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Ceramic: Coverings to put the spotlight on latest trends, education

March 27/April 3, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 21

By Lindsay Baillie


Coverings, touted as the largest tile and stone exhibition in North America, returns to Orlando with new features and a robust education program. Slated for April 4-7 at the Orange County Convention Center, the show promises to deliver something for everyone.

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 10.21.32 AMSome of the main points of interest for attendees include the show’s three pavilions—Spain, Italy and North America—a roster of impressive educational conference sessions, the new Installation Design Showcase and, of course, a bevy of new products on the show floor.

There will be plenty to keep Coverings’ attendees busy, according to industry ambassador Alena Capra. “There are an estimated 1,100 total exhibitors this year, representing over 40 countries across 400,000 square feet of exhibition space.”

Educational opportunities
In keeping with tradition, Coverings 2017 will host an abundance of conference sessions available to professionals serving the stone and tile industry. Over 65 conference sessions will be available during the show, with many offering CEUs.

“We have a robust conference program with sessions for all segments of our audience, including distributors, retailers, architects and designers, builders and remodelers, fabricators, contractors and installers,” said Jennifer Hoffman, president, Taffy Event Strategies. “We have sessions in Spanish for 2017 as well.”

New to the educational program are seminars regarding advanced contractor topics, a business topics track, contractor beginner-intermediate topics and the thin tile mini-track. These classes are open to all attendees.

New thrills
Coverings 2017 is offering three new features to complement its educational programming. “Elements new to Coverings 2017 include guided audio tours, a NASCAR racing experience and a reinvigorated social media lounge that will enhance the show by allowing attendees opportunities to further interact, explore and engage,” Capra said.

This year, Coverings is hosting four guided audio tours: Coverings 101 Overview Tour in English and Spanish, a Trends Tour, and an Installation Materials and Systems tour. These pre-recorded tours will be available via the official Coverings mobile app and provide insight into booths and pavilions.

The NASCAR racing experience provides attendees with the opportunity to find out what it is like to be a professional racecar driver. Drivers with the fastest simulator times each day will win two tickets to the NASCAR events of their choice. NTCA, Schlüter Systems and Laticrete are sponsoring the event.

Coverings Connect, the show’s refreshed social media lounge, allows attendees to relax, charge personal electronic devices or network. Coverings Connect will present a series of educational seminars called “Byte” sessions that have a digital focus. Some of the sessions include “LinkedIn Basics,” “Picture This: Instagram as a Customer Connection Tool” and “6 Cs to Social Media Success.” Additionally, a bar will be located in Coverings Connect from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., offering a happy hour for attendees to enjoy a beverage and make new connections.

Returning features
Many of the elements Coverings attendees have enjoyed from previous years will also be present at this year’s show. The popular Installation Design Showcase returns but with a twist. For 2017, this program will feature three tiny houses on site—a West Michigan house, a Retro Bungalow and the Vitruvian. NTCA Five Star Contractors and leading designers will partner together to showcase the synergy between design and installation. Each tiny house will highlight a different design aesthetic and feature tile and stone in a live installation.

Coverings will also host afternoon happy hours on the show floor from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. The bars will be located in the Tile Council of North America and Ceramic Tile Distributor’s Association booth, the Installation Design Showcase booth #458 and Coverings Connect booth #1568.

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 10.23.41 AMAlso returning to the show are the Coverings Appreciation Days, which feature tailored guided tours of the show floor, lunch and focused education sessions, among other attractions. The 2017 Appreciation Day schedule is as follows: Builder & Remodeler Day, April 4; Architect & Designer Day, April 5; Contractor Days, April 5–6; and Fabricator Day, April 7.

The show will also offer both CTEF Certified Tile Installer (CTI) and Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) testing, as well as Stone Fabricators Alliance demos. Lastly, the Live Demonstration Stage at booth #3135 and the Coverings Rock Star program will also return this year.

