In a timely move aimed at providing solutions and tools for coping with the business challenges faced by tile and stone professionals in the year ahead, Coverings 2009 will present a newly developed “Surviving 2009” series of educational sessions. During the show’s run from Tuesday, April 21 through Friday, April 24, at Chicago’s McCormick Place, there will be a menu of 11 seminars dedicated to teaching show attendees strategies and tactics for riding out the current economic storm. Led by esteemed experts from across the industry, these sessions, like all of Coverings’ conference programming, are entirely free of charge, and many yield AIA, ASID/IIDA or NKBA continuing education credits.

“While the conference component at Coverings has always been one of the highlights of the show, this year’s addition of the ‘Surviving 2009’ track elevates it to a new level by tackling the most relevant and top-of-mind issues facing the industry,” said Glenn Feder, president of client events for National Trade Productions, which manages and produces Coverings. “By creating dedicated programming that squarely addresses crucial business survival issues, we’re giving show attendees the advice they need now more than ever before-at no cost, as always, and with no cutbacks to the rest of the conference schedule. We believe that the investment made in traveling to Coverings is a small one relative to the bounty of real, ready-to-implement advice and insight awaiting show-goers this year.”

Topping the noteworthy sessions scheduled to be part of this programming is marketing guru Jonathan Trivers’s keynote address for distributors and retailers on Wednesday, April 22. He plans to provide attendees with tried-and-true advice on to how to stay a step ahead of consumers’ ever-changing tastes. The title of his presentation says it all:  “Trendscape 360: Today’s Retailers Must Understand Customer Changes and Industry Changes.”

Also sure to be of particular interest to retailers is “Creating a ‘Sell’ Room, Not a Showroom,” scheduled for Thursday morning. Presented by James Dion, founder and president of internationally known retail consultancy Dionco, the session will teach attendees how to use key visual presentation tricks to wow customers and boost sales. Later the same morning, Dion will offer an in-depth look at the challenges facing the retail industry with “Retail Ain’t What It Used to Be: A Preview of the Future.” Drawing on his experiences with A-list clients including Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Williams-Sonoma and Johnson & Johnson, Dion will arm attendees with ammunition to help generate new concepts for staying on the cutting edge of this dynamic industry.

In his past appearances at Coverings, Donato Grosser has provided valuable state-of-the-industry knowledge, and his upcoming  “Forecasting the U.S. Ceramic Tile Market” seminar promises a thoughtful analysis of where the ceramic tile market is headed. As principal of D. Grosser and Associates, he brings nearly 25 years’ experience in counseling international clients on increasing their presence in the American market to bear on his illuminating and realistic picture of tile consumption and future opportunities for sales.  His presentation on the opening day of the show will mark his first appearance in front of a Chicago Coverings audience.

The chief economist of the Associated General Contractors of America, Ken Simonson, will address issues of concern to installers and contractors when he takes to the stage as the keynoter on Tuesday, April 21.  His session, “Construction Forecast: What Impact Can You Expect?” will explain how the current economy is affecting the construction industry, and provide insight as to how contractors and other industry professionals can strategically respond to shrinking budgets and project delays.

Fabricators will want to add “Estimating 101-Do You Know Your Cost?” to their agendas. This Thursday, April 23rd session, conducted by GK Naquin, of Stone Interiors, and Michael Twiss, of Columbia Stone, Inc., will take an in-depth look at how to best evaluate the cost of each component of a business to help beef up the bottom line.    

Organizations sponsoring Coverings include ASCER (Ceramic Tile Manufacturers Association of Spain), Confindustria Ceramica (The Italian Association of Ceramics), TCNA (Tile Council of North America), NTCA (National Tile Contractors Association) and CTDA (Ceramic Tile Distributors Association).         

Coverings 2009 co-sponsors to date include: the American Institute of Architects (Chicago Chapter), American Society of Interior Designers (Illinois Chapter), the International Interior Design Association, Chicago Floorcovering Association, Terrazzo, Tile & Marble Association of Canada and the International Interior Design Association (Illinois Chapter).  

“Surviving 2009 Educational Sessions  

Tuesday, April 21, 2009  

8:30 – 10:00 am  

Installers and Contractors Keynote

Construction Forecast:  What Impact Can You Expect?  

Ken Simonson joined the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) in 2001, and has since provided insight into the shifting economy and what it implies for construction and related activities.  Join Ken as he provides a forecast of what’s to come in the industry and how it’s likely to impact your business. Stay informed so you can make the best decisions for your future.

Speaker: Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America    

4:30 – 5:30 pm  

Forecasting the US Ceramic Tile Market

What can you expect of the US ceramic tile market in 2009?  What is the impact of the global economy?  Join Mr. Grosser as he presents his forecast of the US ceramic tile market for the first time to the Coverings Chicago audience.  Don’t miss out on this look at consumption, manufacturing, imports, and distribution across the ceramic tile industry.

Speaker:  Donato Grosser, D. Grosser and Associates  

What Is Your Story?  

Today’s economic realities present a unique set of challenges, as the new construction that fueled our growth has all but disappeared in many markets:   

 * Consumers have a hard time differentiating your extensive product       selection.   

 * Your competitors have similar products at the same price point.   

 * Volume products are selected in a narrow palette and aesthetic range.   

 * Tastes change as new types of materials compete for a share of the       recently diminished market.    

