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February 2012 — Surfaces 2012: Optimism, steady traffic take center stage

Volume 26/Number 16; Dec. 17/24, 2012

Hanley Wood, Surfaces’ owner, claimed a 10% increase in attendance at the 2012 event, while participants noted steady traffic throughout the three-day event. For the first time in years, Surfaces held a feeling of renewed optimism for the flooring industry

“You could tell something is changing and the overall mood of the people was better,” said Scott Levy, executive vice president of operations for Scranton, Pa.-based Arley Wholesale, a tile distributor.

Jeff Train, vice president of operations for EarthWerks, told FCNews there is buzz about the remodel industry making a small comeback in 2012. “There are a lot of people wanting to remodel. They realize they are going to be in their homes for a while.”

Lindsay Ann Waldrep, vice president of marketing for Crossville, said not only did she notice the mood change but also saw distributors and retailers arming themselves with knowledge to help better their businesses. “[Attendees] were not only interested in new product but also in learning more about programs such as our contractor-focused 5-star rebate program, social media and how Crossville’s Q2R initiative can benefit retailers.”

Kelly Cooper, marketing manager for Surfaces, called this year’s Surfaces “the best in recent years. There was a different type of energy on the show floor. You could see a difference in the attendees’ faces, the conversations they were having, their engagement with exhibitors. There seemed to be a lot of activity and a high level of business being conducted.”

The return of Mohawk to Surfaces created a buzz with signage everywhere, and an unannounced flash mob in the middle of the show floor on day one signaled the company’s presence.

Arley’s Levy said Surfaces gave him the chance to see some great products and meet with key people. “We saw some fabulous introductions from one of our Chinese factories, and we solidified some projects we had been working on. We had productive meetings with our domestic factories and are encouraged by their capabilities and attention to detail.”

There were also a number of first timers on both the exhibitor and attendee side that were impressed with what the show held for them.

“We’re very happy with the overall reception from attendees; it’s gone very well,” said Rachel ColeridgeSmith, marketing and events manager for SuperClick, an LVT manufacturer that was debuting its patented locking system to the North American market.

Nancy Jackson, president, Architectural Systems, added, “For a small, first-time exhibitor it’s been a very rewarding show. The overall reaction has been nothing but positive.”

First-time attendee and contractor Rob Gee of Property Solutions in Bodega Bay, Calif., scoured the show floor before going back to snatch up the goods he feels will make a difference in his market. “We were seeking products with visuals that have texture and have found what we are looking for.”

This year marked HomerWood’s first time back at Surfaces since 2006, according to Wendy Wescoat, marketing manager, who called the event a success for the company. “We [had] a wonderful show. This is a great stage for us to show off our new products and talk with distributors and dealers about HomerWood’s unique story of Amish craftsmanship combined with cutting-edge design and service.”

Product

Surfaces gave retailers something to be excited about in terms of product introductions. “I went into Surfaces with the thought laminate is a dying category,” said Gary Cissel, director of flooring for Nebraska Furniture Mart in Omaha. “I was pleasantly surprised with the level of innovation I saw. It was good to see.”

Sam Roberts, owner of Roberts’ Carpet & Fine Floors in Houston, saw a multitude of new offerings. “The Stainmaster TruSoft fiber has outstanding potential for the better goods portion of the carpet business. And Gulistan had a new, flecked cut-pile which I thought was a nice take on that look.”

Marjorie Benson of Friendly Floors in Port Charlotte, Fla., not only was able to see some of the industry’s newest offerings, she was able to make a connection that could lead to better business for her store. “I was excited about the [Beaulieu] Bliss products. I found a wood flooring company—Urban Floors—that I would not have found had I not come here as it is not distributed in my region, so I’ll be able to buy direct.”

In addition to new products, the educational seminars were a hit with attendees. “Every year I take five or so classes,” said Roland Thompson of Kehne’s Carpet One in Frederick, Md. “This year I took about eight and thought each one was excellent. I learned some things and was reminded of stuff I needed to apply. The instructors were first class; they knew their topics.”

Surfaces 2012 also marked debut of the Best of Surfaces competition, one that is certain to become the benchmark for product innovation at the premier trade show.

“The Best of Surfaces awards competition was another exciting thing we introduced this year that also furthered our partnership with Floor Covering News,” Cooper said. “It brings value to our exhibitors by allowing them an opportunity to gain recognition for the products and programs they bring to the industry.”

Exhibitors step up for 2013

Another good indication of the show’s success was the interest in the 2013 edition, which will be held Jan. 28 to 31 at Mandalay Bay. For the first time, Surfaces had an onsite sales office offering savings to those who registered prior to the close of the show. According to Cooper, 112 companies signed up, and 35% of the space is already sold, with about 4,000 square feet representing companies taking larger spaces. “There are a few new exhibitors that took out space based on the activity they saw this year.”

Surfaces will again be offering the product showroom option to exhibitors, something that has proven to be successful in recent years. Unlike prevailing thought, the showroom option is no less expensive than exhibiting on the showroom floor; in fact, showroom space comes at a 15% premium, Cooper said.

“The product showroom option is working well for both exhibitors and Surfaces,” Cooper said. “Some companies want more of a personalized feel. The companies that go this route like the ability to have semi-private spaces off the show floor and have more intimacy with their customers.