Five Observations from NeoCon – Manufacturing Tradeshow

It’s been a wild ride for everyone over the last two years, which is putting it mildly. Businesses have been forced to evolve and pivot to stay alive. Tradeshows have been hit especially hard. NeoCon was no exception. Canceled in 2020. Scaled back and at an alternate time for 2021. But, back at full strength for 2022! Here’s five observations from NeoCon, this year’s show.

1. The Work-From-Home Movement

Work from home was generally considered a perk, and slowly trending up before COVID, and now it’s an expectation that has exploded across industries. According to Pew Research, 61% of  those with a workplace out of the homeare choosing not to go into their workplace. How will the commercial interiors industry continue to address this trend? The office is not going away, but offices need to evolve to better serve workforces that are in-person less these days. How can these spaces be used to lure workers in? Is it an opportunity for the commercial interiors industry to grow sales by providing a set of home-office furniture for knowledge workers? Is there a way for key items to travel with employees from home to office? Lots of questions here. The only thing I’m certain of….The commercial interiors industry is filled with pros who will solve for these questions over the coming years. Of our five observations from NeoCon, this trend was clearly prevalent throughout all designs, as manufacturers evolve and adapt.

2. What Inspires Us?

We saw several beautiful and innovative products that are helping bridge the gap between the comforts of home and the functionality of the office. 9to5 Seating has a range of soft seating and lounge chairs that are comfy and clearly offer the “resi-mercial” look and feel. The Ellie is their newest chair (launching later this summer) that has a super comfortable molded shell that’s ergonomically supportive, available in a mid-back and high-back option, and can recline or lock out. This chair just shouts “super cool”!

Over at KFI Studios, their design team has created a fun, fully reclined lounge chair called Avalon that sports a rotating tray for functionality, and a built-in divider screen for privacy. Take a break or get to work while lounged back. We debated whether this was a new-school church confessional station, or a post-pandemic answer to what a more relaxed workspace should look like.

Perhaps the mostinnovative piece of tech we saw during NeoCon was Skyline’s new solution for creating more flexible spaces – Smart Glass. With an innovative electromagnetic layer sandwiched between the glass, a user can turn completely clear glass to fully opaque with the click of a button.

That conference room that doesn’t get consistently used can become a private meeting space instantly. R&D labs can offer visibility into their space, and then go private immediately when needed. Showrooms and other areas that require security can be turned to opaque during off-hours. This product offers tons of applications within glass, a classic & timeless material. Want to see more products that inspire us? Head over to our gallery for tons of great photography.

3. When Will Manufacturers Embrace eCommerce?

This is an upcoming trend that we’ve been watching for a while. It’s not a question of if, but when will the commercial furnishings industry embrace eComm? Amazon. Wayfair. Hayneedle. These are all very real threats that are taking market share daily. Not to mention the major furniture manufacturers who long ago embraced eCommerce with their own direct-to-consumer platforms. But what about smaller manufacturers? This second tier group offers tens of thousands of products, many of which are not offered via eComm. It’s time for the rest of the industry to embrace eCommerce and unite around a marketplace platform. In our discussions with manufacturers, we found everyone to be very receptive to the idea of eCommerce, and ready to take the next steps. Check out our new start-up, No Mondays over here, to see how we’re providing a best-in-class solution.

4. How ShowroomsHandled COVID-19

I wondered how manufacturers would address COVID precautions and this one was really simple. They didn’t. I’m not making any statements for or against this position, merely the observation. Certainly, there were some attendees and exhibitors wearing masks and I always support personal responsibility and smart decisions. No “Five Observations from NeoCon” would be complete without a check-up on COVID. Ultimately, it was great and refreshing to feel some sense of “normalcy” in this area.

5. How’s The Show Traffic?

Still waiting on official traffic data at the time of this blog, but our sense of the attendance was definitely higher than the October 2021 show, and still lower than traffic in 2019. Also, we heard from several manufacturers that the quality of the traffic was very solid across the board. Attendees appear to be more carefully thinking through their travel budgets and the ROI on who they send. I think this is great – less congestion in the halls, more meaningful conversations, and an overall elevated experience for all.

Final thoughts….NeoCon different, but it’s back and appears to be healthy. We’ll see how our five observations from NeoCon unfold over the rest of the year and beyond. The only constant thing in life and marketing is change, so here’s to whatever’s next!

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