After several years of declining exhibitor participation and decreasing attendance, the NWFA’s 2012 Wood Flooring Expo, held April 10-13 in Orlando, Fla., at the Gaylord Palms Resort, appears to be back on track.  With 100 more booths on the trade show floor than last year, the show sold out with 418 booths on the floor plan, while new marketing efforts helped to increase attendance and foot traffic by nearly 30 percent.

“It’s a very rewarding turnaround,” said NWFA CEO, Michael Martin.  “After last year’s Expo, we took a good, hard look at our show and realized we needed to do something drastic. We restructured our staff, put together a committee of more than 20 volunteers, wiped the slate clean, and rebuilt the show from the ground up.”

Significant changes included adding industry-specific education tracks focusing on the big issues impacting wood flooring professionals: marketing, technical, and management. “We also tried to attract a completely new audience,” added Martin, “by developing four CEUs approved by AIA & IDCEC to attract designers and architects to the show.” The result was meeting rooms that were filled to capacity, and in many cases, overflowing, throughout the four-day event.

Industry-relevant keynote speakers were a big change as well. Former Harley-Davidson Vice President of Marketing Ken Schmidt delivered a keynote message about brand building and positioning. More than 500 attendees packed the ballroom to capacity as Schmidt talked about building brand loyalty through relationships and storytelling, not price and quality, both of which are givens with today’s savvy luxury-item purchasers.

At NWFA's annual Awards Luncheon, HGTV’s celebrity carpenter/designer, Carter Oosterhouse hosted and handed out the coveted Wood Floor of the Year awards. Another big change included making all the networking events available to all attendees for free.

 This included an Opening Party on the Gaylord Palms event lawn that overflowed with 500-plus guests, and featured the NWFA’s show special cocktail, the “Harley Floorbanger,” as well as a live band. The Closing Party was held directly on the trade show floor, and featured more than $50,000 in prizes from exhibiting companies, culminating in the drawing for a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

“We’re proud of what we accomplished this year,” said Martin, “but we’re fully aware that we need to make it even bigger and better next year in Dallas.” The 2013 Wood Flooring Expo will be held April 2-5 in Dallas at the Gaylord Palms Texan.  Visitwww.nwfaexpo.orgfor more information.