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How the experts navigate industry’s biggest event

January 16/23, 2017: Volume 31, Number 16

By Ken Ryan

 

Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 10.37.40 AMIt’s crazy, energizing, fun and tiring. And that’s just the first day. The International Surface Event (TISE), a.k.a. Surfaces, the flooring industry’s largest event, is two and a half days of fast-paced action with executives pounding the pavement from early in the morning until late at night.

“Surfaces is still the best all-round flooring show to attend,” said Sean O’Rourke, vice president of hard surfaces at Avalon Flooring, Cherry Hill, N.J. “To loosely paraphrase Sinatra, ‘If you can’t see it there you won’t see it anywhere.’”

Many flooring retailers and distributors prepare for Surfaces with a well-defined game plan, not unlike a football coach and his staff getting ready for the Super Bowl. In this case, the smallest details can make the difference between a successful show and a frustrating experience.

FCNews spoke to veterans of the trade show to get their thoughts on effective strategies and helpful tips for covering the show. Here are some excerpts.

Best strategies
“We go to Surfaces with a good idea of what we need so we can find the best deals. Prices on things like pad are usually discounted at the show so it’s wise to purchase as much as you can. We also like to find new products we feel will be trending so we stay ahead of the game.”
Mark Presson, Lonnie’s CarpetMax, Rockford, Ill.

“Schedule meetings with your key partners in advance. Allow plenty of time between meetings; manufacturers may be displaying at a hotel or another off-site venue. It can be a logistical issue if appointments are too close together.”
Enos Farnsworth, Denver Hardwood

“I usually take a group of employees with me so they can spread out and visit the booths I am unable to. We usually meet at the end of the day and discuss any areas of interest.”
Eric Mondragon, R.C. Willey Home Furnishings, Salt Lake City

Best thing about Surfaces
“Being able to see the majority of all our vendors under one roof.”
Dan Mandel, Sterling Carpet and Flooring, Anaheim, Calif.

“It’s reconnecting with vendors/business partners we may only see once a year.”
Sean O’Rourke, Avalon Flooring, Cherry Hill, N.J.

Sage Advice
“Leave free time for hidden gems in categories you may need. Study the vendor list to see where those gems may be rather than roaming.”
Phil Koufidakis, Baker Bros., Phoenix

“You will find the most influential people leave the hotel room at 6 a.m. for early meetings and return to the hotel at 9 p.m. following a dinner meeting. If you are hoping to gamble or attend a show, stay a couple days after the event.”
Enos Farnsworth, Denver Hardwood

“Block off at least half of a day to walk the show floor with no appointments to see what is out there that you have not seen or may not know. ”
Richard Cutting, Haines

Tips for newcomers
“Wear comfortable shoes, bring Purell, drink lots of water and get to bed before 1 a.m.”
Sean O’Rourke, Avalon Flooring

“Create a schedule with hour time slots and begin setting appointments ahead of time. Some events will overlap so be sure you are fair and equitable with everyone. And, don’t kill yourself with appointments or meetings from morning to night. Enjoy a little down time if you can.”
Scott Roy, Gilford-Johnson

“Embrace the craziness of it all. Make sure you eat breakfast. You’ll need it.”
Richard Cutting, Haines

Toughest thing about Surfaces
“Time management. With suppliers up and down Las Vegas Boulevard, it’s tough to get from place to place.”
Scott Roy, Gilford-Johnson

“Having enough time to see everybody I am currently conducting business with and still make time to see vendors I am not as familiar with.”
Eric Mondragon, R.C. Willey Home Furnishings