With more than 900 exhibiting companies slated to attend the 2004 edition of the flooring industry's biggest trade show extravaganza, Surfaces is shaping up as a can't-miss event. According to show organizers, Surfaces 2004 -- which will be jam-packed with a wide range of new content, showcases and activities -- is on pace to exceed last year's attendance. In response, organizers have been busy adding a number of new wrinkles in the program to keep those attendees informed on the latest trends in the industry.

"It's really about the industry coming together and letting the attendees have the option to look at choices, stay competitive and learn how to make their businesses more successful," Michelle Troop, senior show director for Surfaces, says about this year's show.

Surfaces will take place Jan. 28-30 at the Sands Expo & Convention Center in Las Vegas. Floor covering professionals can come and be heard at the event's new Town Hall, Jan. 28 from 7:30 to 9 a.m., at the Venetian Hotel. During that 90-minute span, a panel of experts from a wide range of fields will address attendees' questions and concerns regarding challenges facing the industry. Among the panelists will be a retailer, a manufacturer, a distributor, and residential construction and floor covering industry forecasters.

The Town Hall moderator will be K. Bruce Koepcke, president of New Horizons Marketing. He was once marketing manager for DuPont Co., where he was awarded the distinguished Marketing Excellence Award for his work leading the Stainmaster Carpet marketing program.

Specifically, panelists will include David E. Polley, vice president of Marketing for The Dixie Group; Alan Braunstein, president of Worldwide Wholesale Floor Coverings; James Gould, Misco Shawnee chairman of the board; Tom Jennings CFE, president of Bud Jennings Carpet One and WFCA chairman of the board; Stuart Hirschhorn, research director for Catalina Research; and Kermit Baker, senior research fellow at Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies.

"We look at the Town Hall as an opportunity for people in the industry to really ask the questions on their minds right now," Troop says. "The industry's changing, and we've never really had a forum before to see what's new, what's different and what the future holds for the industry."

Throughout the duration of Surfaces 2004, industry experts will demonstrate the latest how-to techniques live on the floor at the Installation Showcase, which is sponsored by Surfaces and the WFCA. Topics will include patterned carpet and upholstery on stairs; tile and stone installation; moisture, sealers and alkalinity; fiber-optic laminate design; hardwood sales and installation; resilient and rubber flooring installation; and ceramic and hardwood design installations.

"These live, how-to sessions have never been done before," Troop says. "We want the sessions to help retailers and installers learn more about the things they can do and should be doing to have a successful installation the first time."

In addition, Mannington Mills and Surfaces will present Surfaces CELEBRATION! starring Kool and the Gang on Thurs., Jan. 29, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Mirage Hotel & Casino. Kool and the Gang's hits in the 1970s and '80s included "Jungle Boogie," "Ladies Night," "Celebration," "Get Down On It" and "Cherish." The event is designed to offer attendees an opportunity to network with friends and colleagues, and cultivate new contacts.

A throng of flooring professionals is expected to attend this year's show.
A Best Practices Retail Forum, which will afford attendees the chance to network with other retailers, will take place from 8 to 9 a.m., Jan. 30, at the Venetian Hotel. The session positions itself as offering the inside scoop on the best retail practices for your business.

This year's Conference Program, sponsored by Mannington Mills, features 41 all-new sessions. Five targeted tracks -- marketing, business, sales, design and installation -- allow attendees to choose courses that focus on the key areas of their businesses that need additional direction.

Among the courses are the "Going Green to Make More Green" panel presentation moderated by Jeff Golden, NFT publisher and editorial director, from 8 to 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 28. John Moore, editor of Floor Covering Installer and Tile, will preside over "Preventing Flooring Failures: Proper Techniques of Subfloor Preparation" with Christopher Capobianco of Toli International and Tim Cole of Forbo, from 8 to 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 28. "Profiting with Custom Flooring Designs," with Phil Johnson, BNP Media group publisher, is scheduled to run from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 28.

On Jan. 29, NFT columnist Janet Carter will present "More in Store: Rejecting the Cookie-Cutter Look" from 8 to 9:30 a.m., and "Make Them Buy From You, Not the Competition!" from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Also on the conference agenda from 8 to 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 29 is "Marketing Your Store's Installation Services" with Howard Olansky, NFT senior editor; Tom Jennings CFE; FIANA President Jim Lee; and Marty Murdoch, vice-chairman of FCICA.

Finally, Surfaces will hold its first-ever Win a Designer contest. One lucky retailer attending Surfaces 2004, and who registered by Dec. 19, will win an appearance in his or her store by Doug Wilson, the well-known designer from the popular "Trading Spaces" television show. Wilson will make one, three-hour appearance at the winning retailer's store between March and May 2004.

Additional information on Surfaces 2004 may be obtained by telephone at (800) 547-3477 or on the Internet at www.SurfacesExpo.com.