Surfaces: The Conference - January 2013
By Darius Helm
When people think of Surfaces, they likely picture the show floor, with the crowds flowing past displays of hardwood and carpet and vinyl flooring framed in extravagant displays and showcased under scorching spotlights. But there’s a lot more to Surfaces than the product exhibits.
The event is also a conference, a forum for knowledge and education. It is the single greatest collection of expertise in residential flooring, and visitors who don’t find the time to attend seminars and gain knowledge should bear in mind that their next chance to access such a wealth of information won’t be for another year.
The conference portion of the show includes 74 courses over four days—24 are specific to StonExpo/Marmomacc attendees—and covers a wide range of relevant topics: sales and marketing, business, flooring categories, design trends, installation, social media, maintenance and restoration, and sustainability. There are also two Designer Days this year, which include hard and soft surface trend seminars, tours of the show, and presentations by prominent designers. And for the first year, the International Certified Flooring Installers Association (CFI) is doing flooring certification at Surfaces—20 installers are getting certified, and it’s taking place on the showroom floor (behind the Mapei booth).
Despite Hanley Wood’s robust education offering at Surfaces, it’s always been a challenge to get enough people to take advantage of all the seminars and demonstrati
ons—at some shows, like Greenbuild, show organizers have the opposite problem, with people going for the education portion, not the exhibits. At Surfaces, the education sessions are designed to work around the exhibit hours, with the first sessions starting at 8:30 a.m., another set at noon, and another from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. This year, Hanley Wood is even taking some of the sessions and moving them to the show floor, to the Business Enrichment Center, in an effort to attract the attention of attendees. The Business Enrichment Center is also hosting free 45-minute presentations on topics like marketing and finance, along with 15-minute social media sessions. Another attraction at the center is a Technology Trends section.
Hanley Wood puts together the education sessions with the help of an advisory council of industry experts. The group convenes in the spring after the show and it goes over every topic submitted, examines all the trends and brainstorms on the biggest challenges facing retailers in an effort to create a program that addresses the most relevant and significant issues in the residential flooring industry.
This year there are dozens of new courses. Social Media In Action features best practices of retailers; Installation Is Not A Dirty Word gives advice on how to sell the value of a well installed floor; and Marketing Transition covers how to integrate online and traditional marketing. There’s also a new course on new technologies and advancements in carpet fiber, a course on glass tile, a course on Adhering to Tomorrow’s Concrete Surfaces, one on maintaining and refinishing hardwood flooring, and a design luncheon with John Gidding, designer and host of HGTV’s Curb Appeal: The Block.
There’s plenty in the way of continuing education credits available through accredited programs of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the American Institute of Building Design (AIBD), the Interior Design Continuing Education Council (IDCEC), and the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC). And all courses offered at Surfaces qualify toward industry certification with the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA).
There’s also the S2 Masters Certification, which was introduced at Surfaces 2012, where 300 attendees received certification for completing at least eight hours of coursework at the show. The Surfaces education program is free as long as participants register before December 12. After that date, it costs $100 for WFCA members and $150 for nonmembers.
DESIGN’S GROWING IMPORTANCE
Due to popular demand, this year Designer Day will actually cover two days (Tuesday and Wednesday). Scarlet Opus, the trend forecasting firm, will be offering several seminars and trends tours. Tuesday will focus on hard surface flooring and Wednesday will be devoted to soft surface products.
Scarlet Opus, which has been in business for ten years, is participating in Surfaces for the fourth year. It started out in 2010 doing a trends seminar, and has expanded into a comprehensive program. The courses can be used for continuing education credits with the AIA, IDCEC and AIBD.
The trends tour takes mostly interior designers, along with some project managers, retailers and members of the media, through the show floor to look at products reflective of key design trends. The Tuesday tour focuses on hard surface trends, and on Wednesday it’s all about carpet and rugs.
Scarlet Opus forecasts a couple of years in advance—it’s already completing the autumn/winter 2014/2015 trends. The firm, led by Victoria Redshaw, researches and analyzes everything from key events due to take place in the near future (like the 2014 Soccer World Cup, to be held in Brazil) to upcoming films, art exhibitions, concept cars, fashion, architecture and the state of the regional and global economies.
One thing that Redshaw has noticed is a return to pattern and color in interiors. After a plain, austere period, reflective of the global economic recession, customers are now embracing added vitality in their clothing. The U.S. housing crisis has led to homeowners less focused on reselling their properties, and this too has impacted style trends, because when people look at their properties more as a personal space and less as an investment and a temporary shelter, they’re more inclined to express themselves boldly and fully.
In addition to more color and pattern, Redshaw anticipates that we’ll be seeing some interesting, unusual color mixes and pattern clashes that should give fashion industries (including flooring) an added boost of energy.
THE LAS VEGAS MARKET
Both this year and next year, the Las Vegas Market (one of the ten largest shows in the U.S. in term of square feet) is taking place at the same time as Surfaces, about five miles away at the World Market Center. The Las Vegas Market features about 1,500 manufacturers of furniture, accessories, lighting, home textiles and area rugs. In fact, most of the leading area rug producers will be exhibiting at the show. Some, like Nourison, are exhibiting at both Surfaces and the Las Vegas Market.
Because both shows draw the interest of designers as well as some retailers, Hanley Wood has arranged for free shuttles between the two for the duration of the shows, and it's also doing cross-badging and a lot of cross-promotion.
For the first time at Surfaces, CFI is doing installation certification. It was a joint decision with Hanley wood and CFI to showcase the program in a prominent forum. CFI certifies for both residential and commercial installation, but at the show it will be focusing on residential, and the certification will be for carpet.
If it goes well at this year's Surfaces, it's likely that we'll see CFI back at furture shows certifying installation of other flooring categories. Throughout the year, CFI is doing training somewhere just about every week. These days it's doing a lot of work with buying groups like CCA Global to equip retailers to compete in terms of service and installation, elements of the flooring business that have been heavily devalued by big boxes in recent years.
Following the Surfaces show, CFI will be preparing for an all-surface certification training in Dalton's Ryman Hall in March.
Copyright 2013 Floor Focus