Domotex USA 2020: Educational programs take the spotlight at the Atlanta show - March 2020

By Meg Scarbrough

Atlanta once again played host to the Domotex USA show, which took place February 5 to 7 at the Georgia World Congress Center. It was the second year that Hannover Fairs-the U.S. division of Deutsche Messe-hosted the show in the United States, and it came just a week after The International Surface Event (TISE) in Las Vegas.

Despite a rather disappointing attendance, the show offered an outstanding education program that included an economic outlook, a state of the industry executive panel and a discussion luncheon with residentially focused interior designers.

To kick off the first day of the exhibit experience, Floor Focus publisher Kemp Harr moderated a forum of industry leaders that included Neil Poland, president of Mullican Flooring; Piet Dossche, president of US Floors and executive vice president at Shaw Industries; and Bruce Zwicker, floorcovering distribution executive and consultant. In general, the outlook was positive for the coming year, with expectations being that new home sales and remodel activity will go up.

Over the course of three days, Domotex featured a robust and uniquely refreshing education schedule that included more than 30 classes geared toward industry professionals with tracks for retailers, builders/contractors/remodelers, interior designers and flooring installers.

Emily Morrow Finkell, CEO of Emily Morrow Home, moderated a forum featuring interior designers Jane Dagmi of Designers Today magazine; Michel Smith Boyd of Michel Smith Boyd Interiors; Pacita Wilson of Pineapple Park; Jenny Warner of J. Thomas Designs; and Mark Woodman of Mark Woodman Design + Color.

Finkell is a classically trained interior designer who worked for 13 years at Shaw as director of color style and design. She and the panel pointed to the rise in customization of carpets and rugs as well as the latest trends in hard surface colors and finishes as this segment continues to grow. “That, to me, is like the world is your oyster, and you can just do anything,” Warner said, adding that there are affordable options for homeowners.

But they also said there’s a need for flooring companies to get their products in designers’ hands. “Designers need as much education as they can on products, and flooring is such a huge part of the design,” Dagmi told the audience. Several flooring representatives said it’s an area in which they are trying to improve; at least two said they have recently added interior designers to their staff to help bridge that gap on the retail level.

In another session, Brett Miller, vice president of technical standards, training and certification with the National Wood Flooring Association, addressed problems that can crop up with hardwood floors, including cupping, crowning, cleaning, splinters and slivers, splits, cracks, and gaps, among other topics. 

He said one key component is making sure consumers are educated on how to take care of their floors and the appropriate methods of maintenance. Not every homeowner knows you shouldn’t steam a hardwood floor, for example. 

Lew Migliore, principal of LGM and Associates and a Floor Focus columnist, gave a presentation on recent flooring failures he had been asked to inspect and highlighted some case studies in which homeowners or businesses were negatively impacted by poor installation or manufacturing problems.

And for those looking for marketing advice, there were classes on optimizing business websites as well as tips and best practices around using social media.

A number of exhibitors did not attend TISE in Las Vegas the week prior but instead used the Atlanta event to launch new products.

Mullican Hardwood Flooring introduced three new collections in its engineered flooring line-Parkmore, Madison Square and Revival-for a total of 14 new SKUs. Parkmore, with a wirebrushed finish, comes in four white oak variants and two hickory variants, and Revival comes in four SKUs of white oak with a wirebrushed, carbonized finish. Madison Square’s four SKUs, also white oaks with a wirebrushed finish, come with a sliced veneer. All three are available in random-length planks. With demand in the market high for white oak, the Johnson City, Tennessee-based company says the new collections are meeting requests from distributors and retailers.

Milliken, as part of the growing trend of printed and patterned carpets and rugs, introduced six new products in its Imagine Figurative collection. From organic designs to bolder geometric shapes, all are available in a variety of colors, offering more than 50 new SKUs. Among them are Sky Canvas, which has a watercolor feel to it, and Nature’s Gem, which resembles the inside of a geode. As part of its exhibit, the Spartanburg, South Carolina-based company displayed a large printed rug featuring a rainbow of colors dripping from a person in a reflective state. Ginny Jones, senior designer for Milliken, said the piece was about imagination, where it can take you and making dreams a reality.

Foss Floors unrolled its Artists carpet tile collection, featuring 50-ounce peel-and-stick PET squares in three patterns with six colors available in each. The prints are aptly named Picasso, Monet and Rembrandt and are available with or without padding. Last year, Foss introduced a new product, Grizzly Grass, which aims to replace traditional synthetic outdoor grass as a higher-quality option in the market. According to Foss vice president of sales Sam Ruble, “It was born out of necessity,” adding that the tariffs on China, where most faux outdoor grass originates, had big box stores asking for a domestically made product. 

Emily Morrow Home this year announced its color of the year, “Gesso,” and hardwood products designed around it. Atocha, with its vintage touch and light grey tones, is part of the Louis A. Dabbieri collection and is inspired by travel and personal experiences, Finkell said. It’s available in 9” wide planks. Santa Rosa, under the Emily Morrow Home Hardwoods label, was born out of her desire to create a hardwood with plaster-white effects. It comes with a wirebrushed finish.

While customization and coronavirus were topics of discussion over the duration of the show, there were other themes that emerged.

Interior designers and exhibitors alike agreed that colors are moving into warmer tones. While there is still a strong demand for grays, the palette is trending toward beiges and natural shades again. Many also said there’s a strong desire for more flooring made from natural fibers, not faux material.

Another trend possibly sneaking back in? Animal prints. Several exhibitors were displaying wide arrays of bold prints, from traditional zebra to the less common chital, which is basically an axis deer. Some said there has been an uptick in sales of animal prints, something that may not be coincidental. With a good economy comes more security, which can lead to homeowners investing in bold prints and colors, according to Finkell. She added that animal prints function as a neutral that work for many styles and bring a lot of life to a space.

There were also discussions around preparing for the Millennial consumer base. Designers and exhibitors alike said there will be a demand there that will need to be met soon, including having upscale, environmentally friendly products.  

Just days after Domotex USA wrapped up, organizers said they would be re-evaluating their strategy with the show. 

As a global flooring expo brand, Hannover Fairs would like to stay in the U.S. market, but the current venue and timing are clearly not attracting the type of audience required to build a sustainable flooring show. The team said it would regroup and develop a plan on how to move forward. 

According to Raymond Bianchi, vice president of business development with Hannover Fairs, “We clearly see the need for an innovation-oriented flooring show here in the U.S. that has an international scope. The past two years have been a learning experience for our team. The retailer, contractor and designer speaker forum that we developed is outstanding. The challenge is more around venue, timing and alliances.”

The outbreak of coronavirus in China was felt during the three-day event in Atlanta. At least 20 exhibitors who had signed up for the show were unable to attend, leaving the China section of the showroom floor noticeably empty, with the exception of a handful of people at one booth. 

By the beginning of March, nearly 90,000 people in about 60 countries had contracted the highly contagious virus, including close to 90 in the United States, according to data released by the World Health Organization; over 3,000 have died.

Industry leaders who were at Domotex said there’s no need for concern yet about whether the outbreak will affect supply chains, but it’s certainly something they will keep an eye on.

Copyright 2020 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:Domotex, Armstrong Flooring, Shaw Industries Group, Inc., The International Surface Event (TISE)