Custom Building Products on the Main Stage demonstrating “Solving the Challenges of Large Format Tile.”

The message of Surfaces 2011, held recently at Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, was perseverance. This was underscored by the keynote presentation by author and outdoorsman Aron Ralston.

He talked about his harrowing experience in the Utah canyonlands that tested his endurance and resources for nearly six days, before he made a drastic decision to free himself. “I gained an understanding of my life and my values. … If you can be in touch with what is most important to you, anything is possible,” he told a riveted audience.

More than 1,000 prizes were awarded during Laticrete’s Grout Color game.

His message seemed to translate to the retail environment as well. When informally polled byNFT, many exhibitors of the combined Surfaces and StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas show said that not only were booth visits on the rise compared to last year, but dealers were slowly starting to invest again, eager for the pent-up demand in housing renovations to lead to more retail sales. “Surfaces 2011 has been a very successful show for us,” said Gary Finseth, Tarkett Residential’s marketing director. While attendance numbers were not available at press time, the widely held consensus was that Surfaces attendance would be similar or slightly higher than last year’s show.

Sam Presnell, owner of The Rug Gallery in Cincinnati, (left) accepts a check for $5,000 from D. Christopher Davis, president and ceo of the World Floor Covering Association. The WFCA named The Rug Gallery the association’s Gold Standard Retailer of the Year.

Matt Heil, Pregis flooring product manager for laminate flooring underlayment and packaging, noted that the attendance at his company’s exhibit was excellent. “On Tuesday [Jan. 25] we had the most people through our exhibit that we’ve ever had,” he said.

Piet Dossche, USFloors owner, (left) mingles with show goers during the Décork Tour traveling showroom’s stop at Surfaces.

Erinn Valencich, Quick-Step design partner, believes that the momentum is shifting, and consumers are starting to shop more for floors. “Right now, consumers are doing room lifts. Quick-Step is educating consumers and retailers that a small change in floors can bring a huge change in style to a room.”

A Dal-Tile fashion show translated new products into dresses worn by showroom models. Lori Kirk-Rolley, sr. marketing manager, stands third from left, with costume designer Diana Eden next to her.

Explaining a product’s environmental sustainability can also have an impact, according to Chris Dragan, Nature’s Carpet president. He said Surfaces 2011 was a great show for the visibility it gave his company. “At Surfaces, we can find new dealers to carry the product, identify new reps and agents, and introduce our newest products.”

MAPEI’s Sam Biando demonstrates the company’s Opticolor epoxy grout.

Selling flooring products as a fashion purchase can also pique the consumer’s interest, noted Joe Lundgren, Dal-Tile’s vp marketing. “It’s about stepping out and stepping up, [offering] fashion, flair and innovation,” he said.

Making selling systems easier for retailers is also important, said Cindy Thornton, USA marketing manager for Alloc/Berry Floor. “We’re streamlining our marketing approach, offering single displays to be as user-friendly as possible.”

Mario Bolduc, Wickham general manager, with the company’s first-ever engineered hardwood flooring collection.

Updating the consumer website to keep pace with current innovations was high on Bliss by Beaulieu’s list. The company’s revamped website at was launched live at the show, and includes full-motion videos of families enjoying Bliss carpeting, with clickable hotspots that take the user to more product information. “The idea was to keep the look of the website real simple and real clean,” said Mike McAllister, Bliss vp, marketing information systems.

Bliss by Beaulieu unveiled its new consumer website at Surfaces. Pictured are Mike McAllister, Bliss’ vp marketing information systems (left), and Michael Johnson, account director of marketing firm Definition, who helped design the site.

Xavier Steyaert, IVC’s ceo, was excited to talk about his company’s new resilient flooring plant in Dalton. “At full capacity, the plant will produce more than 35 million square yards of vinyl capacity. Right now, the plant occupies 520,000 sq. ft., with an eye toward expansion in the future.”

Luigi Di Geso, MAPEI Americas’ president and ceo, outlined his company’s goals for producing and developing products that can be used toward LEED certification. “Loyalty has to be proven. We are determined to lead our industry through measurable sustainable actions,” he said. As part of its commitment to the Global ReLeaf program with American Forests, MAPEI presented a check for $24,296 to American Forests’ Margo Dawley.

Khelin Young, Max Windsor Floors general manager (right), with the company’s New Horizons hardwood flooring collection. For every box of the product sold, $1 goes to breast cancer research.

