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Inaugural event sets the stage for future growth

October 27/November 3, 2014; Volume 28/Number 10

By Jenna Lippin

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 10.09.36 AMMiami—In the aftermath of the debut of Surfaces East, or The International Surface Event (TISE) East as it is officially known, show manager Hanley Wood has been left with something to build on for 2015.

While TISE East was never designed to be anywhere near as large as its Las Vegas counterpart, the event, which encompasses Surfaces, StoneExpo/ Marmomacc Americas and Tile Expo, lived up to those who had realistic expectations, particularly Hanley Wood. “To launch a show with 50,000 square feet is huge,” said Dana Teague, vice president. “People aren’t launching shows very much anymore in the first place, so it was a big risk. But it says a lot about the industry that we have had the response we have.”

She added that she was happy with the number of exhibitors and is seeking about 10% growth across the board for 2015. “That’s reasonable, and we can support that growth.”

Teague cautioned that realistic expectations must prevail with a show of this nature. “TISE East was designed to be a regional show. [Miami] is strong with designers and architects. We do have some national people here, but a good 75% will be from the Southeast region.”

In fact, it was this regional draw that attracted most exhibitors. Take Dream Weaver, for example. According to Melvin Silvers, the company’s founder, the biggest motivator to exhibit was its lack of presence in the Southeast. “We thought some of the customers we haven’t had before would come here. We’ve also added four territory managers in the last six months, so we wanted to see if we could open up the new territory here.”

Some companies used the show as a networking opportunity more so than a launching pad for new product, but not Dream Weaver. “Our theme for this show was ‘Mardi Gras comes to Miami,’” Silvers noted. “We have some new colorations, some blended tonals, double space dye, and some other new things coming out.

“This show will be successful in our minds if we get some new customers,” he continued. “If we can get the top 50 customers in the area to come see us, that’s a success for us.”

The theme at Dream Weaver’s booth was Mardi Gras Comes to Miami, helping to draw attention to some new offerings.
Dream Weaver’s Mardi Gras Comes to Miami booth.

Some companies, such as Stanton Carpet, were hoping to parlay the success they traditionally have at Surfaces in January into some new business. “It just made sense to try [East],” said Jonathan Cohen, COO. “The Surfaces muscle, and knowing we have a fair amount of East Coast companies who don’t come to Vegas, lent to our decision.”

While Cohen was not expecting Las Vegas traffic, “We’re still looking at our core—the flooring retailer. It’s good for them to see new things they can’t see day to day because it’s just not out yet, or displays they don’t have.”

Unfortunately, after the show wrapped, Cohen told FCNews that his expectations fell short.

Kane Carpet was another carpet supplier using Surfaces East as an opportunity to highlight new displays that showcase top carpet offerings. According to Bruce Kurtz, vice president of sales and marketing, the company saw a “great opportunity” in exhibiting at a second show, “as there has only been one show for the whole industry up until this point.”

One of the highlights for Kane at Surfaces East was its new carpet tile line, the Royal Empire Series, which consists of broadloom that’s carved and then clipped into tiles for residential or commercial use. “A lot of the young people are looking for carpet tile, but everything offered is very commercial looking,” Kurtz explained. “This is a residential product—a brand new product that’s available now.” Among the new merchandising systems highlighted by the company was an 8-foot Shagtacular display featuring Kane’s leading shag designs.

Once the show wrapped, Kurtz reported that the new displays were, in fact, one of the most successful parts of the show for the company. “People we showed the new displays to went crazy for them. We absolutely got the green light on them. People were actually coming by to take pictures of the displays. Those displays are particularly successful in the South Florida market thanks to those contemporary looks. And the carpet tiles were picked up big time.”

Kurtz said the show was also a triumph for the Kane team as they gathered every morning to discuss the results at Surfaces East to adjust what would be best to show at Surfaces in January. “We brought in the best people, went through a good amount of product and got much accomplished.”

