Coverings, the largest U.S. tradeshow for tile, stone and related products, returned to Orlando, its original location, and exhibitors seemed happy to be back in the Sunshine State this year. With 1,200 exhibitors from more than 50 countries worldwide, this show truly offered something for everyone in the tile and stone industry, from cutting-edge tile designs and installation products to an expansive curriculum of educational seminars addressing all aspects of the tile and stone industries.

Harold Turk, president of Dal-Tile Corp., was awarded the Tile Council of North America’s 2008 Tile Person of the Year award during Coverings 2008.

On the show floor, the mood was surprisingly upbeat, and many tile manufacturers reported better-than-expected sales for 2007, as well as the first quarter of 2008, despite the overall slowdown of tile sales in the United States, which decreased more than 19 percent during 2007.

“Sales went from $34 million in 2006 to $61 million in 2007,” said Graziano Verdi, ceo of StonePeak Ceramics. “So far this year, we’re on track to match last year’s sales,” he added.

“Coverings 2008 was successful for us on all fronts,” said Jeanne Nichols, vice president of sales and marketing for GranitiFiandre in the United States. “We were thrilled with the volume of traffic in our booth. It was a great opportunity to meet with and secure orders from our existing clients, as well as give potential clients a first-look at GranitiFiandre’s innovative product offerings. This show has become an important annual event for us providing a unique and relaxed opportunity to connect with our distributors, as well as a wonderful way to allow our distributors, dealers, and clients to experience a hands-on exploration of GranitiFiandre’s lines,” added Nichols.

“It was another great Coverings show for LATICRETE this year,” said Maria Oliveira, LATICRETE, corporate marketing manager. “Coverings is the only show in the U.S. completely focused on the tile and stone industry, giving us the opportunity to demonstrate new and innovative products to a captive audience.”

“Coverings 2008 proved to be a truly international event,” said Marcio Muller of Eliane. “Besides being the main event for the U.S. tile industry, we received visits from our clients from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America. For Eliane, with our extensive international presence, Coverings 2008 was a very productive show.”

Massimo Barbari, president of Florida Tile, presents the company’s latest porcelain tile series at Coverings 2008.

Another new concept in tile design was Vitromex’s new V+ stone tile series, which uses textured surfaces to assist vision-impaired persons to navigate street crossings and changes in elevation more safely.

In addition to the numerous product launches at Coverings 2008, a new ceramic tile company, Level, was launched. Headquartered in Texas, Level launched a new porcelain tile series, Pure, which blends Italian design influences with an American sensibility.

“Coverings was the ideal occasion to launch Level, our new brand of porcelain tile,” said Renzo Caponcini, director of design & development for Level. “We were pleased with the traffic at our booth and received excellent response to not only the new brand but our new products as well. We obtained commitments from our top customers and colleagues and found the show to be time very well spent. Level is off to a solid start, and we look forward to seeing our products in the market in the next few weeks.”

There were a variety of innovative new tile series and related products also introduced at Coverings 2008, and manufacturers were pleased with the response from attendees.

Next year, Coverings will return to the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago, April 21-24. For more information, visit www.coverings.com.