It's the middle of February as I write this column, but I am still buzzing from Surfaces 2013, held at the end of January in Las Vegas. If you just take a quick glance at the numbers – a 4.3 percent rise in attendance from 2012 – you might think, “Eh, that’s a slight increase at best.” I have two responses to that. First, in this economic climate, even a slight increase is welcome news. Second, if you’re wondering how I could possibly be energized by a small bump in attendance, you probably weren’t at the show.

First, some background. While I have had the privilege of being your FCI editor for a full year now, my history with this company – and this magazine – goes deeper than that. I’ve been part of BNP Media since 2002, including background editorial roles on FCI and sister magazine Floor Trendsfor 10 years before I took this position. So I’ve been to a lot of Surfaces shows.

I’ll be honest. This is probably the busiest I’ve been at Surfaces since what in retrospect were the good ol’ days, back when the economy was skyrocketing, when it seemed no company could do wrong, when all of us were unknowingly balanced on the teetering edge of the housing bubble. That was the era when a company launching 80 or 100 new SKUs would barely be met with the bat of an eye. When the exhibits were so mammoth in scale, you felt like you needed a map to find your way around one booth. When the lavish parties thrown by major manufacturers spanned the Strip and effectively acted as a second, after-hours Surfaces, your hotel room a distant memory.

Obviously, in the intervening years, the parties have been scaled back, and many of the introductions and exhibits have become more modest. But this year was the first time I can remember, since that economic sweet spot, being so busy. This show was alive. The atmosphere was upbeat. The energy was undeniable. There was always something new to see, something new to learn.

I’m not the only one who felt this way. One of the questions I asked anyone I came into contact with was, “How’s the show going for you?” In past years, people would grimace, carefully compose their faces, and say things like “The traffic is down, but the quality of people visiting is up.” Not this year. There was no pause. I kept hearing, “Much better than last year.” “Traffic is definitely up.” “We’re already making plans for next year.”

What’s good for Surfaces is good for the industry. If the enthusiasm I felt at the show is any indication of the economy finally starting to thaw, get ready to be busy this year.

 

A note on social media

For those unaware of it, I wanted to mention our FCI LinkedIn. This is your forum for talking about the industry – what you like about it, what you would like to see change, and any new tools or techniques you might be using. Stop by, share your views and join in. The easiest way to find the site is by going to www.fcimag.com and clicking on the “Discuss” tab. See you there.