The first month of the year is already passed us and so has some of the industry’s major markets and conventions—from the all industry type of affairs such as Surfaces, the Atlanta Area Rug Market and Domotex Germany, to major manufacturers and distributors holding their winter markets around the country, to some of the main buying groups.

While these are all important shows, and hopefully many of our readers attended at least one event, market season is still upon us, as there are still plenty of other important shows over the next several months.

Here’s the thing: Markets are vitally important from both a micro and macro point of view.

Looking at it from the macro, bird’s eye view, markets provide a central forum for manufacturers, distributors, retailers/contractors, salespeople, installers and so on to meet and discuss the latest trends in products as well as business. They allow executives from various levels the chance to talk shop in one convenient location. Where else can an installer from some small town in North Dakota, for example, get the chance to speak to the president of a major mill? While it does happen on the rare occasion, generally speaking this kind of interaction only happens at a market or convention.

These types of events are a great place to see the latest technological advancements, the latest in merchandising and the most up-to-date marketing and business philosophies as most of these shows now incorporate professional educational sessions geared specifically for the attendees.

They are also a great place to allow attendees to see the latest trends in color, design, installation, and even within products. Remember in the late 1990s a stranger to the industry would have thought laminate was the market share leader with all the hoopla surrounding it and the amount of effort companies were going to in order to attract attention to their products. While toned down from the extravagances back then, today a visitor to one of these shows would think LVT is the market leader as just about every company is touting a product.

At the micro level, markets are the perfect opportunity for small business owners—residential or commercial—to find new and interesting products to offer their customers. Yes, manufacturer and distributor reps frequently visit retail and contract establishments, but the fact is, not every mill has the ability to send someone to every store. And, even the reps from the largest of mills don’t necessarily show you everything the company has to offer every time they come in. So markets allow you to see not just the latest products but the full breadth of what a company offers. This is important because if your business model changed, a product that may not have been right for you a year ago may be the perfect solution now.

Perhaps most importantly, markets allow one-on-one interaction with your peers. The power of networking cannot be underestimated. Being able to talk with like-minded people from different parts of the country about similar problems is, many times, worth the price of attending. And, it’s not just the one-on-one interaction as many of these events provide opportunities for groups of people to sit around a table and discuss specific issues affecting them. Only by attending markets can this happen.

So, the point is, if you haven’t attended a market yet, make plans to get to one of the many that are coming up. I guarantee you will take home at least one item that will help you make your business more successful.