After taking place in New Orleans a year ago, Coverings 2002 returned to Orlando, FL, for its annual trade show, displaying the latest trends in the stone, ceramic tile and floor covering industry. Held at the Orange County Convention Center, the event - which includes the International Tile and Stone Exposition and the International Flooring Exposition - completed a four-day run from May 6 to 9 with over 30,000 people in attendance, of which 30% were non-U.S. visitors.

Over 1,300 exhibitors from more than 45 nations around the world - including representatives from North America, South America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia - utilized 1,042,710 gross square feet of exhibit space, making Coverings the largest trade show gathering of the stone, tile and flooring industry in the world today, organizers reported. Groupings of firms from various countries, such as Spain, Italy, Brazil and Turkey, occupied 14 national pavilions.

Exhibitors showcased the latest developments in natural stone and tile lines, maintenance and installation products, and fabricating and quarrying equipment.

Of particular note, attendance of stone fabricators and installers appeared to be stronger than ever. Suppliers of stone slabs and tiles as well as providers of stoneworking equipment, accessories and installation products saw brisk activity at their exhibits. Moreover, the quality of stone fabricators and installers in attendance was universally rated as high, with firms conducting significant transactions on the show floor.

Responding to this, many companies in the stone sector used Coverings as a springboard to launch new stone products, equipment or tooling (see "Touring the exhibit halls of Coverings 2002").

Vision 2002

In addition to the various exhibits offered, guests were able to attend Vision 2002, Coverings' award-winning educational program - consisting of seminars and roundtable discussions. Vision 2002 provided countless opportunities for education in sales and marketing; stone fabrication and installation; and the latest trends in color and design, with more than 75 separate seminars, roundtables and other sessions. Each 50-minute session addressed an important subject within the general categories of merchandising and marketing, general management, design and market trends, and specification and installation. Many of the sessions were general in interest, while others were specific to the natural stone, ceramic tile or floor covering sectors of the industry.

A highlight of each day's extensive program of events was a session featuring the day's keynote speaker. This year's keynoters included best-selling authors and motivational gurus, Frank Pacetta and Steve Lundin. The dynamic "Afterburners" also presented their thought-provoking application of fighter pilot techniques to business success. Additionally, NBA Hall of Famer and network sportscaster Bill Walton spoke at the All Industry Awards Breakfast, when the prestigious Spectrum and Prism Awards were announced.

New this year was the Designer Seminar Series. New York-based designer Larry Laslo attracted a large number of interior designers, architects and retailers, who listened to his commentary on design problems and solutions. Design guru Mario Buatta, one of the best-known names in the industry, presided over a standing-room-only seminar that was highlighted by a slide presentation of some of his best known creations. Leatrice Eiseman, whose color seminars have been a "must see" for designers and retailers alike at Coverings' seminar programs since 1993, once again presented her fascinating color predictions for the coming year.

Coverings 2002

Visitors from around the world gathered at Coverings to view of the latest trends in color and texture of natural stone, as well as fabricating equipment and installation productsreturns to Orlando

Specific to natural stone, the Stone Fabricators' Forum, led by Stone World editor Michael Reis, attracted over 200 participants from the burgeoning stone sector. The session included lively discussions on technical issues such as CNC tooling and edging techniques as well as industry topics such as slab quality and even business ethics. This forum is expected to continue in future editions of Coverings

In addition to the Stone Fabricators' Forum, Vision 2002 contained a number of stone-oriented seminars, including those on the proper selection and maintenance of the material; the art of selling stone; and stone fabrication. Other popular technical seminars included "Sealing Tile, Grout & Natural Stone," presented by Joseph Salvo of Miracle Sealants; "Specification of Natural Stone Flooring," by Vince Marazita; "Unraveling the Mysteries of Thin-Set and Mastics," by Steve Taylor of Custom Building Products; "Closing The Gap: Methods for Addressing Crack Isolation," presented by Bronwyn Miller of Tec Specialty Products; and "Tools That Will Save You Money," presented by Eric Astrachan of the TCA.

Coverings also presented the donation of several thousand square feet of natural stone and ceramic tile to the Greater Orlando Habitat for Humanity, which is dedicated to building decent and affordable housing. "Inevitably there is excess unused product at the conclusion of the show," said Bob Daniels, chairman of the 2002 edition of the exposition. "For the past three years, Coverings' Board of Governors has made a practice of donating this valuable excess of material to a worthwhile local charity. This year we are particularly grateful to our official carrier, Roadway Express, for donating their services to transport the tile to Habitat's warehouse. Shirley Jones, warehouse manager, and Joe Williams, construction manager, accepted the donation for the charity."

Coverings sponsors

Underscoring the importance of Coverings to national and international interests, official sponsors included the Association of Ceramic Tile Manufacturers of Spain (ASCER), Association of Ceramic Tile and Refractories Manufacturers (Assopiastrelle), Tile Council of America (TCA), Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), and the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA). Co-sponsoring Coverings was the National Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD) for the second year in a row. NAFCD's membership encompasses distributors, man-ufacturers and suppliers throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe, and represents all categories of floor covering products such as tile products, carpet, cushion/padding, rugs, installation accessories, wood flooring, rubber flooring and high-pressure laminates. Other co-sponsoring organizations included chapters from the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), the Construction Specifiers Institute (CSI), the Tile Contractors Association of America (TCAA), and the Terrazzo, Tile & Marble Association of Canada (TTMAC).

The 2003 edition of Coverings will take place next spring in Orlando, FL.