NFT asked retailers and exhibitors a simple question: Why Surfaces? Almost always, they responded with one clear answer: to improve their business. Going to the industry’s biggest U.S. show, they say, keeps them on their toes. Not only do they find out about the newest products, they get a sense of how their peers are doing and which suppliers are ready to work with them. They come away with more than just tired feet and a bag bulging with brochures, sales sheets and goodies. They also feel connected to their industry and inspired to step up their efforts.
Simply put: There are so many things at Surfaces that simply cannot be done by phone, fax or computer.
“You can compare different brands right here in front of you,” says Jill Westerlind, owner of Jill’s Carpets in Aspen, Colo. “You can look at the emerging trends, see the new colors that are becoming popular, and get a look at the new styles that are coming out. It’s very convenient to be able to do all of that in one place.” She adds that she loves going to Surfaces because it serves as a one-stop shop for her business.
And while the supply/retailer interaction is always a top priority, the opportunities to expand nuts and bolts knowledge is also a strong draw, says Michelle Myers, a salesperson at Bargain Bill’s Floor Store in Rice Lake, Wis. While she certainly spends a fair amount of time on the show floor she always make the short trek over to the seminar area for a wide selection of sessions.
“This industry changes day to day,” says Myers. “We go to the seminars to learn about a wide range of issues,” she says. “But the main thing we’ve learned is that this is a changing industry. We go to the seminars because we want to keep ourselves updated on those changes. We want to keep that edge.”
Then, of course, there is the big tent concept-the whole industry gathered in one place. “Being able to communicate with so many suppliers at all the different levels is an essential part of Surfaces,” observes Surfaces veteran David Alton. As the past president of the World Floor Covering Association and president of flooring consultants DCA Enterprises of Portola Hills, Calif., Alton says the industry contacts he has made at the show have been invaluable.
“What I’ve always liked about the show is that I can go into an exhibit and see very quickly whether there’s anything there I want,” he says. “No one has to haul stuff into the store, give a presentation and schlep samples back and forth in and out of the showroom. Surfaces is literally like being able to visit every manufacturer’s showroom and picking and choosing among the products.”
For their part, manufacturers note that the show offers the opportunity to lure new customers. It’s also a good way for them to keep an eye on the competition.
“Surfaces is the only total floor covering market around,” says Matthew Rouhanian, president of Dynamic Rugs, which has exhibited at the show for the past seven years. “There are plenty of markets that focus solely on rugs and furniture, for example, but Surfaces is the only one where you get the entire industry out there.”
Bill Byrne, vp sales and marketing for wood and laminate flooring maker BHK of America, says that Surfaces offers manufacturers a chance to present a unified front as an industry.
“Surfaces is ‘the show’ for flooring manufacturers,” he says. “It’s the perfect podium for introducing new products and patterns, being in front of distributors and dealers, and maintaining a high-profile presence in the flooring industry.”
Ehsan Zahedi, director of sales and marketing for rug maker Jaunty Co., says his company has been exhibiting for the past nine years. And, he says, the show serves as a perfect vehicle for delivering new products.
“The combination of launching our new products and showing our distinctive marketing system display is the primary reason why we go to Surfaces,” he says. “We think it’s one of the best shows around as far as getting exposure to carpet buyers is concerned.”
While first-time exhibitors may have to struggle to make a splash on the busy show floor, they recognize that participating in Surfaces helps enhance their credibility and increase their profile. Tyco Thermal Controls, for example, plans to showcase the Raychem QuickNet floor warming system at this month’s show. Though the system that has been on the market is a few years old, the Redwood City, Calif.-based company is banking that the added exposure will ultimately garner a wider audience.
“We want to get deeper into the flooring side of the market this year,” says company spokeman Eugene Ho. “It’s a big initiative for us and Surfaces is the perfect place for us to get into it.”
Warren Tyler, the veteran retail consultant and NFT columnist, says the show’s chief appeal is that it lets retailers evaluate product and suppliers on the strength of what they see. “Surfaces is a great chance for everyone to make up their own minds about what they like and don’t like.” Tyler, who will present two sales seminars at the show, notes that attendance is not optional for anyone trying to build their stature in the flooring business.
“You have little chance to be successful without attending Surfaces,” he states.