Going into Surfaces 2001, many questions swirled throughout the industry -- at all levels and in all quarters. They were sparked, in part, by such things as the gyrations of the stock market, the desire of many to create a recession mentality and the beat goes on. Then, of course, there were those who wondered what Surfaces would be like now that it is owned by Hanley-Wood and not by the WFCA.

From the opening bell, it was clearly evident that Surfaces succeeded on every front. The number of exhibitors was greatly increased, and the variety of products and services was superb. The number of educational programs presented in conjunction with Surfaces also was increased. Pretty much every seminar received excellent support from attendees who came away with needed knowledge for successfully doing business in today's world.

I don't know what the final attendance figures were, but rest assured that there were tons of people shopping Surfaces throughout its run. The integrity of Surfaces was maintained by Hanley-Wood and meaningful additions were made.

What really impressed me was the confidence that was so prevalent among attendees and exhibitors. Confidence in where the industry is going. Confidence in the products, promotions, marketing plans, and services. Confidence in the growing number of learning opportunities available -- all of the ingredients for success.

This is good news for some, but not for everyone. It is good news for those who recognize the important fact that the customers, both residential and commercial, are the driving force behind the success of retailers and contractors. It is good only for those who recognize that the customers -- retailers, contractors and installers -- are the driving force behind manufacturers and distributors.

Those who want success will focus on their customers. Which means that retailers and contractors who gear their products to the needs of their markets and customers, who employ well-trained salespeople and installers, who aggressively promote their companies, and who put their efforts into gaining and maintaining professionalism are in for a big year.

Technology will continue to add benefits to our industry's products and improve installation methods. Training and education will increase even more thanks to the efforts of industry associations, manufacturers and distributors. These training programs will enhance the professionalism of those who take advantage of them and, in turn, raise the level of our entire industry.

No question that opportunities abound for the new construction and the replacement/remodel segments. And for the floor covering specialty store that is professional, things have never been more promising.

It's easy to see why confidence was the hallmark of Surfaces 2001.

Howard welcomes your comments on his editorials. E-mail him at hiolan@aol.com or post your thoughts on the NFT Online Message Board at www.i-boards.com/bnp/nft.