NeoCon: 2015 brings best quality, quantity of attendees in recent years

Home News NeoCon: 2015 brings best quality, quantity of attendees in recent years

By Jenna Lippin

Chicago—Positivity reigned at NeoCon 2015, the largest commercial interiors show in North America, held at the Merchandise Mart here June 15-17. One indicator of the show’s success is its pre-registration numbers, which on the Friday before the show was up 20% from last year—higher than it has ever been—according to Byron Morton, vice president of leasing for Merchandise Mart.

“I think the [high pre-registration numbers] have a lot to do with the new registration system we offered,” he explained. “More people pre-registered because we had a one-button option for those who attended the show before; forms auto populated.” (See the July 6/13 issue of FCNews for final attendance numbers).

Also helping pre-registration was the decision to allow for sign-up the weekend before the show started, another first for NeoCon. “We acknowledged how while the show officially opens Monday, things get rolling Saturday afternoon, and there are a ton of events on Sunday.”
And as quantity increased, so did quality. Firms are bringing more people to NeoCon than they have in previous years, some with as many as 10 to 15 designers having signed up.

“That’s good news,” Morton noted. “There are a lot of people working on projects. The corporate office segment is very hot right now. There is not only a new generation of office workers in the workforce, but a different type. Our economy has changed. The knowledge-based workers we heard about three to four years ago are entering the workforce, and that demands a different kind of office space.”

Flooring remains the second-largest category at NeoCon, with about 40 companies showcasing their products either in permanent showrooms or temporary spaces; in fact, about 30 companies occupied a record 15,000 square feet on the 7th floor in a dedicated flooring area. With that, industry members were able to share plenty of solid feedback about show traffic to FCNews.

“There’s more people here, that’s clear,” said John Wells, president and CEO of Interface Americas. “The people here are working on projects. You also see more junior people [here from] the firms, which is a good sign that firms are doing well enough to send some of the younger people to learn. That is great for the industry. It keeps the blood moving.”

Ralph Grogran, president of Bentley, also noticed more “active” attendees. “Over the last couple of years there were designers coming just to see what’s going on. Now everyone who has come by is working on a project. Facility people are here, designers are here, and they all seem to be working on real, live projects.”

Busy contractors also made up a significant portion of show goers this year. Russ Rogg, president and CEO of Metroflor, which was showcasing its Aspecta brand at NeoCon, said the company’s space saw a lot of contractors, whereas last year he met with more A&D personnel. “We distribute this product through distributors, who typically have good relationships with contractors. Manufacturers are sometimes relied upon to build relationships with the A&D community. Our spec team is out there calling on the A&D community, and our distributors have been connecting with the contractor base, so I think there has been a better balance between [the two audiences] this year.”

Perhaps one of the most telling comments about show traffic came from Jeff Krejsa, senior vice president, Johnsonite: “This was the first time I’ve seen people coming in and snapping pictures of material in the booth space and sending it back to the office for somebody else to take a look at. There is real activity versus just looking.”

The international presence at NeoCon 2015 was strong as well. John Stephens, vice president, marketing, Shaw Contract Group, noted that in order to reach more of the worldwide players at the show, the company had more members of its global team attend. “We have more of our people here from China, Southeast Asia, Latin America and Europe than ever before because we have more clients from those parts of the world. We saw that trend statistically last year with registration. I haven’t seen numbers yet for [this year] but there is no question it feels like international attendance has been much stronger.”

Wells added that the show has become “highly global with a lot of international flavor.” Interface’s international customer dinner saw 100 people from 13 different countries over four continents. “There is a great interest in NeoCon as a barometer not only for the American market but for the whole furnishings market [worldwide].”

Overall, flooring manufacturers throughout the Merchandise Mart reported strong traffic that was the best—in terms of quality and quantity—they have seen in years. “The feedback from [these companies] has been spectacular,” Morton said. “We feel like we’ve really listened to what they have said in terms of what they would like the show to be, what to improve upon, the on-site experience, more technology, broadening the attendee base—they tell us they’re seeing all that.”

Going forward, show owners and organizers will continue to build upon NeoCon’s recent success, particularly its pre-registration options. They will also work to keep more people at the show on its final day. “People stay here as a rule; the hotel blocks don’t empty out until Thursday because Chicago is a great city, so people stick around. Bringing them back into the building is something we are really going to keep trying to do.”

For more on NeoCon 2015, see the July 6/13 issue of Floor Covering News.

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