Ten U.S. flooring distributors attended this year’s Domotex asia/ChinaFloor in order to explore the state of manufacturing from major suppliers near Shanghai and to tour their factories.

“Although we had done business in China for a number of years, we felt we could gain a greater understanding of manufacturing capabilities and capacity,” said Dunn Rasbury, director of Flooring for Atlanta-based A&M Supply.

“The value from the knowledge and relationships developed from within the group combined with the experience to meet, see, and interact with Chinese manufacturers made this a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Steve Garner, product manager, Horizon Forest Products in Wilmington, N.C.

That sentiment was echoed throughout the delegation as delegates learned of new sourcing opportunities, especially for evolving categories like wood plastic core (WPC) and rigid -core multilayer flooring (MLF).

“I wanted to look at the show as a crystal ball, identifying what products will enter the market over the next 12 months,” said AJ Warne, director of resilient sales for Bridgeport, West Virginia-based Abraham Linc. “I spent better part of a day exploring all of the booths and found innovative products, interesting design inspirations, and manufacturers I will definitely find myself doing business with in the future.”

One trend Warne couldn’t help but notice was “the swiftness with which manufacturers are retooling and preparing to service the new rigid-core technology that is coming into the marketplace. As quickly as wood plastic core has taken the lion’s share of the spotlight in resilient offerings, rigid core is poised to exceed that growth.”

Chuck Greene, a hardwood product manager at Apollo Distributing in Fairfield, N.J., said the breadth or the product offerings at Domotex provided useful background for future business. “Visiting the factories was an especially eye-opening experience both in realizing how state-of-the-art some facilities were and the importance of vetting, whether by oneself or through an agent, any manufacturer you intend to do business with,” Greene said.

New to the flooring business was Nitin Mahajan, senior director, global supply chain and corporate strategy, JJ Haines in Glen Burnie, Md. “Being new to flooring, my focus was more about learning products in general rather than latest development. Being a supply-chain person, it was extremely valuable for me to visit the factories, perhaps even the highlight of my trip. I would say for any distributor looking to better understand the product quality, visiting the factories is a must. Whether you’re looking to add suppliers or simply understand market trends, this show is worth the time.”

Abraham Linc’s Warne highlighted the importance of shoring up relationships with importers as well as the factory representatives. “I can go into the market with new confidence in the companies I am doing business with,” he said. “There is nothing that inspires more confidence in a brand or manufacturers than witnessing the production process as it happens.”

For more information, visit www.domotexasiachinafloor.com.