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.
Some 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.”
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.
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.
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.
Also 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.
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.”