Surfaces 2001 Proves that Business Can be Profitable -- and Fun
The strong, lyrical notes of a saxophone chimed in with the low tones of a double bass, heralding the start of what was already looking to be a Surfaces show like no other. Downstairs on the venue's lower level, two men on stilts -- dressed to the nines in tuxedos and top hats -- smiled and waved at attendees, helping those that were lost to find their way to the show's various seminar presentations.
Attendees that were already armed with show floor maps made their way into the convention hall. People were constantly looking up at the signs for various booths -- some of them so large and distinct that they would be virtually impossible to miss.
Throughout the day, the energy of the crowd mirrored that of the exhibitors. People were smiling, having a good time and constantly moving between booths as they browsed the varied and elaborate displays. It all seemed to reflect the attitude of the industry itself -- upward and forward, into the future.
The first Surfaces show since Hanley-Wood acquired the exposition from the WFCA proved that the transition came off flawlessly. This year's attendance of 39,183 people represented a 13% increase over last year's total. Show-goers perused approximately 900 booths in an impressive exhibit space of more than one-half million square feet.
The convention space itself was bright and open, with aisles of black carpet linking exhibits like bridges between islands. Contrasting with the dark aisles were the colorful booth spaces that exhibitors festooned with their own floor covering products, which ran the gamut of all the industry has to offer.
National Carpet Equipment featured live demonstrations of several of their machines, including the model 467BS01 carver that Joy Erickson, the company's design instructor, used to create a custom rug as curious onlookers watched. Huge cardboard sheep hung from the ceiling like clouds over the Wools of New Zealand area, and a sound much like waves rolling onto a shore mingled with the chatter of the crowd as representatives of Ez-Cut and Accu-Cut demonstrated their respective cutting machines.
Though most attendees and exhibitors had come to Vegas to consummate business deals, there were ample opportunities for show participants to have fun. 3M's exhibit sported a motorized racecar track, complete with a miniature roadway on which people could compete against each other in sets of two. Another crowd gathered at Carpenter Co.'s roulette wheel. Keeping with the Vegas theme, a group of risk-taking attendees yelled and cheered when the number they picked hit its mark. On a different note, Witex brought the fashion theme to Surfaces with a photo shoot four times a day featuring various models.
On the show's first day, a mass of people swarmed Armstrong's booth to greet the arrival of NFL great Dan Marino. The former Miami Dolphins quarterback made two guest appearances that day, drawing attention to Armstrong's latest product innovations.
Ireland discussed how much she has enjoyed her experience in the carpet industry and as a first-time Surfaces attendee. "Shaw has been a wonderful partner, they have really embraced my need to be a part of the decision making and marketing side of it," she said of the Shades of America line. "Design has always been of interest to me. I am really a student of broadloom and that's why it was so wonderful…to go to Surfaces. It was so amazing to see everything."
In addition to business and fun, Surfaces 2001 offered a wide array of educational seminars. Topics covered everything from marketing, installation, carpet maintenance, tile, hardwood, laminate, and consumer trends to legal problems and showroom design. Among the many offerings was the Evolution of Solid Surface with Color & Consumer Trends presentation by Carol Lankings ASID, and David Hunt's seminar, Weaving Dollars from Woven Carpet. Other seminars included Warren Tyler's How to Improve the Efficiency of your Sales Staff and Effective Showroom Design & Management with NFT columnist Janet Carter ASID.
Troubleshooting Installation Problems in an Era of New Technologies, sponsored by Floor Covering Installer magazine (NFT's sister publication) and moderated by FCI Editor Jeffrey Stouffer, reviewed some of the most common problems that installers confront on the jobsite, as well as solutions to these obstacles. NFT columnists Ray Thompson Jr. and Joe Grady, and FCI columnist Ken Knudtzon, served up expert opinions on problems that ranged from cupping in wood floors to alkalinity's damaging effect on VCT.
Surfaces 2001 saw much mingling of the old and the new. New technologies that built on tried-and-true methods in all areas of floor covering were widely in evidence, as was a noticeable mix of generations. Long-time veterans of the industry stood shoulder-to-shoulder with relative youngsters who are just beginning to grasp the vastness of what the industry has to offer.
As Barry Schmidt of Carpet Trends West Ltd., Estes Park, Colo. put it, "It's overwhelming how much there is to see. I started my business a year ago and there is just so much to learn. To come to Surfaces and see all of this -- it's just amazing. I know so much more…after coming to this show."
Whether you've been a part of the industry for many years or are just starting out, Surfaces 2001 had something to offer everyone. This year's event proved that all work and no play is an old cliche and sometimes the best business strategy is to make a client smile.