The Coverings 2004 tile, stone and flooring expo will take place at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., March 23 - 26. More than 26,000 attendees from around the world will travel to the event to meet with the 1,000 exhibitors who will be on hand to showcase their wares in 500,000-net-square-feet of floor space.
This year's show will feature an expanded educational lineup, and will be held in the newly completed North/South Complex of the Orange County Convention Center. To discuss how these and other changes will affect the 2004 edition of Coverings, National Floor Trends turned for answers to Tamara Christian, president of National Trade Productions (NTP), which will be producing the show for the first time this year.
Q. What changes will be evident at this year's Coverings show compared to last year's event?
A. There are many new programs for Coverings 2004 that we believe will provide significant value to the exhibitors and attendees. This year's Coverings conference program has been redesigned based on input from exhibitors to better reflect the educational needs of today's market.
We have more than 40 brand new sessions, and a new schedule that allows exhibitors and attendees to make the best use of their days. We have added new workshops on the redesigned exhibit floor, a number of industry forums and roundtable special-interest groups, and more after-hours networking events.
In addition, we have several major speakers this year, including Steve Forbes, William McDonough, Michael Payne and Michael Fortino. We have even redesigned our Web site, at www.coverings.com, to make it as user-friendly as possible for our visitors. We're confident the changes we've made will help everyone get the most out of attending the show.
Q. How is the move to the new convention center complex going to affect the show?
A. We are very excited that Coverings will be at the Orange County Convention Center for many reasons. First, this is a brand new facility with state-of-the-art equipment and amenities, giving exhibitors and attendees the best possible resources with which to do business.
Second, the new hall is a square instead of a rectangle, making the show floor much easier to navigate. It should also help traffic density, because the shape helps make the width of the floor more manageable.
And third, there will be entrances on both sides of the hall and registration on both the north and south sides, with shuttle drop offs at both sides as well. The high-tech facility and new layout adds up to convenience for all those participating in the show.
Q. What is the overall attendance projected to be compared to Coverings 2003?
A. We have completely overhauled the marketing for Coverings and the tactics used to drive attendance. In addition to a much more user-friendly Web site, we have a multi-tiered, highly targeted direct-mail campaign which clearly addresses the needs of each audience segment. Our advertising and e-mail promotion campaigns reach nearly 4 million marketing impressions combined. We anticipate very strong attendance in Orlando to result from our revitalized outreach.
Q. How have the current economic and political situations affected potential exhibitors and attendees, and how are you addressing this?
A. The most significant impact seems to be with international exhibitors acquiring visas. Stricter regulations are making visas more difficult to obtain and it also now takes longer to receive them. This certainly will prevent any last minute decisions to attend.
That having been said, we still expect strong attendance, as the popularity of stone and tile is increasing and growing numbers of homeowners are investing significantly in building materials that focus on high style and design. As such, exhibitors need to get their products through the channels to the consumer, and participation in Coverings is the best way for them to do that.
Q. Is the International Flooring Exposition, which was sponsored last year by the NAFCD, going to be a part of Coverings 2004? If not, does this mean that the show will focus exclusively on tile and stone, and related materials and services?
A. NAFCD continues to be a major sponsor of Coverings and works closely with us to promote and support the show. In fact, they are hosting a seminar one month before Coverings that offers a free trip to the show for one of their attendees.
As with past shows, Coverings exhibitors represent all aspects of flooring. We have just discontinued the use of the name "International Flooring Exposition" to prevent confusion.
Q. What is NTP doing to promote the show?
A. We have an aggressive marketing and public relations plan in place to promote the show to a variety of audiences around the globe: exhibitors; architects and designers; distributors; retailers; fabricators; builders/remodelers; installers; and, of course, the media. All of our efforts reinforce the fact that Coverings is the preeminent showcase for ceramic tile and natural stone floor coverings in the world, and that participation in the show is an excellent way for every one of these groups to improve their businesses.
Q. What functions does Coverings provide to the international tile and stone marketplace?
A. Coverings provides an exceptional opportunity for international tile and stone fabricators to display their wares in one of the largest marketplaces in the world. In addition, we hope our wide variety of conferences and seminars will provide them with additional tools and resources to help them increase their businesses both here and abroad.
Q. What plans does NTP have for future shows?
A. National Trade Productions will continue to develop Coverings to ensure that it is the must-attend event for the tile and stone industry. After the show, we will survey both our attendees and exhibitors to learn what improvements can make the show better.
We will continue to partner with our sponsoring organizations, which are integral to ensuring the show's success. We will increase our outreach to, and relevance for, the specifying audience, which is critical to driving consumption. Bottom line, we will do everything in our power to ensure that Coverings is the most significant, successful event in the flooring industry each year.