There is no denying the economic powerhouse that is Shanghai. A coastal city of 24 million people, it is a metropolis for savvy entrepreneurs who are ready to pounce on opportunity with swiftness, confidence and agility. Anything is possible here, and this can-do climate creates the perfect backdrop for Domotex Asia/ChinaFloor, the leading flooring trade exhibition in Asia Pacific and the second largest flooring trade exhibition worldwide.

This year marked the show’s 20th anniversary, and what began as a small regional exhibition now draws top industry brands from around the world, such as Armstrong, Gerflor, Swiss Krono, Tarkett and USFloors. Due to high demand in all product categories, the show significantly increased exhibition capacity this year to accommodate more than 1,400 companies in 13 buildings at the Shanghai New International Expo Center.

“While Domotex Europe is the place to see the latest styles and design trends for flooring, Domotex China is the place to see the latest technologies applied to the manufacturing and composition of flooring—truly the ‘what’ is possible for flooring innovations,” said Tom Hume, vice president of marketing for San Diego-based Cali Bamboo, who sent a team to the show.

“It is extremely important to be here because a lot of suppliers for the North American market and Europe are based here for all the new materials—LVT, SPC, WPC—and most of my licensees are here,” said John Rietveldt, CEO of I4F, a company providing patents and technologies to the flooring industry. “There are distributors and retailers from Europe and the U.S., and it’s a very good opportunity to show how our system works, demonstrating our systems to thousands of people, which we hope will create more demand.”

The wood flooring sector presented the latest innovations in solid wood, engineered wood, laminate, cork and bamboo. Last year marked an extraordinary year of development for the history of China with gross domestic product reaching a record high of RMB 80 trillion [U.S. $12.73 trillion], commercial residential buildings selling in large numbers, new jobs created, a decrease in poverty and the redevelopment of rundown urban areas, according to Mr. Shi Feng, vice secretary general of the China Forestry Industry Association.  “All of these have contributed to increased market demand for wood and wood products,” Feng said.

The district of Nanxun, China, is the largest wood flooring production and sales base in the country, and the local government welcomed international buyers from Asia, Europe, Oceania, and North America who investigated operations in the Chinese market to support their global business endeavors. A three-day business matchmaking excursion helped members of the delegation learn about the investment potential of the region and its timber manufacturing facilities.

John Dupra, co-founder of Revel Woods, a U.S.-based hardwood flooring ecommerce store, was a member of the delegation, exploring wood plants and opportunities for exports in Nanxun before visiting the Shanghai show.

“It was a fact-finding mission,” Dupra said. “For me, the biggest takeaway was the amount of care, attention and passion that was put into the products. Most of the booths were laid out like art galleries, and I got a sense from many of the manufacturers that the flooring itself was art for them. It was not a commodity.”

Another highlight, and an indicator of a burgeoning market opportunity for specialty flooring retailers, was an exhibition hall dedicated to 50 wood plastic composite (WPC) decking exhibitors. The show hosted a VIP buyers program for 15 delegates from around the world who attended with the goal of increasing collaboration between Chinese suppliers and global flooring companies.

WPC is part of the $4.1 billion decking and railing industry, and some sources show composite decking market growing at rate of 5.4% annually (which is faster than industry average of 3%). Industry estimates put composite decking representing 20% of the decking category.

Of course, multilayer flooring in every format and construction was readily available from domestic and global suppliers.

“The show has been very good,” said Piet Dossche, USFloors’ president and Shaw’s executive vice president of hard surfaces. “Our representation here is focused on the Asian markets and New Zealand and Australia—basically everything outside of Europe and the United States. We think it’s important to continue to make a statement product and brand wise as we are working on getting Coretec into a global brand.”

To meet market demand for LVT, which shows no signs of slowing down, many regional Chinese manufacturers are converting their laminate production capacities to produce LVT. “In recent years, China’s economic growth rate was stable, and China’s central government tried to rebalance the economy development across regions by driving urbanization,” said Ivan Yu, general manager, China, Armstrong. “Hence, we foresee more hospitals, schools and more CBDs will be built up in coming years, especially in tier 3-4 cities. This fuels a vigorous demand for resilient floors.”

At max capacity, the show added two overflow tents for regional makers of the flooring with handlers peddling samples to buyers outside exhibit hall doors.

“You see so many combinations of products—every company has its own philosophy,” said Matthias Windmöller, CEO of Windmöller, which exhibited its Wineo brand of resilient, laminate and organic flooring in a larger booth this year. “I’m sure there will be a shake out over the next five to 10 years where some of these products will survive from a pricing and performance standpoint.”

Steve Ehrlich, vice president of sales and marketing, Novalis reported high traffic and high energy at the show. “We’ve been going back and forth from the factory developing new trends and styles, working very closely with our customers, pushing the envelope for their collections and pushing our technology to keep them at the forefront of design and style,” he said. Many of Novalis’ European customers began discussions for product development at Domotex Hannover and then came to Domotex Asia to finalize their selections, he added.

Despite the movement in LVT, laminate continues to be a strong category in the Chinese market, as noted by Swiss Krono.

“We are showing here laminate flooring made in five factories: Switzerland, Germany, USA, Poland and Russia,” said Paul Mullings, export sales director for Swiss Krono. “We are here to do two jobs: one is to support the local Chinese distributors, which is fairly significant business now with 250 shops in 110 cities and growing, and we have our international visitors.”

Soft surface was also represented at the show, and the second edition of the Luxury Brands rug exhibition was a highlight. It showcased 16 carpet design firms who indulged visitors with a variety of extravagant products. Each company introduced two of their finest hand-made rugs with the goal of attracting buyers as well as industry professionals interested in collaborating on future design projects.