Against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, Surfaces 2009, which wrapped up today at the Sands Expo & Convention Center in Las Vegas, will be remembered as an important show for attendees and exhibitors alike. While attendance is estimated to be lower than last year, show goers said there was an upside as well in the form of longer face time for customers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers to conduct business.
According to Wilhelm Stevens of Original Mission Tile, he didn’t mind the turnout. “I would rather have a show like this where every person that visits becomes a new customer, rather than have 100 visitors to my booth and only two of the 100 are potential clients,” he said.
Wanda Ellis, executive director of the American Floorcovering Alliance, echoed those sentiments. “We have had more potential members at this show than any other,” she said.
A focus of discussion during the three-day show was the recent announcement that the World Floor Covering Association, National Wood Flooring Association, the Carpet and Rug Institute and other trade groups have joined a coalition aimed at advocating tax credits for home improvement items. These types of industry efforts are a much-needed shot in the arm, said Ellis. “The need for all segments of the industry, and its associations, to come together is greater now than ever before,” she noted.
Beaulieu of America’s Patricia Flavin and Jeff Meadows also said the new coalition was an important development for the industry. Flavin, who announced at the show that she has joined the CRI board, put it succinctly. “Our hope is to get everybody on board and move [the coalition] forward. This type of [stimulus] could help out floor covering and help people reinvest in their homes,” she said.
Rainer Blair, president and CEO of MAPEI Americas, said that the industry will probably continue to see tough times in the near term. “Our industry is much too fragmented right now. As a result, we will continue to see consolidations of companies,” he said, adding that within the next six to 18 months, the industry is expected to see more closures and acquisitions.
Happily, the industry is also finding rejuvenation and increased consumer interest with the latest round of Green products and services. A panel discussing the emerge of Green in the industry, “Green from Wall Street to Main Street,” included environmental experts from Mannington, Shaw and Anderson Hardwood Floors.
Moderated by Phil Johnson, group publisher of NFT, FCI and TILE Magazine, the event explored what Green means to business today. While the panelists agreed that Green has fundamentally changed the nature of business, Mannington’s Dave Kitts was among those optimistic about the future. “We’re in a Green tsunami with no end in sight,” he said. – Arpi Nalbandian