If the main theme was size, the secondary theme was a focus on collaboration. This was borne out in several ways, not least of which was a special presentation on hardwood flooring industry trends and forecasts presented by a panel comprising several competing trade publications, including Floor Covering Installer.
According to Martin, collaboration is vital. “There’s a lot of crossover with manufacturers who do more than just wood and installers who do more than just wood. If we work together, we can certainly raise the bar on all offerings.” (for an exclusive podcast interview with Martin, visit www.floortrendsmag.com or the Floor Trends digital edition)
The success of this year’s show was also the result of careful planning, Martin added. “Last year, when we relaunched the show, we did some extensive marketing to show people we had changed and there was a reason to come, especially in a down economy. We did a lot of outreach with manufacturers to get their support to come and exhibit. As a result, last year the exhibit space was up 30 percent. This year it’s up an additional 20 percent.”
Speaking during the opening session, Rick Holden, NWFA immediate past chairman, noted, “We knew we were going to have the biggest show in years.”
Busy show floor. The show floor featured 45 new exhibitors, which according to Martin means both new companies and those who haven’t been at the show “for several years.” One brand-new company on the show floor was Infinity Wood Floors. The company operates a 25,000 sq. ft. plant and at the time of the show had been open for business for less than three months, according to Pat Tallier, president. His company was showing off a line of Northern hardwood floors in quartersawn and herringbone looks, as well as a reclaimed hard maple line.
“This is a great show to get new leads and new customers,” Tallier said. “We have a combined 50 years of experience [at Infinity], and we want to get out in front of everybody. It’s great seeing old friends and making some new ones.”
Dennis Mohn, vp flooring distribution sales for Shamrock Plank Flooring, was showcasing his company’s new prefinished hardwood flooring program in both solid and engineered formats. “We’ve been in the unfinished business for 10 years. We’ve invested considerably to bring in prefinished,” he said.
Barbara Titus, Sheoga Hardwood Flooring & Paneling vp, shared news on her company’s expansion plans. “We’re doubling production at our existing facility and expanding into engineered.”
For Powernail, the show was a chance to display the company’s new Model 2000 20-gauge Powercleat nailer, as well as its refreshed packaging and branding. “We’re here for the industry, and are changing to meet its needs,” explained Joe Allyn, Powernail’s vp sales and marketing. “We’ve standardized the look, and are simplifying rather than trying to recreate everything.” He added that many companies are adapting to the changing needs of the marketplace. “In the last 12 months, we’ve really seen a lot of changes in the industry. The companies that are still here today are here because of their financial strength.”
Bruce Whisenhunt, president of distributor Palo Duro Hardwoods, said he was encouraged by the turnout at the show. His company was exhibiting the latest Lagler floor sanders and the new Just Easy Speed Spreader for dispensing adhesive. “From our standpoint, this event is a great opportunity to see what’s new: the different technologies, products, maintenance solutions and finishes,” Whisenhunt said. “This show is back where it needs to be; we’ve been busy all day and there are plenty of fresh new faces.”
According to Enos Farnsworth, president of HPS Schonox, the show represented the perfect opportunity to expand into new markets. Among the products his company was showing was Schonox APF self-leveling underlayment, which Farnsworth said could be nailed into without damaging the product’s integrity.
“People forget about the importance of the subfloor,” he said. “But that is the foundation and the most critical part. It’s mainly confined to commercial, but we see a tremendous opportunity in the residential consumer.”
Beno J. Gundlach Co.’s newest products included Bessey floating floor spacers that can be adjusted from 3/16” to 13/16”, and Grizzly Grip Stix double-faced tape designed for use with wall base, moldings, treads and trim. According to Jeff Gundlach, Beno J. Gundlach vp, the show gives his company excellent exposure. “It’s much more effective than just having our sales reps knocking on doors.”
Doug Taylor, owner/manager of Taylor Flooring in Waco, Texas, said he was attending the show on the lookout for new equipment. “I want to find tools that will help us be more efficient,” he said, adding, “I’m also here to network and meet new people.”
Education. This year’s event offered a wide range of educational seminars covering marketing, technical and management issues. Among the presentations was one by Frank Kroupa, NWFA’s director of technical education, talking about the five most basic problems for hardwood installation and maintenance: Cupping, Buckling, Crowning, Gapping and Concrete Testing Issues.
For many of these problems “you have to do forensic work and find any sources of moisture imbalance,” he said. “If we could get all the people in the flooring industry to just use moisture meters, this would be a different industry.”
Brett Miller, NWFA technical director of certification and education, spoke about the importance of accurately pricing a job. “I didn’t job-cost every job to make money,” he explained. “Part of that is about defining a customer’s expectations. Their wants and needs are critical in identifying the cost of the job.”
He added that it is essential to understand the break-even point on a job so you will know whether it is even worth taking the job on. Also, calculate everything into your final job cost, including drive time, insurance and bonding, and equipment and vehicle wear and tear. Then add a 30 percent margin. “We all love this trade,” he said. “We just need to charge enough to stay in it.”
Business enrichment. This year’s keynote was delivered by Howard Putnam, former CEO of Southwest Airlines. He offered common-sense lessons on how to operate a business during turbulent times. “Things will get bad, and things will get better,” he said. “It always returns to your honesty and integrity, and those things you should never change.”
Also at the show, HGTV’s “Cousins on Call” Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri spoke about hardwood flooring trends, and how they went from contractors to cable television stars. One major aspect of becoming widely noticed is having an active social media presence, according to Carrino.
“We were always active, sharing our projects with people and even our competitors, because there is room for everybody in this industry,” he said. “Unbeknownst to us, one of our followers was connected to HGTV. Being online allows you to have those conversations.”
“Also, always show up when there’s an invite, no matter how tired you are,” he added. “You never know who you’ll meet. It could even be a multimillion dollar contract waiting for you.”
Next year’s show will be held April 22-25 in Nashville. Martin expects more growth. “One year of growth could be considered an anomaly. Two years is the beginning of a trend. We expect the growth to continue,” he said.