FLASH:The unemployment rate dropped to 9.4% from 9.8% in December 2010. This is great news and creates optimism for the industry and consumers.

FLASH:The unemployment rate dropped to 9.4% from 9.8% in December 2010. This is great news and creates optimism for the industry and consumers. What a great way to start the year.

The Surfaces show always brings excitement to the industry. This year, the interest and intensity increases with the show venue moving cross-town from the Sands Expo to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Also new this year: The event is co-located with StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas. Attendees will have an opportunity to see the latest floor covering, natural stone products and educational events together. See our Surfaces special section, including events and new products beginning on page 22.

The year also kicks off the 2011 Styling Excellence Awards program. To participate and have a chance to win great prizes, stop by our booth at the Surfaces show (S2238) and vote for the best area rug, residential and commercial carpet, ceramic tile, laminate flooring, and luxury vinyl tile, along with your favorite resilient, rubber, and wood flooring products, as well as your favorite merchandising unit. If you’re not attending the show this year, please visit our website (www.ntlfloortrends.com) to vote. The deadline for ballots is Feb. 15.

Take a look at these other articles designed to improve your company’s bottom line: Columnist Sam Allman covers the important, but sometimes forgotten habit of being inquisitive. An inquisitive mind can come up with creative ideas and solutions to business problems. See story starting on page 10.

Year after year,National Floor Trendsconducts the most in-depth research on all product segments. Included in this month’s issue is the annual Market Trends Study, based upon responses from flooring retailers and contractors – the key component for the success of the entire flooring industry. The information they provide – this year and years past – provides direction for all. Hardwood and carpet sales will continue to grow according to our study respondents. See the complete study beginning on page 46.

Here’s another story perfect for when you are visiting the trade shows and determining the products and mill partners to represent. Columnist Dave Stafford walks readers through ways to find great partners along with some of the warning signs of when it might be best to part ways with a current vendor. Story begins on page 16.

Associate editor Michael Chmielecki presents the new trends in cove base, mouldings and trims. See how these products are changing and the increasing use of green content. Story begins on page 36.

Tile products are increasing in size and with these changes, columnist Dave Gobis points out some potential areas for a failed installation. See this must-read story beginning on page 40 to save your company and your installation crew a potential expensive job failure.

Commercial resilient backings have changed, according to columnist Ray Thompson, so installers need to make sure they are using the correct adhesive/flooring product combination. See the article beginning on page 50 for determining the right adhesive to trowel, roll or spray.

Beginning on page 52 is a special green installation products gallery. Check out these new products for residential and/or commercial use.

This month’s Industry Q & A features Gary Hernandez, Jr. of Healthier Choice’s Specialty Products Div. See page 60 to learn more about the Flexitions product and Healthier Choice.

All segments need ongoing training; check out this important story to train your salespeople, managers, installers and other personnel, beginning on page 66.