For almost 30 years, Coverings has been the most prominent event for the ceramic tile and natural stone industry in North America. Sponsored collaboratively by the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), Ceramics of Italy, National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), Tile of Spain and Tile Council of North America (TCNA), each year the tradeshow attracts thousands of attendees, including distributors, retailers, specifiers, contractors, installers, fabricators, architects and designers.

This year, Coverings returned to the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) in Orlando, FL, where it welcomed more than 28,000 industry professionals from April 4 to 7 — a 9% increase from last year’s show in Chicago, IL, and a 10% jump from 2015 when it was also held in Orlando. “The big gains of attendance at Coverings are in line with growth of the tile and stone market overall — consumption of ceramic tile in the U.S. has increased for the seventh consecutive year, with 2.9 billion square feet of tile consumed in 2016,” said Alena Capra, Coverings’ Industry Ambassador. “Attendees are continually taking advantage of the show’s opportunities, doing business and boosting their bottom lines.”

Of all attendees, show management reported the highest contingent of contractors and installers, whose attendance increased by 36% from last year and 12% from 2015. Fabricator and distributor segments also increased — 16% from last year and 13% from 2015 — as well as retailers, which saw a 15% increase from last year and a 3% increase from 2015. “We’re thrilled with the expansive growth of the industry,” said Capra.

Industry Foresight

Highlighting thoughts from exhibitors about this year’s notable turnout

This year, Coverings attracted more than 1,100 exhibitors from over 90 countries around the world. NAC Products, a show veteran, showcased its membrane solutions for crack isolation, waterproofing and sound control, including Super SAM® 125. “It was a great show for us, which is not unusual,” said Brian Petit, vice president of operations. “We made some great new contacts, gained leads and reconnected with some old friends. It’s an important event for NAC, as we are constantly striving to build our brand and connect with customers.”

Turkishceramics, representing various tile companies from Turkey, coined the phrase, “Let’s talk Turkey!” for this year’s show specifically for the U.S. market. “We were very pleased with the outcome of Coverings,” explained Ahmet Yamaner, president of Turkishceramics. “The various companies of our association who exhibited were able to introduce new tile materials to both existing customers and interested prospects. Their representatives not only worked in their respective stands, but also brought people into the Turkishceramics space to discuss various products along with other strategic business opportunities offered. Overall, Coverings was a productive trade event for us. We received outstanding feedback relative to how our factories continue to manufacture world-class tile materials crafted specifically for the North American buyer.”

Ege Seramik, a Turkishceramics-branded manufacturer that unveiled a handful of new tile collections, also saw one of its best turnouts. “This show was definitely better than last year,” explained general manager, Devrim Tas. “A lot of people liked almost everything we exhibited. They had a lot of different interests.”

“At our board meeting, attendance was up about 10% from last year and about 12% from Orlando two years ago,” added Bart Bettiga, executive director of the NTCA. “I think that’s a reflection of the market. Where we’re really up is with our retailers that have tile in their lineup — by about 25%. We are also up with distributors and contractors, but not with designers and architects, which we need to work on.

“Orlando is not a great designer and architect market for us, so we’re going to have to really recruit them moving forward. They just have too many things to go to,” Bettiga went on to explain. “We’re going to keep trying. We had a lot of success with the A&D community in Atlanta, when we were there about five years ago. Now, we’re going to be back there next year, so we’ll see.”

All the rage

Get an inside look at the most beneficial show features

­Most attendees TILE had the opportunity to speak with thought this year’s show was bustling and well-organized. “I really liked the Contractor Tour, where they brought you to all of these different spaces. It was amazing,” said one attendee, Mike Castelli, founder of Christian Brother’s Flooring & Interiors, Inc. in Lakeside, CA. “Some of the new tools also caught my eye, such as iQ Power Tools’ dry-cut, dustless tile saw. I’m going to buy six or seven of them immediately. No one wants any water on jobsites anymore, so in the case of a multi-family house, you have to bring your tile down the hallway, cut it and bring it back to the rooms. Do you know how much money that costs — all of the water on the jobsite you have to get rid of? I have a company that does it for me, and every time, it costs $400, so when you see stuff like that, it’s like ‘wow.’ Just that one thing was worth coming to the show.”

Mediterranea, which specializes in all types of porcelain tile, celebrated its 30th anniversary with a memorable happy hour featuring a Michael Jackson impersonator. Aside from using the show as a platform to introduce its newest products of 2017, the company also sought feedback from attendees to continue the development of its new Quantum Stone line of large-format panels. “We’re very excited about these new offerings,” said vice president of marketing, Don Mariutto. “All three have the same design, but in different colors and finishes. We wanted to see which ones are the most in demand.”

“Now, there is a lot more art going into the tiles,” added company president, Michael Mariutto, who is also the lead designer for all Mediterranea products. “It’s cool, modern and chic, but it’s art. That’s what I’m loving more about the industry. The process of making tile is becoming more creative.”

Feras Irikat of Lunada Bay Tile agreed, stating how tile companies are striving to make things more appealing for designers. “We really try to take the mindset from functionality to artistic, when it comes to installation, and I think it’s catching on,” said the company’s director of design and marketing. “We’re giving people the artistic license to be creative by giving them the right tools in the toolbox.”

The House of British Ceramic Tile, a newer exhibitor from England, is also focused on the artistic capabilities of tiles, but mainly emphasizes tying together the needs of its customers with the current trends in the market. “We focus on the needs of the architect, designer, consumer, housebuilder — whoever it is — their needs and tailor, not necessarily just the product, but the whole package for them,” explained marketing director, Caryn Clark. “We’re just trying to understand what people want. When we develop a product, we don’t just design a tile. We’re trying to make it more aspirational and less about the need for the tile to be there for its technical characteristic.”