Aside from the controversial marketing decision I posted about earlier this week, Harrogate’s Flooring Show 2013 had some great stuff going on and some lovely people involved in trying to coax some exhibitors / attendees / sales reps into the 21st century. The UK carpet industry has taken a massive hit in recent years, on a one to one level I’ve spoken at length about this with a close friend whose family owned a carpet factory in the North West for decades, now recently & sadly closed down. Partly because we all wanted timber & laminate, partly European manufacturing took over, partly the UK industry may not have been forward thinking enough?
My personal feelings are that successive governments have failed UK manufacturing, preferring to concentrate on Southern money making / banking / tech and lots of airy fairy industries which don’t give many real people real jobs. Now it’s down to us all to make changes for the future and ensure British industry and companies are revived, supported and helped to flourish.
That said, they’ve also got to help themselves and UK Flooring needs to up it’s game. Under new ownership this year, The Flooring Show together with global trend forecasters Scarlet Opus and Ben Johnson Interiors created a Trend Hub to inspire and energise visitors and exhibitors. There are some images of the trend boards (which I immediately gravitated towards!) below. From what I was told, many older stand holders & companies don’t really understand the ‘design world’, maybe even don’t think it really applies to them. Total #fail.
I got the feeling that this area was a bit of a shock to most of the usual show attendees. Trends? Fashion? Design? Let’s just stick to beige carpet and what we know, what’s always sold, what always will sell. There didn’t seem much enthusiasm for the talks either, all a bit ‘progressive’ with titles like “Selling Flooring To Women” and “Interior Design Trends Spring/Summer 2014 – Flooring Focus”. Talking to the more enthusiastic participants at the show, it was clear that they feel the industry generally, particularly those involved in carpets and timber flooring, are a little stuck in their ways. I’ve definitely seen very exciting flooring exhibited at other trade shows and wondered why it wasn’t in Harrogate? Too far to travel from London? Not enough designers / interiors designers / architects visiting?
We all know that flooring can be a big ticket purchase and investment in a home, a decision not to be taken lightly and one not based simply on trends and what is fashionable in a single season, but surely this doesn’t mean that style, design and trends can just be ignored? Knowing and keeping up to date with current trends should influence retailers’ showrooms, advertising and selling techniques; manufacturer’s product planning and marketing; fitters’ advice and laying techniques; reps’ methods, sales, client understanding, and so much more.
It may well be the essentially same oak flooring being sold, but will it be light or dark, grained or plain, wide plank or narrow?
The client tells you they’re having high gloss white resin in the kitchen, what do you advise for the living room floor?
What pattern carpet would rock a landing & stairs if your client wants the Wow factor after playing it safe elsewhere?
How the hell do you give good, no sorry GREAT advice if you don’t keep up to date with what’s happening?!?
There are some fantastic flooring companies trading in the UK and some exhibited at the show. Many manufacturers are creating exciting, innovative products and are brilliant at getting the word out there. Many small retailers are tweeting like mad and creating a buzz about their work. It just doesn’t seem to be very joined up, and good examples aren’t necessarily the norm that they should be. Top London companies will always be just that and will continue to excel in their bubble world, but for the greater percentage of us with average budgets to spend, the UK flooring industry could have a more joined up, more design driven, more modern approach to our purchasing.
I wish the lovely organisers at The Flooring Show all the luck in the world in encouraging change and progression, guys, I think you might need it 😉
On a lighter noted Harrogate was simply as gorgeous as ever. We enjoyed our stay in Agatha Christie’s hideaway The Swan, noshed a much needed banquet in the Royal Baths Chinese (officially best original interior for a Chinese restaurant ever) and sipped a Pimms soothed by a pianist in the famous Betty’s Tearooms. A perfect end to the day 🙂