TISE director bullish on 2023 show

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Dana Hicks
Dana Hicks

After two years of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent omicron variant (last year), Surfaces 2023 is shaping up to be the best attended—and arguably most influential—show since 2019. For starters, every major flooring brand will be exhibiting this year, and pre-registration has already surpassed 2022 numbers a month before the event.

With excitement building, FCNews senior editor Ken Ryan recently spent time with Dana Hicks, director of events, Informa Markets, to discuss Surfaces 2023—the flooring industry’s signature event where “business is done.”

To this point, how is exhibitor registration trending versus this time a year ago?

From an exhibitor point of view, we will be more than 85% of participation pre-COVID-19, looking really strong. We have booths on hold and customers continue to seek us out. We’re not missing a major brand or manufacturer. Everyone has the square footage they had pre-COVID-19 and, of course, Mohawk and Shaw have a larger presence than ever. Our attendees expect to see a comprehensive exhibitor roster and we are delivering.

How will this show compare to 2022?

Attendance is tracking more than 60% stronger than our last show, and 2022 was a good show. Last year had the omicron variant affecting it, so a few exhibitors bowed out last minute. We were most affected by attendees deciding not to go.

It’s just a fact, people are making decisions differently than they did in the past—and later. We will have the best quality attendees in years at this year’s show. We are currently tracking to be a very strong event rivaling 2020 attendance.

To what extent has a slowing economy had on registration?

So far, the slowing economy is not visible yet—we are pacing well and interest in attending the event is strong. I don’t see any effect from the suggestion of a slowing economy. Surfaces is such an important event; you might choose a little differently the way you travel but Surfaces is such a key sourcing event that people will continue to forge ahead and go.

Conversely, should we expect to see a greater international presence given that COVID-19 is much less a threat than it was a year ago?

What we are seeing is a surprise bounce-back in exhibitors. We anticipated that to be the slowest sector to return, and while it still rings true, renewed interest is there; 20% of the expo exhibitors are international. Normally we have 23%, so international is back very strong; it’s very strong from Canada, South America and Europe and, to our surprise, Asia. [Asia reps] are using U.S. distributors and U.S. reps to man their booths, so while there is still a lot going on in Asia—and China in particular—we are having people buying space from us. We have exhibitors from Italy and India; India feels like a flourishing market. We had conservative goals and expectations for 2023 but the uptick from ‘22 to ‘23 has exceeded expectations.

Any new exhibitors or first-timers that you can mention?

We have a new pavilion for area rugs. We are also working with COVER magazine, a boutique media brand out of London, including Stark Studios, who hasn’t exhibited with us since 2017. We’re calling it COVER Connect Las Vegas. You’ll see hand-knotted and hand-loomed area rugs. It is an exciting new pavilion. Other rug companies that missed 2022 and returned for 2023 are Prestige Mills, Kaleen and Couristan.

What, if anything, is new about this year’s Surfaces?

We have more content programming than ever before. What we have learned as a sourcing show is people want to look at new trends, patterns, styles, technologies and don’t want to leave the show floor. So, we are having a specific theater for each segment of the show. There will be a Surfaces theater, a Stone Expo theater and a Tile Expo theater. There will be more content around each theater with expanded content programming.

We found that if you put it on the show floor, they love it. We will still have demo theaters, the installation competition and we’re hosting Beyond the Surface. One of its main focuses is a Start-Up Station where new companies under 2 years old may apply for complimentary booth space at TISE 2023. The Start-Up Station Pavilion will feature new, young businesses that have applied and been approved, giving them an opportunity to show what they do. There were six unique and worthy companies chosen. We will build out the booth space for them and provide a marketing plan for them. We looked at applicants and chose the best of the applicants that will be interesting to the market.

As you know, three major shows—National Hardware Show, the International Builders’ Show and the KBIS (Kitchen & Bath Industry Show)—will co-locate in one giant event Jan. 31-Feb. 2 in Las Vegas. Do you feel that will hinder attendance or help Surfaces?

It will help. We have been in connection with each show organizer. Also, don’t forget there is the Las Vegas Market going on as well. We are providing complementary expo badges, so your badge allows you to go to any event. Plus, there is a free shuttle from the Las Vegas Convention Center to Mandalay Bay on show days, and shuttles downtown to the Las Vegas Market all three days.

I think TISE—and Surfaces—could be the winner here. If you are there for the other three shows, you will want to come to Surfaces.

What should exhibitors—and for that matter attendees—be excited about regarding this year’s Surfaces?

Without a doubt, to see the industry back to what it was pre-COVID-19. We’re the show where business is done. We’re shaking off the holidays and focusing on the new year and where industry gathers.

We keep mentioning it but ‘21 was a soft show, ‘22 was a nice return—but it’s not what it was pre-COVID-19—and ‘23 will start the calendar year and show the industry that the event business is back, this show matters and things are back to the size and scope they were before the pandemic. We’re already larger than last year’s show—much bigger from an exhibitor standpoint, 20% to 25% bigger.

Also of note, Mandalay Bay put in a multi-million investment in renovation of the convention center. People will see the results when they arrive. It’s a big investment, with new carpet, paint, fixtures and much more that started in September.

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Jan. 23/30, 2023

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