Tradeshow Togetherness at the Bay

While the political pundits talk about the need for togetherness to solve problems, some of the folks who host conventions are doing just that.

Last week, while the Winter Las Vegas Market home furnishings folks were downtown, on the Strip two other events, purposely scheduled for the same dates as the Las Vegas Market, combined forces to call on some of the same attendees.

“Success multiplied by the power of two” was the theme as Surfaces, the leading floor covering event, combined forces with StoneExpo, the number one stone industry event. Associate Marketing Manager Heather Gibke reported that the combined Surfaces/Stone event was very well received by exhibitors and attendees. The expected attendance was 25,000.

After collecting my badge in the Press room, I noted a second-floor “off-the-tradeshow-floor” room with signs shouting “Mannington” and “Jay’s Bargain Basement”. The area was filled with people, so I got curious.

Waiting in line for cash back.
Photo by Diane Taylor

Inside, were lots of floor covering displays and a huge lineup of people. What was going on? Mannington Mills, Inc. offered show specials in the form of instant cash back to buyers. Every floor covering on display listed a cash back reward. Real dollars were being patiently counted out to those buyers who purchased floor coverings at the show. One Mannington representative told me, “Some buyers actually get hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars in cash back.” (And some Las Vegas casinos couldn’t be happier.)

Though I didn’t attend any of the educational sessions held at the Surfaces/Stone show, and I am clearly not an industry insider, I did come away with a few impressions.

American John Dowd, who was manning the Nan’an Xuyuan Stone Co, Ltd. Booth, answered a question for me. I had noted that on most of those TV shows about folks looking for new homes, even people searching for low-priced homes put on their “wish list” granite countertops. I remembered a time when granite was only for upper income buyers.

“Granite has become so popular,” said Dowd, “that it’s now a commodity item and has come way down in price.” Where does Dowd’s Xiamen, China company get its granite? “It’s mined in Brazil, then is sent to China for finishing.”

All that way?

“Yes,” said Dowd, “the granite is packed in 17-ton containers. We do the finishing, often on countertops for hotels or condo developments, and then we ship the countertops again; we’re told that American banks won’t even consider financing units without granite. And incidentally, it’s still cheaper and faster to deal with us than to wait for finishing to take place in Brazil.” Dowd, whose wife, Carol Wong, is Chinese and works at the company with him, said the previous year, his company’s business was down due to a downturn in construction projects, “but we saw a slight pickup starting in December so we have our fingers crossed”.

Carol Wong of Nan'an Xuyuan Stone Co., Ltd., talks to a customer about granite countertops.
Photo by Diane Taylor

Throughout the show floor, China was a major presence, and the Chinese companies aren’t shy with their signage. In addition to the Chinese presence as granite finishers, I was told the Chinese are an “overwhelming presence” as suppliers of engineered wood flooring. They are also the major suppliers of new varieties of flooring such as bamboo and cork.

Lane Mangum and the concrete chair.
Photo by Diane Taylor

The new “I want to be different” item to use in home décor? Concrete…as in concrete countertops. I talked at some length with Lane Mangum, VP of business Services for The Concrete Countertop Institute.

Glass tiles are becoming increasingly popular for pools.
Photo courtesy of MS International, Inc.

Mangum’s firm trains contractors on the proper way to make engineered concrete home decor items; she says interest in concrete countertops is “exploding” because of their versatility. She warns, however, that “a few sidewalk contractors who don’t know what they are doing” can give concrete countertops, sinks, etc. a bad name. She notes that properly made concrete items can be strikingly beautiful and will perform as well as other materials “but you have to find the right contractor”. (Her company’s website has tips for consumers.) She pointed out the versatility of concrete by demonstrating a nearby lounge chair….made of concrete!

Glass tiles have been seen more and more on home decor programs, particularly in kitchens and bathrooms. Sudhil Duggal of MS International, Inc. noted that glass tiles are also becoming the next big thing for swimming pools. He estimated that at least 30 percent of new swimming pools will be using glass tiles. “Glass tiles are beautiful,” he said, “and add only a slight increase in cost.” He noted glass tiles are also much easier to maintain than ceramic tiles, particularly because glass tiles are non-pourus and are resistant to staining and accumulation of mineral deposits at the water line.

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