NWFA Expo Still in Growth Mode; Attendance Up 30%
The National Wood Flooring Association’s (NWFA) Wood Flooring Expo continues to grow. The event in Nashville, Tenn., jumped in attendance by 30%, to more than 3,000 show-goers, not to mention over 50 first-time exhibitors. The show also boasted a wider range of educational opportunities, with seminars increased to an hour, the addition of a three-hour Wood Flooring University in three tracks, as well as expanded hours on the show floor.
Michael Martin, NWFA’s president and CEO, told Floor Trends, “We are definitely in a growth mode. In 2012 we grew the show 30%. In 2013 we grew it 20%. This year, we grew the show another 30%. This was our highest attendance in more than five years. We’re already well into planning our 2015 show, which will be in St. Louis to coincide with NWFA’s 30th anniversary. We know we have to make St. Louis bigger and better, and we’re up to the challenge.”
Robin Crow, CEO of Dark Horse Recording based in Nashville, gave the keynote with a guitar strapped to his back. Keeping with the musical theme of the show (called “Strike a Cord,” referring both to a musical chord and a cord of wood), he punctuated his advice for building a thriving business with squealing guitar solos and strummed rock rhythms. “Too often business leaders get distracted from mission-critical functions with trivial problems. Constant change is the new normal. Adapting to change is really about the ability to problem-solve.”
Much of the buzz on the show floor was about the new company launched by hardwood flooring industry veterans Don Finkell and Wayne Cotton, called American OEM. The company, which manufactures private-label engineered hardwood flooring, launched both with a booth and a splashy reception at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
At the reception, Finkell shared his reasons for starting the company, which uses prison laborers at a plant in Only, Tenn., in partnership with TRICOR (Tennessee’s Rehabilitative Initiative in Correction) to create the flooring. The goal of TRICOR is to train inmates for life outside of prison through personal and professional development.
Finkell said, “It’s just impossible for me not to take advantage of this opportunity I see so clearly. This is the third plant I’ve partnered on with TRICOR and the eighth with the prison industry. I want to bring this industry and jobs back to America, to turn the tide of American manufacturing.”
First-time exhibitor Coast Eco Timber, a company that manufactures building products out of reclaimed and rescued woods, was at the show to line-up U.S. distribution. President Alana Husby said, “I’ve been in Panama for the last four years, working in a joint venture with an indigenous tribe to harvest old-growth hardwood from the bottom of a manmade lake, to create into building materials.”
Tryggvi Magnusson, president of From the Forest, displayed his company’s Vineyard Collection of engineered hardwood flooring, which he said “features a very thin, 1mm sliced face veneer and a high-density fiberboard core, making it extremely dent-resistant.” He added as a first-time exhibitor he was impressed with the turnout at the show, noting, “We will definitely be back next year.”
According to John Schutt, Southern Cross Building Products’ vice president of sales and marketing, the Expo was worth attending because of its specific focus. “The NWFA event allows us to exhibit our hardwood flooring products in a way that you simply can’t do at a general show.” The company displayed Anchor-Weld Platinum, a wood flooring adhesive for use over high-moisture concrete slabs.
Don Bryan, Tradewinds Hawaiian Woods’ CEO, was at the show to speak with wood flooring and industry professionals about his venture, which creates products out of eucalyptus. “We’re not flooring experts, and we want to meet people who are. Our main purpose for being here is to ask whether we should be working with hardwood distributors and manufacturers, or manufacturing the flooring ourselves. We’re open to hearing people’s ideas.”
Oils and Finishes
More companies are stepping into the oils and finishes market, and used the Expo to launch various products in the category.
Bona debuted its Craft Oil System, which includes a range of oils in several tones, along with protector, refresher and soap. According to Dave Darche, Bona’s adhesive sales and market manager, “Oiled floors are easier to maintain now, in a variety of colors, and that’s driving their resurgence in the market.”
Mapei showcased its Ultracoat wood floor finishing system, comprising water-based polyurethane finishes along with polishers and cleaners. According to Jeff Johnson, Mapei’s business manager for floor covering installation systems, the line, which was officially launched at this year’s Surfaces, represents a growing market for the company. “We’re excited to be part of the finish business. There are billions of square feet out there, and it’s a good market to be in.”
Christopher Sparks, Arboritec’s global marketing manager, showcased his company’s UVElite line of UV-cured finishes. “This has been a very good show for us. People are associating Arboritec with UV finishes in general, which is a great way to define ourselves.”
According to David Kirby of Osmo, the rise of oiled looks is the result of consumers realizing the advantages of the products. “It allows customers to appreciate the beauty of the wood surface while preserving it.”
Patrick Mervyn, Rubio Monocoat USA’s director, said oil looks have never really went away. “Oil has always been there. People recognize the advantages, and once they see how durable the product is and how it works, they see how it pays off. They have these beautiful pieces of wood, and it’s a waste to cover them up.”
A new, cobalt-free formulation of Pallmann Magic Oil was a centerpiece of UFloor Systems’ booth. Kirk Francis, marketing manager, noted, “People like the more natural, hand-rubbed European look. It’s easily repairable and offers a unique and upscale look.”
John Thafvelin, CEO of Woca/WoodCare USA, said his company’s bread and butter is offering neutral oils that leave the floor looking virtually unfinished. “These are hard-wearing European oils that give you that unfinished look while offering low maintenance.”
Flooring, Tools and Adhesives
Michel Collin, Mercier Wood Flooring’s director of marketing, launched additions to the company’s Nature Collection of rustic hardwood flooring. “We’re launching these products at NWFA in recognition of the importance of supporting this show. We are sponsors of the Wood Flooring University and we think education is very important. We’re also very happy with [this year’s] turnout.”
Ken Thomas, Stoehr Flooring’s vice president and general manager, showcased additions to the company’s Monogram XL program, which features two edge options including “True Squar-Edge,” which is designed to mimic the look of custom sand-and-finish boards. “This show has been very good, with some great connections made.”
According to Grete Heimerdinger, Lignomat’s vice president, the Expo was one of the best in recent memory for her moisture meter company. “Wood flooring has always been our main focus, and this has always been a good show for us.”
Demonstrating his company’s line of moisture meters, Jason Spangler, flooring division sales manager for Wagner Meters, said there are many moisture meters to choose from when performing moisture testing, but the important part is actually doing the testing. “Whether you choose an invasive or non-invasive product, just use a meter. Get comfortable with it. It allows you to start having intelligent discussions about moisture situations and make the proper installation decisions.”
John Lio, DriTac’s marketing manager, said moisture remains a serious issue in the flooring industry. His company displayed Eco-DriSeal moisture control and adhesive isolation membrane. “We just introduced this product at Surfaces, and it gives you some versatility if you need moisture protection.”
Gary Liddington, W.F. Taylor’s business manager, stated people were interested in the company’s line of wood flooring installation products, including MS-Plus Advance Wood Flooring Adhesive which can help control moisture. “People seem to have a very positive attitude at the show this year. They are very knowledgeable and ask specific questions. It’s one of my favorite industry events because of that focus.”
NWFA has already announced the dates and locations for the next three years of the Wood Flooring Expo. The 2015 event is set for April 28 to May 1 in St. Louis. The 2016 show is scheduled for April 27 to 30 in Charlotte, N.C., and Phoenix will be the base of operations for the 2017 event, set for April 12 to 15.
Editor’s note: During the expo NWFA announced the winners of its Wood Floor of the Year Awards. To see a gallery of the award-winning projects visit the digital edition of this issue. For more information, visit floortrendsmag.com/digitaleditions.