Las Vegas—The pace of The International Surface Event (TISE) can resemble a track meet at times as attendees traverse the expansive Mandalay Bay Convention Center to meet customers or look for the next big thing.
However, TISE veterans have learned over the years to work smarter by scheduling appointments in advance and leaving slots open so they can browse the show floor at their own pace. “Surfaces can be very overwhelming if you don’t plan your schedule in advance,” said Scott Browne, president, Macco’s Floor Covering Center, Green Bay, Wis. “Making appointments with key partners is essential to maximizing your show experience.”
Veteran show goers shared their experiences as well as the lessons they have learned over the years.
The biggest thing we have learned over the years is to determine what our objective is for that particular show ahead of time and how we are going to accomplish it. We develop a plan with our highest priorities at the top, make appointments with the appropriate suppliers and then stick to that plan while there. If not, it is so easy to get distracted by other things that come up while there and then we do not accomplish our objectives. Once our objectives are accomplished, if there is time left, we can look at other things.
Ted’s Abbey Carpet & Floor
Our approach has changed a lot over the years. We used to spend two to three full days walking the show looking at every booth and exhibit we could. We now have a concrete plan where we set appointments and have a clear idea of what holes we need to fill on our floor and what opportunities there are. We also still leave some time to explore and see if there is anything new or different as we walk the show. We always come with an open mind and have found some of our most important vendor partners just by being educated by them and being open to trying new programs.
Sterling Carpet & Flooring
For Derr, Surfaces used to be a selling show. We would meet with our suppliers to view the new product launches and then purchase merchandising materials and inventory to support and promote the new lines. In addition, we would take our customers through our suppliers’ booths and encourage them to sign on to promoting the new launches. Over the last few years, fewer of our suppliers are exhibiting and most of them—whether exhibiting or not—are showing us their new products prior to the end of the year. Finally, only a small number of our customers are making the trip to Surfaces, so our ability to take them through our suppliers’ booths is very limited. Currently, our main objective is to use the show to see new trends and innovations.
Willow Grove, Pa.
How we approach the show has changed a little. We used to book solidly with appointments, which left very little time to explore. Now, fewer appointments lead to a more relaxed and flexible schedule. We see Surfaces as a time to help solidify relationships with our most important vendors while at the same time being able to look for potential new vendors. We set appointments with those vendors we consider to be “must see” for this show and try to leave enough flexibility to walk around and see if there are any hidden gems we’re missing.
After 46 years in the business, I have it down pretty well but still seem to find new ways to make it even better. What I’ve learned about Surfaces are a few things: Don’t schedule your appointments on top of one another as meeting times don’t always run on schedule—the show is huge and it takes time to go between the booths; get a map of the layout, familiarize yourself with key vendor locations and keep it handy during the show. Schedule a block of time to simply walk the floor to fully take in the largest flooring showcase in the country.
Owings Mills, Md.
I’ve been attending Surfaces since 2013, and over the past several years its function has really shifted for my company. Surfaces has a tremendous partnership with NAFCD, and I see a brilliant transition taking place. Rather than distributors learning about new product launches at Surfaces from their suppliers and having to turn around and immediately show them to customers, the growth of the NAFCD convention has allowed suppliers and distributors to convene on the new programs in the fall and then both can focus on driving these new programs through to their mutual customers at Surfaces. As a distributor, it allows us to focus on getting more customers to Vegas and spending our time selling.
I started attending Surfaces in the early ‘90s when it was much easier to navigate as it was primarily carpet, cushion and area rug vendors. This was before all the industry consolidation, so it was much easier to make buying decisions. Today, most of my buying decisions are made in Dalton in the fall for the following year. Still, Surfaces gives us an opportunity to see vendors headquartered outside of Dalton. It’s necessary to have exposure to other types of products or suppliers because you don’t know what you don’t know.
I’ve learned to get a lay of the land before I schedule appointments, so I don’t have to walk 10,000 steps before my next appointment, and I attend seminars when time permits. You can always walk away with something you can incorporate into your business. But my favorite aspect is reconnecting with people I don’t see on a regular basis, and since I haven’t been to Surfaces since January 2020, I’m really looking forward to it.
Our approach to Surfaces has evolved. Over the years, advancements in technology, changes in the timing of vendor product launches and things like COVID-19 have impacted Surfaces’ ability to serve as a be-all/end-all product event.
We use our time to walk the show to keep abreast of changes in style, design, technology and other product trends. Likewise, the show continues to provide an opportunity to connect with customers and vendors. As for change, we have worked with our vendors in recent years to plan well in advance of the show so we already understand their forthcoming products, plans and strategies. In the past, it was more common that we’d learn critical details related to new products or programs at or shortly before the show. That’s not the case now and it allows us to more efficiently and effectively use our time to help our vendors drive results.