Show organizers expect more than 32,000 attendees at this year's meeting.

Those in the tile business say they have never seen better products or stiffer competition. In a bid to sort it all out, 32,000 attendees, including retailers, architects, tile distributors and installers, are gearing up for Coverings 2006, North America's largest tile and stone show. Set for April 4-7 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., the meeting is expected to incorporate a more diverse range of products than at any previous show.

The show will also offer a range of industry-specific seminars and hands-on demonstrations. The educational series is designed to shed light on the latest trends, techniques and issues facing the industry.

Coverings organizers are expecting more than 1,200 exhibitors from at least 50 countries to attend the four-day event. Major tile manufacturers and fabricators from North America, Spain, Italy, Brazil and Turkey are among those slated to showcase their latest products and services.

Visitors browse Schluter Systems' booth at Coverings 2005.
Paco Underhill, a retail anthropologist and noted author, will set the tone for the show on April 4 with a keynote address that will explore the science of shopping. His presentation will offer insight into the psyche of consumers and their buying habits, drawing examples from his best-selling book "Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping."

His comments will kick off a full complement of conferences offered to retailers, distributors and installers at the show. Highlights include "Trendscape: What You Don't Buy is As Important as What You Do Buy" at 3:15 p.m. and "How to Be a Successful $50 Million Tile, Marble and Terrazzo Company and Still Play Golf" at 4:30 p.m. April 4; "The Future of U.S. Ceramic Tile Distribution: What Can We Predict" at 9 a.m. and "Installing Tile in Wood Structures" at 4:30 p.m. April 5; "Backerboard Panel: Floor Installations," at 8 a.m. and "Still Having Problems with Porcelain?" at 4:30 p.m. April 6; and "The Growing Concern About Mold" and "Lighten the Load - Advances in Tile and Stone Installation," both at 8 a.m. April 7.

To further facilitate networking among retailers, distributors and dealers, Tile of Spain will host a Dealer, Distributor and Retailer Appreciation Night, 6:30 p.m. April 6 at the Motion nightclub in Downtown Disney Pleasure Island. Coverings Architect/Designer, Builder and Installer/Contractor/Fabricator Appreciation Nights will also be held that night at other nightclubs in the area.

Retail scientist Paco Underhill will give the keynote speech at Coverings on the science of shopping.
At least two Coverings exhibitors will give away major prizes at the show, including a Ford pick-up truck and a full range of premium tools. Members of several Brazilian trade associations will have a hand in giving away the truck, including the Brazilian Association of Ceramic Tile Manufacturers, the Brazilian Association for Dimension Stone Industry and the Brazilian Export Promotion Agency.

The National Tile Contractors Association, a Coverings sponsor, will coordinate the tool giveaways. Products in the drawing include QEP wet saws and diamond blades, Sigma Tools tile cutters and a Racatac Master Rac adjustable grouting and cleaning machine. Coverings attendees can enter for the prizes by dropping off a form at one of several designated bins situated throughout the exhibit hall.

For more information, call (703) 683-8500 or to the website can access the Coverings Matchingmaking Service, which allows attendees to create a list of exhibitors to visit and contact the companies directly through e-mail.