The World Floor Covering Association singled out The Rug Gallery in Cincinnati as its Gold Standard Retailer of the Year. D. Christopher Davis, WFCA’s president and ceo, presented a check for $5,000 to store owner Sam Presnell, congratulating him for the company’s community involvement and its reputation for great customer service.

Attendance at installation-related training events was strong.

Also at the show, Healthier Choice won the Best New Product Award for its Flexitions brand of flexible transition mouldings. The award was voted on by a panel of writers and editors fromNational Floor Trends, Floor Covering Installer,andTILE Magazine,along with designers and flooring dealers.

Xavier Steyaert, IVC US ceo, stands next to Nostalgia, a wood-look resilient concept collection.

Ceramic tile
In honor of its 25th anniversary, Crossville introduced a range of new products. Its Color by Numbers wall tile program includes 16 colors, with coordinating wall paint from Benjamin Moore’s Aura line, and floor tile from its Color Blox Collection. Visitors were also given a sneak peak of Ebb & Flow, a series that will officially launch later this year. The company also expanded its Color Blox EC series to 20 colors, with SCS-certified recycled content.

Custom Building Products launched CEG-Lite Commercial 100% Solids Epoxy Grout. The non-sag formulation exceeds ANSI A118.3 and contains recycled material that can earn LEED certification points, according to the company.

Gary Finseth, Tarkett Residential’s marketing director, with one of the company’s new LVT collections.

Dal-Tile introduced five new collections – Del Monoco, Spark, Palatina, Keystones Elements, Sandalo – and an enhancement to its Terrazzo line, which is now available in slabs and tiles.

Along with revealing a new company look, Eleganza unveiled several new collections featuring digital technology, including: Digiquartz, Digislate, Fusion, Groove, Metallica Lite, and Slimtech.

Receiving the Best New Product Award are (from left to right): Healthier Choice’s Gary Hernandez, Jr., Craig Poteet, Gary Herandez, Sr., and Drew Holland. Also pictured is Phil Johnson, BNP Media group publisher.

Laticrete launched its new Glass Tile Adhesive, a one-step polymer-fortified adhesive mortar specifically formulated for glass tile applications. Show attendees who stopped by the Laticrete booth were also encouraged to play the Grout Color game, where more than 1,000 prizes were awarded, including an Xbox 360.

USG unveiled its new USG Tile and Flooring app that provides installation videos, product information, a materials estimator, a photo-sharing feature, and quick links to USG customer service or technical service departments.

Alloc/Berry Floor's Patty Banwart, divisional sales manager; Alan Flanagan, vp U.S. sales; and Bengt Rasin, Alloc AS president and ceo.

Surfaces/StonExpo continued the show’s long-running tradition of installation training, with a wide variety of installation-related panel discussions and demonstrations throughout the show.

Kicking things off on Jan. 25, Dan Westcott and Jack Dean of INSTALL presented a one-hour session on the importance of installation certification.

Later that day,FCIcolumnist Jon Namba hosted a panel discussion on “Common Causes and Corrections for Installation Failures.” Panelists included Gerald Sloan, National Tile Contractors Association technical director; Don Conner, National Wood Flooring Association; and Jim Walker, founder and ceo of International Certified Floorcovering Installers Association (CFI). 

David Polley (right) and his wife Virginia at the exhibit for Polley’s new company, VSP Flooring.

“With the addition of StonExpo the show had more to offer the attendees than in years past. The new venue created a lot of renewed excitement for many who have weathered the storm of the economy,” Namba said.

“Surfaces and the vendors did an outstanding job by putting together a lot more live demos on how their product was to be installed, along with new product demos. It made me feel that the show was not just for retailers but everyone in the industry,” added installer Roland Thompson.

“Surfaces is always a great show because of the people involved,” Walker noted. “The seminars were well attended and I heard from those who visited with us at the CFI booth that they greatly appreciated the opportunity to attend them at no cost. There’s enough education at this event to assist everyone for the year ahead.”

Juan Flores, president of InnoFlor LLC, demonstrates his company’s laminate cutting machine.

The S2 main stage, previously known as the installation showcase, offered sessions on topics including stone product maintenance, new adhesive technology for tack strip and transitions, woven carpet, laminate repair, large format tile installation, moisture testing, requirements for installation certification, and inspectors working with retailers.

“This was one of the best shows that I have attended as I was able to meet with many individuals and companies that work with CFI,” said Bob Gillespie, past president of CFI. “It is the time of year that we have the opportunity to meet our suppliers face-to-face and say thanks.”

Surfaces 2012 will be held Jan. 24-26, 2012 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, in Las Vegas.