Las Vegas—A record 47 suppliers took part in the annual National Floorcovering Alliance (NFA) vendor trade show here on Jan. 22, before the official kickoff of TISE 2024, but it wasn’t merely the volume of vendors that impressed NFA dealers—it was all about what they showcased.
For years, NFA retailers have been fed a steady diet of SPC and its various permutations. However, given the quality issues low-end SPC has been having, dealers were happy to see non-SPC products for a change. “We saw a good mix of products, including hardwood and even rugs,” said Raffi Sarmazian, co-owner of Sarmazian Brothers Flooring, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. “It’s nice to see something other than vinyl.”
That sentiment was shared by other NFA dealers, including Jason Waggoner, vice president of sales for Indianapolis-based ICC Floors, who said his team welcomed the addition of hardwood, laminate and tile variations.
The products weren’t just for show, either. There were deals to be made and relationships formed. “We [Flooring 101] have already picked up five new vendors,” said Ian Newton, NFA president and general manager of Oxnard, Calif.-based Flooring 101. “The additional vendors allowed for a greater diversification of goods. It’s great to see that there’s that much interest in NFA. It’s a good return on our investment.”
Vendors seize opportunities
For one of the few times in show history, the vendors outnumbered the NFA retailers (47-40), forcing some of the NFA dealers to split up in order to see every vendor. Among the 11 new vendors was Triangulo Hardwood Floors, a Brazilian manufacturer of exotic solid and engineered hardwood.
Philip Key, vice president of sales and marketing for Triangulo, said he had been trying to secure a spot with NFA for at least a year. Thanks to some key contacts, Triangulo was added this year. “For us to join NFA was like a birthday gift,” Key told Floor Covering News. “I’ve worked with this group in my previous roles; they are the cream of the crop.”
Triangulo has a compelling story. It owns its forests in Brazil, is vertically integrated and can provide retail customers with as many as nine species of hardwood. “I love the fact that NFA sees value in another Brazilian supplier (Indusparquet is also a member),” Key noted. “Sure, it’s more competition but the more samples and displays we get into the market, the more the homeowner sees these unique colors.”
Most vendors had one of two goals in mind—make more contacts with NFA dealers in hopes of securing future business or add to their current base of NFA dealers. For Ken Kuo, president of HFC Horizon, it was all about the former. “You know what kind of customers you are dealing with here,” said Kuo, who was showing a new laminate line sourced from Vietnam. “Having a good reputation like we do means a lot to the NFA dealer. Word of mouth here is big.”
Healthier Choice, a returning vendor, already does substantial business with NFA dealers such as Nebraska Furniture Mart, Carpets of Dalton and RC Willey. But there is still room to grow with the retail group, according to Andy Stafford, VP of marketing and product development. “Our goal here is to network and make better connections. We want them to know that our cushions are the best kept secret in the industry, and we want to share that secret with NFA dealers.”
Stauf, which was also a new vendor, was here seeking new avenues to market its line of sundries. “It’s hard to go through distribution with [adhesive products],” said Wolfgang Stauf, president. “Maybe we have to go direct to retail. If we can get a few of the big ones [here] it will be a great addition for us.”
Unlike Triangulo, Stauf and several others, SLCC Flooring is no stranger to the NFA vendor show. In fact, it has become one of more popular destinations in recent years—in large part to Jimmy Poulos, founder of Flooring 101, who has developed a fondness for the company and its founder, Jan Luan. As he is wont to do, Poulos brought fellow NFA dealers to the SLCC space and, in some cases, pulled out sample boards and explained to them the finer points of the SPC. “I’ve been doing business with [Luan] for 13 years, and she gives you her word as well as good product,” Poulos said.