Beyond carpet

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 10.14.56 AMHard surface companies also found value in exhibiting at Surfaces East. Max Woods, for example, used the event as a platform to showcase its rebranding from Max Windsor Floors. Company owner Peter Spirer acknowledged the risk of showing at a first-time event, but considered Max Woods at an advantage as the show helped inspire the supplier to be ready with new product and branding for the fall.

“We were able to get a marvelous amount of things done in time for the fall selling season,” he said. “We think we’re going to have a good leg up no matter what; we will be delivering our products introduced at this market long before those who are introducing in Vegas. We felt it was timely for us, it forced us to hit a deadline, and it made us think and make decisions about how we want to merchandise, which is a very big factor in our business.”

Brand exposure was a major driver for Max Woods’ strong presence at the show, which included women airbrushed to match the company’s wood displays. “We also knew the trade press would be here, and we might have a chance of being a compelling place to visit,” Spirer continued. “It’s more about the exposure to the industry thinkers—the major retailers move mountains with their opinions, and their opinions are usually expressed through what they buy. This is for them. Our program is poised to work with the largest retailers.”

After the show, Spirer said Max Woods accomplished its goals for Surfaces East, which were establishing its brand and giving attendees an idea of the scope of the products the supplier now offers. “On my personal score card, I would rate it very high in terms of what we were after. Our organization was very pumped about the show. We really did well.”

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 10.15.44 AMOn the resilient side, FreeFit was one of the few LVT suppliers at the show, which suited Ray Pina, vice president of sales and marketing, just fine. “There’s a risk or uncertainty with a new show, but we have the opinion that it’s better to be an innovator and be here while others aren’t. If we can build business with contractors in the Miami area, it’s a win for us. We’re meeting people we wouldn’t have met. I’m looking at it as a Miami trade show—I’m not looking to get customers from Wisconsin here. If I can walk out of here with three or four new customers in Miami, I’m good with that.”

Also showcasing its hard surface wares was Nuvelle engineered wood floors and laminate, a private-label brand from Florida distributor Suncrest Supply. Dewevai Buchanan, president of Nuvelle, said Surfaces East “paid for itself” with the positive response to some of its hottest products, like Beach House, which includes 32 plank variations. “As far as new customers, we’ve seen people from [as far as] California and Brazil. For us this show has been great. We said if we get five customers out of this, that’s perfect. We’ve already done that in the first day. We will absolutely come back.”

Jeffrey Castor, vice president of sales for Diversified Industries, also cited Surfaces East’s connection to Latin America as a benefit of exhibiting at the show. He noted that he wouldn’t normally get to meet these potential customers, nor would they make the trip to Las Vegas for Surfaces. “I also got to meet with a lot of OEMs who are here. All in all, there was a good showing from retailers—I met people from Colorado, California, Florida, all over. I think the show, for its first year, is good. I think there’s definitely a ramp-up period. I foresee in three year’s time this show really growing.”

Attendee response

Nuvelle reported considerable traffic in its booth, with the  innovative Beach House laminate receiving rave reviews.
Nuvelle’s Beach House laminate.

Positivity wasn’t just on the exhibitor side of the show. Attendees—while many were from the local area—responded well to the event, citing the show’s educational sessions as one of the brightest highlights.

Thomas Crook, manager and owner of East Coast Flooring in Ocala, Fla., said Surfaces East was simply more convenient for him, as he was able to get in his car and drive as opposed to jumping on a plane. “I like things in Las Vegas, too, but I think Miami is a better venue overall for a business type of event,” he noted. “The education portion for the most part has been very good. They had a nice selection in classes. On the show floor, we’ve seen new things we’re excited about, particularly from distributors. I hope they continue to [host this show].”

Another local dealer, Laura Hessler of Hessler Paint and Decorating Center, with locations in Delray Beach and Boynton Beach, Fla., agreed the education at Surfaces East was a major draw. As the leader of Hessler’s decorating department, she said she finds it “very beneficial to keep up on things, get questions answered and get information from professionals.

“I would still go to Vegas if they didn’t have an event here, but it was an hour drive south and much more affordable,” she continued. “If this show becomes large enough and offers everything the Vegas show does, for sure I would come here again. I would go to both.”

