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It’s never too early to think about Surfaces 2014

Volume 26/Number 25; April 29/May 6, 2013

by Steve Feldman

Last month I had the privilege of participating on the Surfaces Education Advisory Council for the third consecutive year. Approximately 25 of us discuss and debate the merits of hundreds of proposals with the goal of formulating the best possible program. It is arguably the strongest, most comprehensive package this industry has to offer. And the best part: It’s free if you register by a certain date.

Honestly, the education alone is worth a trip to Surfaces, and that’s even before the doors open for market hours. Which brings me to a conversation I was having with the folks who run Surfaces. It was of my opinion they—and we as their partners—should be making the case for people to attend 2014 right now and not in the fall.

I’m no dummy. I know there are people who know right now whether they will attend. They may already have their reservations.

Then there are the people who have already decided they will not attend. They may belong to one of the retail groups that implore their members to stay home because they want them to buy strictly from core vendors. Their stance is their private labeling strategy more than offsets any advantages that can be gained by finding differentiated products at Surfaces from new suppliers.

People may also choose to bypass the industry’s most important trade show because they attend one or both of the major mills’ regional events. Some dealers believe they can’t be away from their businesses for a couple of days three times in the month of January. And with the mills becoming full-line suppliers, they may give off the impression they offer everything a retailer needs to be successful.

And then there is cost. That’s why I’m here. I don’t think every dealer realizes is not necessarily cost-prohibitive to attend Surfaces. For those who want to attend Surfaces on a shoestring, here’s something to consider:

Take the first flight out from your city on the Tuesday morning. If you’re not on the East Coast, odds are you’ll land in Vegas before the show opens. (By the way, pack lightly and don’t check a bag; you don’t have time to wait.) Take the short taxi ride to Mandalay Bay. Spend a day at the show and intersperse some education sessions. At day’s end, walk through the Shoppes at Mandalay Place and check yourself into the Luxor. You’ll get a room for about $89. Eat dinner, not necessarily at a five-star restaurant.

Attend educational sessions the next day. You have options in the morning before the show floor opens, around lunchtime and later in the day. Walk the show floor. If you did the top level on Tuesday, walk downstairs on Wednesday. Then grab a taxi to the airport and get out of Dodge.

In this scenario, you have attended two days of Surfaces and a number of seminars. At what cost? If you can fly Southwest, you’ll get to Vegas and back for anywhere between $140 and $350. The hotel will run you around $100. Two taxis, let’s say about $50. (It’s always more expensive coming rather than going.) A few meals? You can do that easily for under $100 in Vegas. Grand total: Anywhere from $400 to $600. Of course, this doesn’t include any activity at the tables, which could net you a profit for the trip if you’re lucky.

And here’s the topper. A major retailer and friend of mine once told me, “I make money by coming to Surfaces.” How? He takes advantage of the litany of show specials available to dealers for only three days. And trust me, he doesn’t attend the show on a shoestring.

It’s really a no-brainer.