how so many are jumping on the bandwagon… Speaking of which, Mohawk’s Signature technology for RevWood Premier is a home run… Learned Tom Pappas’ godson is NHL star Trevor Zegras of the Anaheim Ducks… I can’t wait for Surfaces 2023.
Final thought: For those who quietly wished Surfaces would not happen, I recommend going back to hiding under your bed with five masks while the rest of us reap the benefits of the industry’s premier event.