Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Floor covering shows - the great treasure hunt

I’ve been in the floor covering industry for over 40 years and along the way I’ve been labeled with a few nicknames.  When I bought Color Tile,
Jon Trivers nicknamed me “Jimmy the Grout.” At CCA they called me the “Cork King” because I loved cork flooring.  As their Chief Product Officer I could have covered my office floor with any product but I chose cork which, at the time, was unique.  It was quiet, resilient, warm, wore well and, most importantly, that floor encouraged people to think outside of their paradigm.

I think that is the same reason I love going to Domotex Germany and Domotex Asia China Floor every year -  because what I see challenges what we hold as the norm in North America. When carpet still had over 70% of the floor covering market here, Scandinavia’s carpet market had fallen to 10% share!  While Americans were stuck displaying carpet on waterfall fixtures, Europeans were using sophisticated lighting and design to showcase carpet as fashion.  While sheet vinyl was only available on felt here, Europe used fiberglass to make it more flexible and dimensionally stable. And of course, Europe is where I discovered laminate flooring.

I guess most people in our industry that do not know me well think of me as that guy that brought Pergo to America. What really happened is Paul Murfin (now an executive at Armstrong) and I were walking through the Domotex Hannover show in January of 1992 looking for a unique wood supplier when we stumbled upon the Pergo exhibit.  Laminate had been sold in Europe for well over a year but back in the states we had not yet heard of it. I remember telling the people at Armstrong about it and they had no idea what I was talking about.

Since then every journey to a flooring show on another continent has yielded at least one idea or one discovery that made the trip worthwhile.  Visiting Germany and China wasn’t all bad since I love to travel but from a purely business point of view these trips paid for themselves many times over. 
Domotex is where I first saw glueless laminate.  In fact, it was the demonstration of Alloc’s aluminum locking system at Domotex that gave Unilin the idea that they could profile the tongue and groove to lock together.

Meister showed wood veneer attached to an HDF core at Domotex long before Shaw introduced their product.  High gloss laminate was displayed years before Armstrong introduced Grand Illusions.   Also discovered at these shows…click LVT, printed bamboo that looks like exotic woods, clicking ceramic tile, and the list goes.  For a guy who loves flooring it doesn’t get better than these treasure hunts.

America is the largest consuming market for floor covering in the world.  That does not mean we have a lock on innovation, product advancements or fashion trends. The truth is that innovation and inspirations in flooring come from all over.  Over 1,400 manufacturers exhibit in Hannover and over 1,000 in Shanghai.  Many of these are manufacturers you wouldn’t recognize, but then at one time we didn’t know Pergo or Unilin either.

If you are interested in looking into the future of floor covering spend just a few days at one of these shows and you’ll feel like you’re gazing into a crystal ball.

Domotex Hannover runs January 15-18, 2011 and Domotex Asia runs March 21- 24, 2011. Both shows are worth the trip and I hope to see you there. Feel free to contact me if you have questions about attending as either a visitor or an exhibitor.


Jim Gould is President of the Floor Covering Institute

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