Broadstripe from Lauzon Hardwood Flooring's NextStep engineered line.
Fanning the anticipation of attendees for the greatest flooring show on earth remains the key marketing focal point for organizers of the annual Surfaces expo. The extent to which the show's name has become ingrained throughout the industry deserves applause in itself. Even with a new regime now controlling the show and its destiny, there's been no move to alter the title of the show. The tried-and-true Surfaces name continues to serve ably as the title of the floor covering industry's biggest homecoming event.

Another key issue of interest is the consistency of the show's location, in Las Vegas. Like it or not, we are all basically creatures of habit. And as such, we've all grown quite comfortable with the City of Neon Lights as the backup act for our favorite show.

The winter scheduling of Surfaces also capitalizes on what, for most dealers, is the softest selling season of the year. The dealers/contractors who attend are afforded ample opportunity to examine multiple products of their choice, rather than having to rely on the minimal, isolated demonstrations of product that are traditionally conducted in their showrooms. Besides, within the confines of their own places of business, dealers' attention spans are limited at best and often eroded further by business-related interruptions that require immediate attention.

Like all other floor covering entities, the hardwood floor industry embraces the opportunity to attend, participate and display its wares in this yearly flooring phenomenon. Whether you are a manufacturer, distributor or dealer/contractor, Surfaces serves as your golden opportunity for exposure to everything that's new and exciting in hardwood -- particularly as it pertains to the prefinished segment of our industry. It's become quite evident that the lion's share of our industry's growth resides in the ever-changing prefinished category.

Surfaces was developed, in part, to showcase the prefinished products of all manufacturers for the benefit of full-line floor covering dealers. Unfortunately, although many job site-finishing contractors view these offerings, relatively few choose to take on these alternative products that our segment of the industry has to offer. I'll never understand why. Personally, I'm very grateful to those prefinished manufacturers who do display the full potential and varied range of possibilities that wood floors encompass.

Once thing is for sure, the razzle-dazzle is almost as important as the wood floor products themselves. Truly, presentation is everything, especially when you're trying to accomplish enticement. For both the fresh and the weary, dealers still have to be drawn in and detoured from the aisles of never-ending, towering exhibits so much in evidence on the Surfaces show floor. Without question, the less elaborate displays must have tremendous curb appeal to slow down and capture the curiosity of the fast moving traffic that otherwise would pass by without stopping. And by the way, tripping the pedestrians may be effective means of stopping passersby but, if the exhibitor is trying to sell the steak without the sizzle, those showgoers will soon regain their momentum and move on to more impressive exhibits.

The hardwood floor manufacturers who display at Surfaces tend to utilize themes that remind me of the travels Dorothy undertakes in "The Wizard of Oz." They begin by replacing the Yellow Brick Road with paths of hardwood. If my memory of the film serves me correctly, Dorothy's unforgettable trip to the Emerald City includes scenes involving several variations of trees. Not to be outdone in the utilization of props, today's hardwood flooring manufacturers bring new life to these various species in the form of hardwood floors.

For instance, Robbins Hardwood Flooring during Surfaces will introduce a totally new line of engineered floors that utilize North American-grown exotics including pecan, walnut and cherry. Nor has the company forgotten to include old, reliable red oak as part of this premier introduction.

Attention was also given to the structural integrity of these totally new products configuring the planks in a five-ply format, rather than the more common three-ply construction. These additional layers can only be considered a welcome addition to what is already a product of excellent dimensional stability. Another plus for marketing purposes will be the availability of 3- and 5-inch widths in the line. This will afford the dealer even greater flexibility to create a random-width installation whenever the customer so desires.

These new products will be displayed for sample viewing and, to even more dramatic effect, as a full-blown installations at the Robbins exhibit area. If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: the larger the sample, the greater the desire. Besides, if you can't sell the dealers, how does any hardwood flooring manufacturer expect the dealer to be motivated to entice, capture and secure the sale from the consumer?

Robbins Hardwood Flooring's new line of engineered wood floors utilizes the North American exotics of (from left) walnut, pecan and cherry.
Definitely, engineered wood floors are becoming the accepted wave of the future in the hardwood segment of the industry. Any alternative floor covering that is merely a skin-deep picture coated with a finish, even when it has a wood look, pales in comparison with the authenticity of real wood. An apple will always be an apple, and an orange will always be an orange.

Yes indeed, Surfaces is not just another odyssey in the year 2001. It represents a new beginning for displaying hardwood floor manufacturers to not only display their products but also to demonstrate how they can be configured to create individualized installations of exceptional beauty and durability. The design potential of wood floors, like the potential lifespan of the product, is infinite. The available variations of species, specifications and performance warranties afford today's dealers the luxury of offering products that are in total compliance with the guidelines established by the architectural and design communities. The only limitation that you will ever encounter are those that are contained within a resistant mind.

Surfaces is definitely THE PLACE to be. And if you're thinking that this is the same old flooring show, you too are overdue to be "renewed." One thing is for sure, Wood or Wood Knot guarantees that there will be a tremendous number of heels clicking during this year's extravaganza whether you're from Kansas or not. What are you waiting for? Put on your running shoes. We hope to see you in Vegas.