Las Vegas—Slowdown? Impending recession? There was none of that sentiment at Surfaces 2023, which drew its largest attendance since before the pandemic and earned near-unanimous praise among exhibitors and retailers for its vibrancy and business activity.
“In a word, the show was terrific,” Dana Hicks, Surfaces show director, told Floor Covering News. Hicks, having just crunched the numbers, said attendance for Surfaces 2023 was up “10%- 11%” over 2019 and 2020—the last shows prior to the full onslaught of COVID-19.
This year’s show coincided with fears of a 2023 downturn as still-elevated inflation, high interest rates and weakness in some housing sectors painted a sobering economic picture. But whatever trepidation existed seemed to lift the moment the doors at Mandalay Bay Convention Center swung open to kick off Surfaces. Thereafter, optimism abounded. “We’re encouraged about the coming year,” said Chet Graham, president of Marquis Industries/ Gulistan, echoing a familiar refrain. “There are definitely more positive consumer signs today than what we would have had three to four weeks ago.”
Peter Feldman, president of Prestige Mills, said activity at his booth exceeded his lofty expectations, which he said reflects the overall market. “Everybody is talking about the economy and the oncoming recession but right now it’s pretty good out there,” he said. “We’re off to a good start this year.”
And that good start was evident at Surfaces 2023 where business was so robust some exhibitors complained that show hours were too short—ending promptly at 4 p.m. the first two days, rather than 5 p.m. in previous years—to accommodate the flow of traffic. “If you are hearing that exhibitors want more exhibit hall hours, I’m happy to hear that,” Hicks said. “That means business is happening. At 4 p.m., I, too, noticed the hall was [still packed].”
Spoiler alert: Next year’s Surfaces will revert to its former showtimes of 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on the first two days, and 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. on the last. However, because the Super Bowl will be taking place in Las Vegas in 2024, Surfaces will be moved up a week—Jan. 24-26, a Wednesday- Friday format.
Hicks said sales for the 2024 show are already encouraging, with many exhibitors interested in booking larger spaces. “The future looks good,” he said.
Retailers sing show’s praises
As the flooring industry’s signature event, Surfaces represents absolutely the best place to see current products from all categories and almost all major vendors in one place. That was true this year as every major flooring supplier took out booth space, much to the delight of retailers who made the trip.
“The show was definitely a success for us as we were able to meet with several of our key suppliers and plan how we would be able to take our business with them to the next level,” said Ted Gregerson, president of Ted’s Carpet & Floor, Anniston, Ala. “We want to concentrate on selling better quality products in 2023, and we believe we were able to find products at Surfaces that will help us do just that.”
For Tom Urban, general manager of Great Lakes Carpet & Tile, Wildwood, Fla., Surfaces has always been a good show, “but this year was even better to see more people attending it and suppliers seemed more aggressive to make deals and work as partners with us. It was nice to feel like the old days prior to COVID-19.”
For Surfaces veterans like Bruce Odette, president of Carpet Exchange in Denver, the big show rarely disappoints. “The show was well worth it,” he said. “It gives me the opportunity to see so many vendors in a short period of time. It was also great to see the attendance was back to full force.”
Although not the category force it once was, new carpet innovations impressed retailers at the show—none more so than Engineered Floors’ PureColor High-Definition Color Technology— a proprietary process that can blend dozens of colors and textures. In fact, color innovation was a theme that permeated the soft surface booths, with new merchandising displays and technology enhancements all with the purpose of bringing freshness to the segment.
The resilient category had a lot to live up to coming into Surfaces 2023. The category remains the leader in flooring when it comes to growth—SPC the reigning powerhouse. So the outlook of those exhibiting resilient flooring at TISE 2023 gave a glimpse into what the industry could expect for the coming year. Luckily for flooring, that outlook was bright.
Exhibitors at the show agreed the optimism for the category in 2023 had a lot to do with the positivity of attendees. Orders were up, the energy was palpable and the show floor was packed.
What’s more, the category finally moved away from its waterproof tagline to promote some true trends happening in the market. Visuals are back in fashion and suppliers unveiled resilient product lines that were dressed to impress. Clean looks, lighter warm colors and tile looks, in particular, stole the show.
Due to the inundation of lower- quality rigid core products in the market, suppliers also noted a push toward premium products that many say will drive the category in 2023. Those products include wider/longer WPC offerings as well as SPCs boasting attributes like thicker wear layers and advanced bevel technology.
Many resilient manufacturers also pointed to an overpopulated marketplace, which has caused some confusion for consumers and headaches for the retail community. To help combat that hardship, top suppliers made a concerted effort to ease the buying process for retailer and consumer alike.
Laminate flooring has long been associated with durability and scratch resistance. But now suppliers are infusing the product with waterproof and water-resistant capabilities.
This was readily evident on the show floor at Surfaces where suppliers showcased new innovations that demonstrate laminate flooring can indeed by re-engineered to better withstand spills or other household accidents. Whether it’s improvements to the core materials, edges or resins themselves—or the product-specific installation systems employed to lay down laminate flooring—there’s no doubt suppliers have stepped up to deliver more features and benefits for the end user while providing retailers with an alternative to the competitive resilient flooring products available on the market today.
But the innovations don’t end there. Suppliers are also pulling out all the stops with respect to digital printing and advanced imaging technologies to better replicate natural visuals such as wood, tile and stone looks. Some of the more striking visuals were on display at the Inhaus, Mannington and Urban Floor booths, just to name a few standouts.
While many of the laminate, SPC and hybrid/rigid core products aim to deliver more value to the consumer, a significant portion of hardwood products showcased at Surfaces this year targeted the upper echelon of the market. These range from trendy, wide-and-long plank products to customized floors featuring proprietary finishes and surface texturing. Standouts on the show floor included Chateau from Fabrica Wood, the division of The Dixie Group; the increasingly popular Dutch Masters Collection from Provenza; the innovative True collection from Hallmark Floors; and the new handcrafted hardwood lines from AHF Products—Hartco, Robbins and LM Flooring brands in particular. It’s all part of a move, vendors agree, to separate the wood category from the entry-level pack while giving retailers higher-margin products.
Surfaces was home to three powerhouse tile brands this year: Daltile, MSI and Emser. While the main event for tile each year is Coverings, being held in Orlando, Fla., in April, TISE gives tile dealers an advantage over those who choose to wait for the Florida show to discover what’s new. For tile, it was about creating inspiration, focusing on home trends and offering up highly stylized products not available from any other product category on the show floor.
(For the full analysis of each product category represented at the show, see FCNews Feb. 6/13 issue or fcnews.net.)