Product showcase
Exhibitors plan to showcase the latest tile and stone trends on the show floor. This includes a wide array of formats. “From a size perspective, we anticipate companies will introduce large slabs reaching up to 126 inches in length in a variety of materials,” said Shelly Halbert, director of product design, Dal-Tile. “On the opposite end of the spectrum, we will see smaller formats in handcrafted looks, including 8 x 8, 12 x 12 and 6 x 12 sizes.”

Donato Pompo, president of Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants, anticipates seeing a lot of wood plank porcelain tile, gauged porcelain tile/panels (thin tile panels) and ink jet reproductions of various types of stone. He explained that rectangle tiles are still popular as well as large module tiles. He also expects to see various types of decorative wall tiles.

Innovations in porcelain tile will also be on display. Style options run the gamut from marble looks, bright colors with unique textures, wood and metallic looks. “Porcelain tile panels are a significant development for the tile industry because of their size—measured in feet, not inches—and range of potential applications,” said Lindsey Waldrep, vice president of marketing, Crossville. “These panels can be used in applications where traditional tile wouldn’t be an option. They can also be installed directly over previous tile or stone, eliminating the cost and labor involved in [demonstration] spaces, all while achieving big style with all the performance of porcelain.”

Emily Holle, director of trend and design, MSI, expects to see more wood looks and various sizes at the show. “This is an exciting trend that’s morphing and evolving quickly, with new styles constantly emerging and all types of edgy wood looks holding their own against the most traditional styles.”

While Emser is not exhibiting this year, Barbara Haaksma, vice president of marketing, plans to walk the show. She expects to see products that will build on existing trends. “Some of the looks we’re expecting are a continuation of the longer slabs. We’re going to see a lot when it comes to larger format tiles. We’re also expecting to see a lot more decorative tiles.”

Attendees will also be on the lookout for technological advances in design and performance. As Kristin Coleman, marketing representative for Ceramics of Italy, put it: “The capabilities of tile are expanding every year, moving from a flooring material decades ago to a truly versatile, high performance material that can be used to clad buildings, serve as kitchen and bathroom countertops, outdoor pavers and more.”

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NWFA 2017 preview: Training, networking, products galore

March 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 20

By Reginald Tucker


Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.14.17 AMExcitement is building for the 2017 National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) conference and exhibition, set to kick off April 11–14 at the Phoenix Convention Center. Named one of the 50 fastest-growing trade shows for five consecutive years, NWFA will feature scores of vendors showcasing the latest in hardwood flooring products, installation tools and accessories; dynamic keynote speakers and expert technical demonstrations; and a revamped educational structure designed to encourage attendees to increase their participation.

NWFA 2017 expects to draw hundreds of specialty hardwood flooring contractors, retailers and distributors from around the globe. The three-day event offers attendees 25-plus hours of educational programming, invaluable networking activities, an exhibition teeming with stylish new products and installation tools as well as special events and entertainment. It’s all part of an evolution designed to deliver greater value to all participants.

“We are really looking forward to bringing our industry together for another tremendous show,” said Michael Martin, NWFA president and CEO. “With the successful launch of NWFA University, bringing Hardwood Floors magazine in-house and increased engagement with our members, we have more to offer than ever.”

Martin has good reason to be optimistic. For the fifth year in a row, Trade Show Executive magazine has cited the NWFA Expo as one of the 50 fastest-growing shows in the U.S. According to the publication, NWFA excels in the following areas: net square feet, number of exhibiting companies and total attendees. In fact, NWFA has been recognized in one or more of these categories each year since 2012.

“This is very rewarding recognition, especially as it’s for five years in a row,” Martin said. “Since completely rebuilding the show in 2012, it’s clear our expo is delivering a strong return on investment for both our exhibitors and attendees.”

NWFA literally promises something for everyone. Due to the captive audience of roughly 3,000 decision makers, exhibitors stand to gain a qualified list of prospects. Meanwhile, owners can attend the various educational sessions and roundtable discussions to learn about strategies to help them implement best practices to grow their businesses. Sessions are tailored to address participants across the supply chain, with seminars running the gamut from jobsite preparation, nail- and glue-down techniques and the effect of sanding on finish to the science of engineered wood, cork and bamboo. Beyond the core product- and installation-related sessions there are business seminars dealing with pertinent topics such as marketing to millennials.

