This year, Coverings - the annual stone and tile exhibition - will celebrate its 20th anniversary at McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago, IL, from April 21 to 24, 2009.

The 2009 edition of Coverings marks a monumental year for the annual stone and tile exhibition, as it will be celebrating its 20th anniversary. The event is scheduled for McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago from April 21 to 24, and it will be a showcase of the latest innovations in stone and tile products, fabrication machinery, tools and accessories, and installation and maintenance products.

“Coverings’ growth over the past 20 years has been astounding, paralleling the interest in and growth of the tile and stone industry,” stated Glenn Feder, President of Client Events for National Trade Productions (NTP), which manages and produces the show. “Obviously, there are challenges ahead in 2009, but Coverings still promises to be the ultimate under-one-roof marketplace for seeing a top international lineup of tile and stone products.”

The exhibition is sponsored by a number of organizations, including ASCER (Ceramic Tile Manufacturers Association of Spain), Confindustria Ceramica (Italian Association of Ceramics), Tile Council of North America (TCNA), Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA) and National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA). It has grown significantly since it launched its first show two decades ago, and will feature approximately 1,200 exhibitors from more than 50 countries and attract close to 37,000 distributors, retailers, fabricators, contractors and specifiers, architectural and design professionals, builders and real estate developers as well as press and journalists who cover the stone and tile industries, according to NTP.

Coverings 2009 is expected to attract close to 37,000 distributors, retailers, fabricators, contractors and specifiers, architectural and design professionals, builders and real estate developers as well as press and journalists who cover the stone and tile industries

Online registration

The show’s management also reports that more than 80% of show-goers now take advantage of the Web-driven advance service, which can be found “For anyone planning to attend Coverings 2009, the advance online registration from one’s own desktop is the best way to sign up,” said Feder, adding that there is no charge to register or attend Coverings. “And, this year, we’ve added a great new incentive, not only for pre-registering online, but also for referring a colleague.”

According to Feder, the newly created “Refer A Colleague” program is aimed at encouraging registered Coverings attendees to recommend the show to business associates or colleagues who have not attended in the past. “When you register, you are given a ‘Refer A Colleague’ code,” he stated. “For every additional new guest you refer who also registers - and actually attends - you are rewarded with 25 shopping points that are redeemable online with your choice of hundreds of top-flight merchants nationwide.”

In addition to the exhibition hall, the show will include an educational program with a series of topics related to the industry.

Moreover, using the online registration provides additional benefits such as updates on events and conference sessions, and other programs of interest at the show are issued regularly from the time people register up until the week of the show. The Web site also allows people to directly access “Coverings Connect,” the online tool that helps people communicate with exhibitors that they want to see at the show before they even arrive at the exhibition.

“The online registration tool is completely user-friendly,” stated Feder. “With so many international guests who come to Coverings, the service is especially helpful and is one less travel hassle. Even for those who are locally based, it’s appreciated as a huge time-saver, eliminating the need to wait in long lines and maximizing time that can be spent on the show floor.”

Among the approximate 1,200 exhibitors from more than 50 countries that are expected to display their stone and tile products, machinery and accessories, and installation and maintenance products at the event is the Italian Trade Commission, which will display materials quarried from various regions of Italy.

“Surviving 2009” series

Due to the difficult economic times facing stone and tile professionals - as well as the rest of the country - this year Coverings will offer an educational series entitled “Surviving 2009.” This program, which includes a total of 11 seminars, is meant to provide solutions and tools for coping with the business challenges faced by those in the industry in the year ahead. They will be led by experts from across the industry and dedicated to teaching show attendees strategies and tactics for riding out the current economic situation.

“While the conference component at Coverings has always been one of the highlights of the show, this year’s addition of the ‘Surviving 2009’ track elevates it to a new level by tackling the most relevant and top-of-mind issues facing the industry,” stated Feder. “By creating dedicated programming that squarely addresses crucial business survival issues, we’re giving show attendees the advice they need now more than ever before - at no cost, as always, and with no cutbacks to the rest of the conference schedule. We believe that the investment made in traveling to Coverings is a small one relative to the bounty of real, ready-to-implement advice and insight awaiting show-goers this year.”

Topping the noteworthy sessions scheduled to be part of this programming is marketing guru Jonathan Trivers’ keynote address for distributors and retailers on Wednesday, April 22. He plans to provide attendees with tried-and-true advice on to how to stay a step ahead of consumers’ ever-changing tastes. The title of his presentation is: “Trendscape 360: Today’s Retailers Must Understand Customer Changes and Industry Changes.”

Coverings 2009 will feature a number of international pavilions, such as a representation of stone producers from Brazil.

Also of particular interest to retailers is “Creating a ‘Sell’ Room, Not a Showroom,” scheduled for Thursday morning, April 23. Presented by James Dion, founder and president of internationally known retail consultancy Dionco, the session will teach attendees how to use key visual presentation tricks to “wow” customers and boost sales. Later the same morning, Dion will offer an in-depth look at the challenges facing the retail industry with “Retail Ain’t What It Used to Be: A Preview of the Future.” Drawing on his experiences with A-list clients, including Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Williams-Sonoma and Johnson & Johnson, Dion will arm attendees with ammunition to help generate new concepts for staying on the cutting edge of this dynamic industry.

In his past appearances at Coverings, Donato Grosser has provided valuable state-of-the-industry knowledge, and his upcoming “Forecasting the U.S. Ceramic Tile Market” seminar on Tuesday, April 21 promises a thoughtful analysis of where the ceramic tile market is headed. As principal of D. Grosser and Associates, he brings nearly 25 years’ experience in counseling international clients on increasing their presence in the American market to bear on his illuminating and realistic picture of tile consumption and future opportunities for sales.

The chief economist of the Associated General Contractors of America, Ken Simonson, will address issues of concern to installers and contractors when he takes to the stage as the keynoter on Tuesday, April 21. His session, “Construction Forecast: What Impact Can You Expect?” will explain how the current economy is affecting the construction industry, and provide insight as to how contractors and other industry professionals can strategically respond to shrinking budgets and project delays.

Fabricators will want to add “Estimating 101 - Do You Know Your Cost?” to their agendas on Thursday, April 23 session, which will be conducted by GK Naquin of Stone Interiors and Michael Twiss, of Columbia Stone, Inc. The seminar will take an in-depth look at how to best evaluate the cost of each component of a business to help beef up the bottom line.

For a full list of seminars included in the “Surviving 2009” series, look in the “Latest News” section on Stone World’s Web site