October 26/November 2; Volume 30/Number 10
By Ken Ryan
Uncasville, Conn.—For many of the 233 flooring dealers who gathered at Mohegan Sun resort and casino here, the NRF Northeast Floorcovering Market (NEFM) represents one of the two biggest buying shows of the year—the other being NRF Distributors’ spring show.
NEFM—considered the largest of all distributor trade show events—has evolved from a warehouse event in Augusta, Maine, to the grand affairs that alternate between Foxwoods Resort & Casino (spring) and Mohegan Sun (fall). Both events draw upwards of 1,000 attendees.
Norman Pomerleau, founder and president of NRF, said he didn’t want to hold the show so late in the calendar year but had to wait in order to get extra space at the expansive 28,000-square-foot convention center to accommodate the large gathering. “This room is ideal for us. People are buying.”
Indeed, they were. Sherm Arnold’s Flooring & Kitchen in Lewiston, Maine, does most of its buying for the year at the two NRF shows. “We’re here to look for deals,” said Denis Lebel, owner. “We have an outlet cash-and-carry type of store where we look for deals and we have a separate 5,000-square-foot showroom.”
Lebel said his stores have bought $90,000 worth of merchandise this year from NRF, up from $70,000 in 2014. “Our goal was to hit half a million in business with NRF in total and we did that. We’re a small mom-and-pop operation, so that is a lot of business.”
Torell’s Carpetland in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., is another retailer that counts on these shows for stocking inventory. “We buy 90% of all our products through NRF,” said Jim Morrell, owner. “I’m here for practically everything.”
The trade show portion of the event runs from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; that makes for a long day for manufacturer reps and executives like Paul Stringer, vice president of sales and marketing at Somerset Hardwood Flooring. “This is a high energy show with a lot of buying and selling going on,” he said. “You get a lot of great questions and feedback from dealers. A lot of good ideas come out of this show. NRF reps are very aggressive in bringing their customers over to see you. Very few distributors can hold a show of this magnitude.”
Hector Narvaez, vice president of sales at Marazzi USA, was impressed with what he called the “smooth operations” of the event. “This is so well organized; nothing is last minute. We do a lot of these shows and this one is top notch.”
Larry Pellegrini, Eastern region sales manager for Godfrey Hirst, said the NRF show “gives us an entry to a dealer base we wouldn’t otherwise get to see.”
Hallmark Floors was one of the more active booths, with dealers raving about the company’s recent collections including Organic. “Once we had two or three of the Hallmark lines, we decided we had to have every floor it offers,” said Joe Marotta, co-owner of Personal Touch Flooring in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. “That is how much we believe in Hallmark’s floors.”
Ron Oliver, vice president of sales and marketing at Hallmark, was fielding retail inquiries non-stop. “It’s busy; I’m selling strong all the time,” he said. “The last 18 to 24 months we have popped out of the weeds, and now the industry is watching us. We need to remain humble about our success. It’s not about us, it’s about our customers, and we feel our lines provide a lot of value for them.”
Many of the retailer accounts in attendance have multiple store locations. “We service well over 3,000 stores in our territory,” said Terry Pomerleau Gray, NRF’s senior vice president. The distributor’s geographical footprint spans from Northern Maine to upstate New York and as far west as Pennsylvania. Some retail customers drove six hours to attend this event.
For NRF, 2015 started off slowly, hindered in large part by the brutal New England winter that was harsher than normal. “But we made it up for it after that,” Pomerleau said. “I think we are going to have a record year when all is said and done.”
Gray spent a good part of the day walking the floor and meeting with suppliers and retailers. “We spoke to many stores at this event and everyone was very positive. There was strong optimism that we all experienced. I believe 2016 will be an extremely good year.”