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Suncrest seeks to go national with Nuvelle

May 26/June 2, 2014; Volume 27/Number 28

By Steven Feldman

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 11.52.52 AMRiviera Beach, Fla.—There’s been a lot going on at flooring distributor Suncrest Supply over the past year: a new president, new products and a big push to take its private-label brand, Nuvelle, national.

It is the latter that led owner Jerry Burtt to hire industry veteran Dewevai Buchanan as its president in June of 2013. Burtt has owned the $50 million-plus, under-the-radar distributor since 1995; Buchanan has been on the manufacturing and sourcing side for his entire career. Together, they believe they can provide a solution for larger retailers and distributors across the country that want an exclusive wood, laminate and LVT assortment and can purchase in container quantities directly out of China and other countries, all supported with backup stock in the U.S.

“We saw the ability to build a brand based on our infrastructure here in Florida and in China, and provide a service—be it product knowledge, logistics, quality control or sourcing—to mid to large retailers and distributors that don’t have the capabilities or desire to do that on their own,” Buchanan said. “Between my experience at Mohawk—we started out as a sourcing business—along with the infrastructure at Suncrest, we feel we have a compelling reason for customers to work with us.”

Burtt believes brand exclusivity is the differentiator. “We can partner with the right player in a market and not be pressured by a volume-driven manufacturer to sell to other retailers in that market. That’s the key to our expansion across the country.”

Of course, it all begins with product, and Burtt and Buchanan believe they have a quality, differentiated lineup that targets the better and best segments of the marketplace. For example, on the wood side, Buchanan claims Suncrest, with territory that includes the entire state of Florida and extends as far north as North Carolina, will be the first company to bring wide-width, reclaimed exotics to the marketplace at a reasonable price and with consistent service. “We are targeting unique styling and design that will appeal to the masses but also allow the retailer to make a nice profit margin.”

The Nuvelle wood collection, which will have more than 100 SKUs, will also include another wide-width, tropical exotic series that is “relatively unique in the marketplace,” Buchanan said. “These include jatoba, Santos mahogany, Scandinavian beech, African padauk and wide-width tigerwood—things you don’t readily find. Many retailers are moving toward boutique brands vs. the mass-marketed brands because they can make more money with brands that are limited in distribution.”

The Nuvelle laminate assortment, which will also focus on the better and best price segments, is a category Suncrest knows all too well. When Burtt bought the business in 1995, it only distributed Formica solid surfacing until November 2001, when it took on Quick-Step. By 2006 it was doing $25 million with the brand and today Burtt believes Suncrest has the best laminate penetration of any distributor in the country.

With Nuvelle, Burtt said retailers can purchase a particular product for about half of what they would pay from the major manufacturers. In turn, they have the option of either making a higher margin or selling that product less expensively than a competing product.

Visuals will replicate everything from character-grade woods to wide widths, random lengths and varying gloss levels through 60-plus SKUs. “We have the capability to replicate wood to the point where the average person will not be able to tell the difference,” Buchanan noted.

The Nuvelle LVT collection will feature 20 wood-look planks. “We got into that business about a year ago,” Burtt said, “with a 2mm product line that combined 100% virgin vinyl, 48-inch lengths and aluminum oxide. When we first introduced the line it was the only 2mm product that combined all these attributes. The customers responded well, so now we have introduced a 3.2mm click version that features embossed-in-register designs with wide widths, long lengths and on-trend styling. Retailers can make a strong margin.”

Suncrest has already proven to be serious about investing in its Nuvelle brand. The distributor has opened an office in Shanghai, where a full staff manages logistics, quality control and coordination with nine-plus factories. The group has also exhibited at Surfaces and will have space at Surfaces East. In addition, trade advertising is on the horizon. “We have also invested in our web development with FloorForce and are hosting a customer appreciation event to present our manufacturers’ brands as well as the Nuvelle brand to our customers.

For more information, call 800.236.7642.