Earl Blane, vp of retailer CarpetMart in Mentor, Ohio, says the people and products at Surfaces can help small businesses thrive in an increasing competitive environment.

Most of the top flooring manufacturers in the world say they wouldn't think of missing Surfaces-which is the prime reason they establish their presence with hulking, impossible-to-miss exhibits. Boasting expansive floor plans, eye-catching displays and small armies of eager salespeople, these displays are not only places to conduct business; they also serve as landmarks for showgoers to orient themselves on the busy convention floor.

Then of course there are the legions of much smaller displays. While they may be dwarfed by the big boys, they are no less vital to the show. Each has a story to tell, a product to offer and, often, the perfect solution to a highly specific business need. The tandem of prominent and not-quite-as-prominent suppliers exhibiting side-by-side has long been a chief selling point of Surfaces.

Show organizers expect nearly 40,000 people at the Feb 1-3 meeting in Las Vegas.
Clearly, with more than 1,100 companies and nearly 40,000 attendees expected at the Sands Expo & Convention Center in Las Vegas for the Feb. 1-3. meeting, there are enormous opportunities to see and be seen. Products and services touching all aspects of floor covering will be displayed across two expansive floors comprising some 500,000 square feet of space.

Of course, with that much to consider, Surfaces can sometimes feel overwhelming even to the most seasoned industry pro. Veteran showgoers agree that the key to working the show is to go with both a specific agenda and an open mind. While a retailer, for example, will want to visit all of his key vendors, he should also be on the lookout for new opportunities.

"I need every advantage I can get," says Earl Blane, vp of flooring retailer CarpetMart in Mentor, Ohio. "Surfaces puts me in touch with people and products I might not otherwise get to see."

For exhibitors, one of the main advantages of Surfaces is its ability to draw in people from all over the world. Smaller companies usually have somewhat limited resources and look to the show as a springboard to gain exposure to regions of the country where they otherwise have little or no presence.

"We go every year for the visibility," says Shields Jarrett, southeastern regional manager for finish maker Basic Coatings. "The networking helps, and we pick up a lot of leads from contractors at the show. Our sales force is not the largest sales force in the world - so Surfaces helps us cover a large area in one place."

Gord Kostik, general manager of E-Z Cut, says that Surfaces helps his business build momentum. "People really get to know who you are," he says.
Gord Kostik, general manager of carpet-cutting machine supplier E-Z Cut, says he welcomes the excitement that comes when so many people from one industry are gathered in one place. "The industry needs one main show and Surfaces is it," he asserts. "The momentum that builds up for your business from attending year after year is a real advantage. People really get to know who you are."

Surfaces' senior show director Michelle Troop notes that the volume of exhibiting companies is a major advantage for everyone on hand. "By providing retailers with over 1,000 exhibiting companies, we provide them with new products, new suppliers and most importantly, new ways to be competitive," she says. "In addition, retailers can find new product categories that give them additional profit centers."

This year Surfaces is once again offering an extensive schedule of conferences and special events aimed at keeping attendees up-to-date and informed on the latest technologies and products. The Surfaces Conference Program will be offered in six tracks - Marketing, Business, Sales, Design, Installation and Window Coverings.

Editors and columnists of BNP Media's NFT, FCI and TILE magazines will be among the presenters planning to speak at the Conference Program, which is sponsored by Mannington. Al Stewart, editor of NFT, will moderate a retailer panel called "Retailers' Most Valuable B2B Practices," 4 to 5:30 p.m. Feb. 1. NFT columnists Janet Carter and Dave Gobis will both present pre-show workshops on Jan. 31 ("Making the 5th Wall an Important Feature" and "Ceramic Tile: Meeting the Consumer Demand," respectively). For TILE magazine, columnist Patti Fasan will speak on "Trends in Ceramic Tile," 8 to 9:30 a.m. Feb. 1. And on the last day of the show, Feb. 3, FCI editor John Moore, FCI columnist Jon Namba, Mickey Moore of NOFMA, and Paul Micalizzi of TCNA will present "Common Causes of Installation Failures."

Additionally, seven, one-hour installation demonstrations are planned for the run of Surfaces. Expert installers will address the installation of hardwood, resilient, ceramic, stone. carpet and self-leveling compounds. The Installation Showcase, which is sponsored by Laticrete, is produced in conjunction with the World Floor Covering Association, the International Certified Floorcovering Installers Assoc., Floor Covering Installer and National Floor Trends magazines.

For further information, call (800) 547-3477 or visit www.surfaces.com.

Tips for the Surfaces-bound...

Veterans of previous Surfaces meetings offer the following advice to showgoers:
  • Have a schedule, but keep it flexible. While it is a good idea to schedule appointments with key contacts, allow some time each day for wandering the show floor looking for new leads and business contacts.

  • Remember, people are pressed for time. Make sure you arrive for appointments right on time but don't needlessly prolong meetings. After a set amount of time, 15 to 20 minutes say, offer a firm handshake and be on your way. (Make certain you exchange cards so you can follow up.)

  • Think of every encounter as an opportunity. Las Vegas will be teeming with folks in the flooring business. Whether you are in a casino, a line for cabs or in a restaurant, the person next to you may have a perfect solution for your business. If you see a Surfaces badge, introduce yourself. See what happens.

  • Remember the basics. Arrive early for your flight. Bring at least two pairs of comfortable shoes. Make sure your cell phone is charged up and you have a stack of business cards. Remember to drink plenty of water (it's February, but it is still the desert.)

Most important: Have fun! (It is Las Vegas after all.)