For many, the thought of holding a retail convention in Maui, Hawaii, would be considered folly, as most would figure everyone who shows up would spend their entire time at the beach and not be interested in working.

But not the National Floorcovering Alliance (NFA), and that is a key reason why its 42 members represent some of the industry’s largest and most successful flooring operations in the country. Even though it held its fall meeting in one of the world’s most beautiful locations, when it came time to get down to business both members and vendors locked themselves away for two-days of meetings and planning for the future.

“The event was not only a great success, it was one of our best since I have been attending over the last several years,” said Dave Snedeker of Nebraska Furniture Mart who was also elected the group’s new president as part of NFA electing a new board that includes Jason McSwain of McSwain Flooring as vice president, Kelly Taylor of Ambassador Floor Co. as secretary and Jim Walters of  Macco’s Floor Covering as treasurer.

Snedeker added, “We had unbelievable participation from the membership and great vendor meetings all around. For the most part, this meeting had some of the best roundtable discussions we have had overall. The vendors are all using their time with greater efficiency to maximize their opportunities. It is a fast clock (Editor’s note: NFA breaks its members into small groups which then visit with a vendor at a table for approximately 20 minutes before moving to the next vendor so that by the end of the day each member sees every supplier and vice versa) and there is a lot to cover in those meetings.   I applaud the effort they are putting forth to make it more meaningful. We saw several exciting new products and additions to existing lines that will be valuable to all our members, as well as a few new programs that could be great in 2015. I believe all vendors came away from our meetings with a sense that they had added value to our relationships—and that is all you can really ask of them.”

Phil Koufidakis of Baker Bros. and NFA’s outgoing president, agreed. “The vendors continue to be more prepared and have really done a great job of using their time wisely by being concise and bringing programs that make sense. There were several new Stainmaster introductions and on the hard surface side some new merchandising and a couple of new high performance products from Shaw and USFloors.”

Jim Mudd of Sam Kinnaird’s Flooring felt there was “lots of good stuff in the vendor meeting: Tuftex had fantastic new [Stainmaster] Pet Protect products with expanded colors and styles; Royalty also came through with some new and beautiful new Stainmaster products; Congoleum had a new vinyl offering that came in 24 designs in four constructions, and the new water proof LVT from Shaw was well priced.”

When it came to the members getting together to share best practices, among other items, he added, “We shared some advertising ideas at the meeting that I am going to use.”

Sam Roberts of Roberts’ Carpet and Fine Floors, said the group “continues to make steadily improving strides with all our major vendors. In particular, our relationships with Mohawk, Shaw and Armstrong are all on a very good trajectory and we have done a good job together of finding good vehicles to provide a continuing positive way forward. I think most of the vendors have, over the last several years, found good ways of making quality progress with our membership. We have a consistent format in our meetings with our vendors and these guys have all become adept at finding strategies that work for them.”

He added, “I have already moved forward with one of the ideas that I picked up in the best practices segment and I ordered three truckloads of hardwood from a vendor that came to the meeting with a special opportunity.”

Jay McDonnell of Custom Carpet Centers, added, “My main take away from the meeting is that the NFA has become more and more a group that wields a lot of clout in the flooring industry. The willingness of vendors to bring their ‘A’ game to the meetings in particular is what stands out to me. The vendors come to the meeting fully prepared to offer our members proprietary and exclusive offerings. This has increased dramatically over the past few years and is closer than ever to our mission of making sure that NFA members are in the singularly best competitive position.”

Keeping NFA in that position of strength is something Snedeker and his new board members will have to work on during their tenure but the membership is confident they will be able to build off the momentum Koufidakis and the previous board started, which many pointed out is something that actually started a number of years ago when NFA began growing and acting more as a group, rather than just a bunch of individual businesses.

Koufidakis downplayed his role by noting, “Snedecker and the new board are way smarter than me so I think you will see a positive transition and continued momentum. I know Dave feels the way I do in that our goal in some small way is to leave the group better than we found it.”

Roberts, who is a former president of NFA, said, “Phil is a really great person and a smart guy, and he did a very good job. He left the group in a stronger state than he received it and that should be the primary test. One of the group’s greatest strengths is the culture that drives everyone to make a regular contribution to benefit everyone else in the group and to take their turn to assume responsibility for leadership. I don’t think we consider anyone for membership that doesn’t fully embrace the essence of that culture and exhibit an ability to make that contribution.”

As for the new board, he added, “I think it has a fine combination of experience and new energy. Their charge, like all NFA board members before them, is to increase the NFA’s value and relevance to the industry’s largest and finest vendors and to enhance the profitability and quality of life of the membership.”

Mudd said the fact Snedeker comes not only from Nebraska Furniture Mart, which in itself is one of the largest retailers in the country, it is owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, meaning “he brings the perspective of a large corporation [perspective] back to the group. There are a lot of tools big corporations bring to the table and we could use some of them again for the NFA.”

Snedecker said Koufidakis is “great for the organization—he is direct and straightforward and committed to improving our position and relationships with our vendors. At the end of the day, in organizations such as this, that is all you can ask for—someone who will try and improve his store presence and all of ours in the process.”

Speaking about his tenure, Koufidakis said, “The most important thing to me is I feel we put some of the intimacy back into the room(s). The relationships between the members, and the vendors and the members is what makes this group tick. More people are involved than ever and that is great for the group. The board has worked extremely hard on this and I feel with much success. Being a member of the NFA is a privilege not a right and we always have to remember that and treat it as such.”

Snedecker concluded, “We need to build on the work Phil got started, namely making the committees more viable and proactive. We have always had successes with them but as business changes and evolves we must change as well. One of the areas we believe we can have more of an impact with is our committees. We also need to continue to refine and improve ways to grow our businesses with our key vendors, it is a fast moving climate these days and we have to make sure we all have clear communications on every opportunity. We also have to remember why we are together—we are a network of successful stores and individuals, and we have to continue to leverage member knowledge to the group so that everyone might benefit.”