With the approach of summer comes the close of another trade show “season.” And while we are in an economic recession, the final results of these stone and tile exhibitions were not all doom and gloom. While in many cases traffic was slower than usual, and there was a noticeable downsize of many exhibition booths, some optimism remained among those in attendance.

Most recently, I attended Coverings 2009, which was held at McCormick Place in Chicago from April 21 to 24. While the first day of the exhibition was a slow start, which can be typical of trade shows of this size, there was most definitely a feeling of trepidation among exhibitors. To everyone’s relief, traffic definitely picked up during the second day. The exhibitors that I spoke with did not come with high expectations for this year. They realized that times are tough right now, yet they still believed that it was important to be seen and to make the investment in trade exhibitions such as Coverings.

From a trade perspective, many exhibitors said that while they didn’t receive an abundance of visitors, the attendees on hand were there to do business. In a time when budgets are tight, those who made the trip out to Chicago came with a purpose. Exhibiting at Coverings also gave companies the opportunity to maintain business relationships with their customers as well as possibly making new contacts.

And for those who did make the journey out to Chicago, there certainly were plenty of new products to see. It was obvious that stone and tile manufacturers have been hard at work researching and developing new collections to “wow” potential buyers. Displays included numerous textures as well as an assortment of sizes, shapes and colors. A sampling of these new products can be found in the Coverings Product Review, which begins on page 12 of this edition of Contemporary Stone & Tile Design.

This issue also includes several features that illustrate how specialty tile such as large-format metallic pieces, glass mosaics and exotic stones are being used to create fresh chic designs. These types of stone and tile products are being used to meet a range of design styles for both residential and commercial applications. And while aesthetically pleasing, they also provide strength and durability.

Additionally, this edition of Contemporary Stone & Tile Design features a special “Specification Sheet” section in the back of the book. These pages are designed to introduce new stone, tile and maintenance/installation products to the architecture and design community as well as providing pertinent technical information. The intention is for them to be a valuable resource when it comes to material selection and design.

So, even though we are experiencing difficult times, it is encouraging to see that stone and tile manufacturers are still concentrating on product development and continuing to produce collections that inspire fresh designs. We can only hope that the economy begins to show signs of improvement soon and business begins to flourish again for those in our industry. But in the meantime, new products will continue to peak interest and spark innovation.