Expo education sessions set to take place on April 12 and April 13 are included in the registration fee. The pre-expo symposium, which will take place on April 11, will focus the science of wood flooring. Each participant will receive one CCU. This entails a fee of $225 in advance or $275 on site.

This continued emphasis on education is in keeping with NWFA’s long-term goals. “Six years ago, NWFA completely overhauled its wood flooring expo and rebuilt it from the ground up,” Anita Howard, NWFA COO, explained. “This past year we launched NWFA University to provide online education that enhances our hands-on training.  The success of these two initiatives, and the enthusiasm with which they have been received by our members, has motivated us to shake things up once again by reformatting our educational program at Expo.”

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.15.34 AMIn the past, according to Howard, the NWFA expo has presented education in a very traditional way, usually via content experts presenting information to attendees in a passive fashion. This year, NWFA is moving away from that format in favor of more attendee-directed learning with interactive, collaborative sessions. Under the new structure, topics will be presented by a moderator who will lead the instruction, but it is the attendees who will ultimately direct how the material is presented and what is discussed. There is no script, no prepared PowerPoint presentations and no outline that will be followed to the letter.

“This may sound like less work, but in reality it’s not,” Howard explained. “For example, a main topic may be presented with three sub-topics to be discussed during each session. Moderators will introduce the main topic, then tables will discuss sub-topics that will then be shared with the group as a whole. This format encourages each attendee to actively participate in his or her learning, establishes contacts for future collaboration and provides a more meaningful takeaway that attendees can apply to their own businesses.”

Special events

NWFA 2017 is far from all work and no play. A series of special events, social gatherings, receptions and even some awards ceremonies are designed to keep attendees entertained. The opening act, the NWFA Wood Floor of the Year awards presentation, kicks off at 4:30 p.m. on April 11.

Additional points of interest include a special keynote presentation by Matt Beaudreau, a professional public speaker from Northern California who has provided professional development training to more than 10,000 educators across the country. He will share his insights about how NWFA attendees work collaboratively across generations to improve and advance the industry. Immediately following Beaudreau’s presentation will be a performance from Urban Electra, a string band. Refreshments will be provided during the performance.

Another dynamic speaker on tap is US Army Master Sgt. Cedric King, who joined the military in 1995 and graduated from the US Army Ranger School. In 2012, Sgt. King was severely wounded during his third deployment. Since his injury, he has continued to be productive, competing in marathons, climbing mountains and serving as an inspiration to many.

A Happy Hour event is scheduled to take place on the show floor between 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on April 12. NWFA winds down on April 13 with the main event—a performance by actor/musician/ activist Gary Sinise and his group, the Lt. Dan Band.

Vendor showcase

Another key draw of the NWFA Expo is, of course, the trade show, which will run from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on April 12 and between 10:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. on April 13. Scores of vendors have reserved space to showcase the latest hardwood flooring products, tools and accessories.

Case in point is Wickham Hardwood Flooring, which puts the spotlight on several popular solid lines such as Domestic, Winery (UV, oil finished), Wild West (wire brushed) and Mountain Home (hand scraped, oil finished). In addition, Wickham will showcase engineered collections manufactured to mirror some of its solid offerings.

Other vendors are putting the emphasis on new formats. For instance, Mirage will showcase new boards in lengths up to 82 inches. The new lengths represent an average increase of 25% for Mirage engineered 5- and 61⁄2-inch widths. The new lengths, according to Brad Williams, vice president of sales and marketing, make any room look bigger, with fewer boards needed to cover a given area thereby resulting in fewer visible joints. “The trend toward longer boards continues this year. Increasing our board lengths supports that trend.”

Other suppliers will showcase technological breakthroughs. Lauzon, for example, will highlight its new engineered offerings designed to mimic solid floors.