ALEXANDRIA, VA -- Attendance atCoverings 2012was up by 19% over last year's show, with registration totaling over 22,000. This year's tile and stone expo, having returned last month to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, put the brakes on what had been a decline experienced over the past three years in the wake of a global economic downturn. Helping to hit this year's increased number was a huge spike in attendance among architects and designers, which climbed 84%. With Coverings next scheduled from April 29 to May 2, 2013 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, GA, -- its first time in that city -- optimism abounds for another benchmark year amid what's known to be a robust regional community ofarchitectsand designers.

Other market segments saw a rise at Coverings 2012, as well. Attendance among fabricators was up 69% from last year and distributor attendance rose 16%. Additionally,  installer/contractor visits were up 26%.

"These numbers are valid indicators that the tile and stone industry is in a recovery mode," said Karen Fendrich, Show Director of Coverings. "No way has the dust fully settled from the economic turmoil, but there are decided improvements in business, with building projects re-booted and remodeling on the upswing -- all good signs for anyone involved in this product category."

According to Fendrich, no stone -- or tile -- was left unturned in working to make Coverings 2012 a success. "We enacted a very strategic, very aggressive marketing program -- undertaking several new initiatives that helped attract visitors to the show."

Reflecting its embrace of social media, the show incorporated for the first time a dedicated 1,500-square-foot area -- Coverings Central -- where attendees gathered to digitally interact and network with one another. The highlight of Coverings Central was the 18 social-media seminar sessions that provided great tips in 15 minutes. This area drew strong participation and was a hub of daily activity throughout the four-day event.

Another first:  more than 160 contractors took advantage of a specially guided tour of top resources on the show floor as part of the new "Contractor Days." This program, in collaboration with the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), provided a well-edited visit for installers, helping to maximize their time at Coverings without second-guessing which of the 800-plus exhibitors to see. Additionally, it allowed them to personally meet and hear from company executives as they traveled booth-to-booth, direct access they might not ordinarily have experienced on their own. Tours included lunch, and the day was capped with a Happy Hour directly on the show floor in the Contractor Lounge. In fact, daily happy hours at Coverings have proved to be a welcome stimulus to added business networking, and they have become incentive to remain at the convention center and continue perusing the exhibits until closing, according to NTP. 

Another growing attraction for attendees has been the Installation Design Showcase. This year's project was a tour de force of three imaginary room settings where tile was the star material. The design concepts were brought to life by NTCA Five-Star master installers as attendees observed the process first-hand over the course of the show until completion. Nationally known Florida-based kitchen designer Joan DesCombes stepped out of her comfort zone into the outdoors to create a pampering patio setting.

She was teamed with Cox Tile and Marble of San Antonio, TX, which faithfully translated her vision, including construction of a working tiled fountain. Orlando native Grant Gribble, ASID, IIDA, partnered with Collins Tile and Stone, Arlington VA, and the outcome was a 1970s- inspired bath where tile composed into wall art was emphasized. Foreman Rogers, ASID, a senior designer with tvsdesign in Atlanta, GA, stole the show with his boutique hotel guest room. Practiced in hospitality design, having recently completed the Gaylord Palms in Orlando, Rogers was paired with David Allen Company in Raleigh, NC, who met the design challenges, creating a visual treat of unorthodox cuts and skilled applications.

Exhibitors expressed their satisfaction with the ROI delivered by Coverings 2012, and seemed to be counting on Atlanta to deliver in 2013, as well. Darren Caraway of Vidrepur said, "We've exhibited for eight years now, and are happy to report another very busy and successful show. We saw a variety of attendees. Most strongly represented were distributors. It's great to see distributors you currently work with, and, of course, show product to those who are learning about your company. We look forward to exhibiting next year, for sure."

Esther Halferty of Lilywork was pleased with this year's show. "We did have good foot traffic this year, and we are looking forward to exhibiting next year in Atlanta, which we know is rich with architecture and design professionals."