Coverings 2006 proved to be the most successful show to date, with more than 33,000 attendees, as well as increased attendance among such key sectors as distributors, contractors, dealers and retailers. Overall attendance for the four-day event was 33,649, an increase of 4.4 percent over last year. This positive growth continues a recent surge in popularity in which the show has grown an amazing 24.4 percent during the past three years. Fueling this year's strong growth were increases in attendance from several key segments: tile and stone distributors increased more than 28 percent; remodeling contractors increased nearly 22 percent; commercial builders increased 10.4 percent; architects rose 20.5 percent; and dealers and retailers increased 6.6 percent.
In addition to the full range of seminars, attendees also had a chance to learn tile and stone installation techniques in a series of live demonstrations sponsored and coordinated by the Tile Council of North America (TCA) and the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA). This year, the installation stage was part of the North American Pavillion, and also featured a larger area and more seating than in previous years. The sessions were very well attended this year, according to Bart Bettiga, executive director of the NTCA.
The opening ceremony also included the presentation of the annual Spectrum and Prism awards for tile and stone design; grand prize winners for each award received a check for $10,000. This year's Spectrum Grand Prize award was presented to mosaic artist Mike Mandel of Watertown, MA, for his mosaic design for the Charlotte Arena. The design was praised by the contest's judges for "uniting modern computer technology with old world craftsmanship and art." More than 100 colors of unglazed porcelain and glass tile were used in the massive mural, which spans an interior wall of a lobby area in the arena. The stunningly realistic images of athletes from various time periods give the impression of being photographic images from a distance; viewed up close, the one-inch square tiles are apparent.
"The show was very good for us," said Buck Burwell, CEO of Florida Tile Inc., which introduced a variety of new product lines this year. "There was lots of traffic, and lots of interest in the acquisition of Florida Tile by Panariagroup," Burwell added. The company has introduced 18 new product lines since the beginning of 2005, which will completely revamp the company's lineup by the end of the year, Burwell explained. "The reception by our customers to these new lines has been extremely favorable. It was our best show in recent memory."
Another company that saw a strong response from attendees on the show floor was Crossville, Inc., which introduced two new series, NOW and Journey, at the show.
"For Crossville, the response to our new products, NOW and Journey, was very, very good," said Mark Shannon, vice president of sales for Crossville, Inc. "We even had a number of competitors admiring our products. Traffic was also very good, given that most of our distributors have been in place for along time."
"For our first time at Coverings it was very successful," said Aron Buterbaugh, COO of Una Terra. "Our booth was full from the time the show opened at 10 a.m. until it closed at 3 p.m. on Friday."
This year's show even saw the return of several companies that had not exhibited in recent years.
"While GranitiFiandre had not attended Coverings for a number of years, we know how important the show is from an industry standpoint," said Jeanne Nichols, vice president of TransCeramica, Ltd, GranitiFiandre's American distribution company. "We therefore used it as an opportunity to launch many of our new products this year," Nichols explained, noting that the company chose Coverings to launch its new TCL brand, which includes nice products.
"We had a highly successful year at Coverings," said Roberto Franceschin, vice president of sales and distribution for StonePeak Ceramics. "Many of our current customers stopped by to see our new product lines and many other potential customers paid a visit to learn more about our company and the technology behind our products.
Franceschin acknowledges the importance of Coverings to the company, which will be launching additional product lines later this year, as well as opening a new showroom in Chicago.
"Because we debuted our company at Coverings last year, we had a lot to prepare and share with the industry," Franceschin explained. "We were introducing our name and brand to the tile world. Our first year in operation was extremely successful, so we looked to Coverings 2006 as a celebration of all our accomplishments and milestones."
By all accounts, Coverings 2006 was an unqualified success for exhibitors and attendees alike, with the highest attendance in the show's history. Next year, the show will move to Chicago's McCormick Place Convention Center, and will take place April, 17-20.