Busloads of Florida architects and designers, contractors and dealers will receive a free trip to Coverings 2008 thanks to some forward-thinking distributors who are hosting day-long excursions for their customers to the international tile and stone expo at Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center, April 29-May 2.

D&B Tile Distributors, with 10 showrooms throughout Florida, will be sending a convoy from several of its southernmost locations, including those as far away as Miami. Master Tile, a leading national distributor based in Houston, will be sending groups from its locations in Jacksonville and Tampa on both Wednesday, April 30, and Thursday, May 1. D&B is anticipating approximately 500 guests, including some of its own staff, and Master Tile expects about 150 customers to take advantage of its offer.

A pilot program arranged last year by South Bend, Indiana-based Miles Distributing for five of its Midwestern showrooms to the Chicago edition of Coverings provided the impetus for this year’s distributor-sponsored trips. According to Doug Miles, the company’s president, the initiative was hugely successful on many levels.

“It’s hard to measure the return in terms of numbers,” Miles said, “but there was a lot of talk among my customers about what a great experience it was, and it also built tremendous loyalty among my dealers. In addition, I brought many designers who are now using Miles showrooms more.”

“Tile distributors who are near enough to attend Coverings should, and they should bring their customers, because this is the only way to see such a comprehensive array and range of products close up,” said Steve Stone, Master Tile regional sales manager. “Only by seeing things firsthand will customers be inspired to specify more product on their projects and learn more about new applications and techniques.”

Glenn Feder, president of client events for National Trade Productions, which manages and produces Coverings, explained that the show will help subsidize some of the transportation costs for the distributors, plus provide promotional brochures that can be sent to their customer base.

Feder suggested that any other distributors who want to host a customer trip should contact National Trade Productions, (703) 683-8500.