The products and services created by this approach shed light on how the flooring business operates these days. Here, then, are a few observations based on what I saw at Surfaces
Technology is our friend (really)I was delighted, and admittedly a bit surprised, to find a near full-house for a panel discussion I moderated. Three sharp flooring retailers talked about how they have successfully incorporated B2B technology into their operation. It was late in the day and I-never a computer guy-was wondering who'd be drawn to a 90-minute dissertation on technology after a full day of booth hopping.
Luckily the audience recognized the value. Many had already installed the technology and needed advice on how to optimize it. One panel member, explained with obvious enthusiasm that it took him a few key strokes to adjust his entire inventory to reflect rising wholesale prices. Heads nodded. He didn't invest in the system because he loves technology-he did it because it made his life easier. More heads nodded. An audience member who was asked if he had installed a B2B system sheepishly said "No." He quickly refined his answer to "Not yet."
Industry groups are getting aggressiveThe many trade organizations and buying co-ops at the show were clearly taking nothing for granted.
The World Floor Covering Association's exhibit was a beehive of activity as the venerable trade group asked retailers to explore a new breakthrough web-based service called "Creating Your Space." The idea is to engage shoppers and expose then to new products geared toward their needs. The technology in effect plays matchmaker between the consumer's wallet and the retailer's cash register.
Laminate flooring is a "new" categoryHow realistic looking is the new generation of laminate flooring? Remember that old ad: "Is it live, or is it Memorex"? The Mannington exhibit had its own version: Side-by-side samples of new wood, laminate and vinyl flooring products. Visitors were challenged to figure out which was which. It was difficult to tell even when you ran your finger across them, which says a lot about the look and feel of the new products.
But credit for truly advancing the category goes to Faus. Its new FastDesign technology facilitates designs heretofore unavailable in laminate: including herringbones, diamonds and spirals. They have given the floor a seamless visual from plank to plank.