Surfaces 2010 - March 2010

By Darius Helm, Brian Hamilton and Anne Harr

This year’s Surfaces, the last to be held at the Sands Convention Center, was characterized, appropriately, by a range of transitions. There were positive ‚Ä®elements, like the re-emergence of Armstrong, and Mannington’s return to the main show floor. On the other hand, the main floor only used three of the four halls, and the lower floor was also distinctly smaller.

The mood on the floor was similarly mixed. Gone are the days of “cautious optimism.” The residential slowdown has endured for too long for empty gestures; signs and indicators and consumer confidence only mean so much. Instead, people are busy with the business of keeping their heads above water and they’re content to take a wait and see approach to the market recovery.

The opening day general session, moderated for the second year in a row by CNN’s Gerri Willis, featured a panel of buying group leaders—Abbey president Steve Silverman; National Floorcovering Alliance president Jeff Macco; Ron Dunn, co-CEO of Carpets Plus Color Tile; Jeanne Matson, president of Starnet; Scott Perron, president of Big Bob’s Flooring Outlet; Vinnie Virga, president of Flooring America; and Bruce Weber, CEO of American Home Surfaces Group. Discussions ranged from observations about the significance of market statistics to marketing strategies and predictions about the recovery.

The consensus seems to be that about 2,000 retailers have gone out of business over the last three years, largely mom and pop operations but some bigger players as well, and there are probably about 12,000 specialty flooring retailers left in the U.S. The good news for the retailers that have managed to hang in there is that the residential replacement market will be the first to experience a turnaround. Housing stats, like a further drop in existing home inventories, seem to indicate that this will be the year that numbers inch upward.

One interesting analysis—that a single point of marketshare in today’s down market is worth two or three times more during a recovery—appears to bolster the strategy of those bold retailers who market and advertise like crazy when times are bad.

For the complete Surfaces Wrap up, see the March 2010 issue of Floor Focus Magazine.

Copyright 2010 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:The International Surface Event (TISE), Mannington Mills, Starnet, Armstrong Flooring, Carpets Plus Color Tile