* The custom luxury market is affected by the downturn as well.  

Whether you are a manufacturer, distributor or retailer, you can grow your business with your own unique story. Beyond “brand”, the key to customers’ buying decision is an authentic “story” that weaves you, your product and the consumers’ expectations into an engaging narrative. In the current economic climate, it is more important than ever that the story you tell aligns with what is foremost on consumers’ minds – the sustainability of both their lifestyles and the world around them.

Speaker:  Christy Stadelmaier, Motif Marketing        

Wednesday, April 22  

8:00 – 9:30 am  

Distributors and Retailers Keynote

Trendscape 360: Today’s Retailers Must Understand Customer Changes and Industry Changes  

The customers’ lifestyle evolves, and smart products match and predict these changes.  Specialty retailers must be at the forefront of these shifts, as customers expect them to be both first with new products and knowledgeable about new looks, whether grout, field tiles and glass. This session will provide distributors and retailers with insight into how best to connect with consumers’ rapidly evolving and changing tastes in one of most challenging retailing environments in decades.

Speaker:  Jonathan Trivers, Marketing Wit and Wisdom    

4:30 – 5:30 pm  

Managing Your Receivables in Today’s Economy:  How to Be Proactive Instead of Reactive

This session will teach attendees how to implement certain techniques and procedures in-house to help minimize risk. Presenters will discuss red flags to look out for during the course of doing business with a current client, or a new prospect seeking terms. Use of tools such as credit and background checks, bankruptcy watch-lists, free 7-10 day demand letters, as well as the guidelines as to when to turn an account over to a third party will be discussed. Also, the session will address the process for updating current customer databases with new updated credit applications, proof of delivery tickets, invoices, purchase orders, change orders, extra work authorization forms, contracts, etc.  Changing the way you do business based on these economic changes will enable you to minimize your losses and be proactive versus reactive. 

Speakers:  Al Dias and Niles Schwartz, Allied Collection Resources      

Thursday, April 23, 2009  

8:00 – 9:00 am  

Creating a “Sell” Room, Not a Showroom  

This fast-paced workshop focuses on the elements of visual presentation in your showroom that not only make it easier to shop, but also easier to sell to your customers.  All too often, we design wonderful-looking show rooms that are more museum quality than retail quality.  Learn what the key tricks of the visual presentation trade can do for your showroom, and transform it into a true “sell” room!  Learn to identify staff behaviors necessary to tie into the process, so your entire message to the customer is a seamless experience that leads to more profitable sales.

Speaker:  James Dion, Dionco, Inc.  

Profit Myths in Distribution

This session will help distributors understand that much of the conventional wisdom about profitability is actually wrong.  As a result, most distributors are not as profitable as they should be. This session will examine whether you should work on sales, margin or investment,  and will suggest specific improvement opportunities in each area that yield measurable results.

Speaker:  Albert Bates, PhD, Profit Planning Group    

9:15 – 10:15 am  

Retail Ain’t What It Used to Be:  A Preview of the Future

Understanding the major forces of change that shape our societies and create the future context of today’s world is no longer optional for retailers and distributors of all sizes: it’s a prerequisite for excelling in business. This seminar will help you anticipate and adapt to change by learning about some of the major cultural shifts in consumers’ lifestyles and desires taking place today and in the years to come. Get inspired by the many examples included in this presentation from hundreds of brands already embracing these trends, and leave the workshop with ammunition to help you generate new concepts, goods, services, and experiences for your customers.

Speaker:  James Dion, Dionco, Inc.  

How to Reduce Your Liability While Saving Insurance Premiums

The purpose of this session is to provide practical everyday solutions for lowering your insurance costs and further insulating business owners from catastrophic loss.  Attendees will learn the basics of business insurance, workman’s compensation, as well as controlling their audits with proper risk transfer techniques.  Handouts will be available, along with safety and risk transfer forms on CD.

Speaker:  Marc Rosenkrantz, CIC, AAI, Schechner Lifson Corporation    

4:30 – 5:30 pm  

Estimating 101 – Do You Know Your Cost?  

As a fabricator, do you know your true cost of doing business? How much are you making on each job? Can you analyze your cost by each component (template, fabrication, install, overhead, etc)?  How does a new piece of equipment affect your bottom line?  It isn’t rocket science, but if you haven’t had a course on this subject, then this is a can’t-miss seminar. Learn how to get a handle on your costs so that you can boost your profitability.

Speakers:  GK Naquin, Stone Interiors and Michael Twiss, Columbia Stone, Inc.    

, April 24, 2009  

9:00 – 10:00 am  

Project Execution:  Minimizing Go-Backs and Maximizing Sales  

Is it true that Project Execution is the “red-headed stepchild” of retail?  Retailers and manufacturers create marketing campaigns, develop new displays, craft graphics and fixtures, and invest in branding and advertising all for one purpose: To sell products! However, when it all comes down to the last mile of the marathon that is retail development, it is Project Execution that matters most.  Nothing gets sold until the product is in place. Learn strategies for reducing costly go-backs, implementing value-engineering for display installations, and improving rollouts and product launches.  In short, learn how to better manage the fragmented market that is Retail Project Execution.  Find out how much it really costs when you have a 30% go-back rate, and learn how to value and prioritize your schedule, warranty, vendor relationships, price and speed to market.

Speakers:  Bobby Darnell and Rick Hall, The Beam Team