Strategies for Success: Surfaces 2003: A Look at the Future of Flooring

Strategies for Success: Surfaces 2003: A Look at the Future of Flooring

While the country wallows in uncertainty about the economy, someone forgot to tell the attendees at Surfaces 2003. Last year the attendance was down drastically and the psyche of the collective group was one of impending doom. The timing of Surfaces in January seems to set the tone for the upcoming year. If that is the case then 2003 should see a vastly improved economy. Ten years ago Surfaces was a carpet show. Today, all the other flooring products vastly outgun broadloom carpet. The stars of this show were hardwood and ceramic tile. Hardwood exhibitors numbered in excess of 130, a 40% increase from the year 2000.

Exotic products such as bamboo and cork were well represented. Even though Coverings, the largest tile show, begins at the end of March in Orlando there was still a huge presence at this show. The flooring of our grandmothers, linoleum, is back with a vengeance. The down side of linoleum comes from their marketing efforts. Linoleum is a natural product and they will be positioning it as an alternative to carpet as a contributor to poor IAQ.

A major development was a joint venture between Dupont and Mannington that incorporates Teflon into many of its hard surface floorings. 3M has a similar venture with Pergo on its’ laminate products. The increased awareness of fluorocarbons should make it easier to sell either product as part of our everyday cleaning.

As consumers choose more hard surface flooring, area rugs become more prevalent. Unfortunately, many of these area rugs are becoming more exotic and less maintenance friendly. There seems to be a wide divergence between the nice looking olefin rugs from Oriental Weavers and Shaw versus the designer products. Under the category “What crazed, deranged person introduced this?” comes these:

leather shag
leather woven
silk shag
wool-silk-cotton blends

and of course the entire cellulosic family:


Surfaces was overrun by rugs and so will cleaners be, so get ready!

While broadloom carpet is under siege from all types of products they still dominate the
market. The idea of “soft” yarns continues to be the driving force for carpet. Soft yarns
are meant to mimic wool. On the subject of wool, figures show that wool only accounts for 1-2% of all broadloom, yet there were over 40 booths in the Wools of New Zealand section with beautiful (read very expensive) products. For those who had hoped that the soda bottle polyesters would go away, sorry. As long as recycling is a concern PET, carpets are here to stay! While you are depressed, let’s talk about berbers. In a nutshell, everyone is continuing to push olefin. Today, the description of a berber style encompasses just about
everything but hardwood floors. Because Shaw bought Amoco Fibers several years ago, they will always be a major player in olefin products. One of their brands, Sutton, introduced a new generation of polypropylene styles with a soft hand that are heat scoured and treated with R2X and feature SoftBac Platinum backing. To further confuse us, Beaulieu introduced Casanova, a tightly constructed berber with a woven sisal finish made of 100% polypropylene.

Another trend is the built in odor protection that many of the manufacturers are pushing. Mohawk calls theirs “Forever Fresh” and Beaulieu named theirs “Magic Fresh”. This is in addition to the cushion products that have a moisture proof skin or an enzyme
embedded into the surface such as “Odor Eaters” from Carpenter Cushion. This sort of makes in-place drying more difficult for the restoration firms.

Interface Inc. is known as the largest producer of carpet tiles (modules) in the world.

Surfaces usually focuses on residential, retail products and Interface came armed with a
new product for the residential market. Tesserae is a 24 x 24 carpet tile (panel
according to Interface) with an attached 7 lb. 7/16 rebond cushion. Not to be confused with the stick on tiles of 20 years ago, Tesserae is a 45 oz. Anso Caress nylon textured
friese treated with 3M Scotchgard. The product will retail for $34.95. The product
supposedly shows no seams and can be installed easily by the consumer. Interface is also going to make a major push towards getting its commercial tiles into markets other
than corporate. This bodes well for commercial cleaners. Carpet modules are expensive
products, which means life-cycle maintenance can really make good economic sense.

As usual, cleaning equipment and chemical manufacturers were well represented by:

Von Schrader
Bane Clene
Organic Compounds
Groom Industries
Rainbow International

and of course, IICRC

Jon Whittaker seemed to be especially happy in his booth this year. Jon has been exhibiting at Surfaces for many years, but he was especially bust this year. Do you think it has anything to do with this website?

Well if you missed Surfaces you do have one more opportunity this year. The commercial version of Surfaces is called NeoCon and is held each year in June in the Chicago Merchandise Mart. This year the show is June 16-18. The show is free and you can register at www. and click on NeoCon. See you there.

Bill Yeadon
Copyright 2003 Bill Yeadon.
All rights reserved.
Used here by permission of Bill Yeadon.