Chicago— NeoCon 2022, held here last week, was abuzz with optimism as commercial flooring suppliers touted rebounding sales and specifications across commercial segments in 2022. This is after two years of declining activity amid ramifications from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to the commercial market, the NeoCon show picked up steam itself versus the 2020 event; commercial flooring exhibitors say it was at about 75% of its pre-pandemic levels. Show organizers confirmed attendance this year was higher than in 2020, at about 40,000.
“NeoCon continues to be critical to the contract industry ecosystem as it effectively connects all the key players and is a hub for innovation, industry education and business,” explained Byron Morton, vice president of leasing, NeoCon. “There is no other building that offers the community and concentration of design that theMART and NeoCon can offer. Our programming is both inspiring and incredibly useful—from presentations by influential thought leaders from the broader design and cultural worlds to our timely and productive CEUs. NeoCon is the product launch platform for the commercial interiors industry and our showrooms and exhibitors continue to meet the needs of the changing commercial design landscape.”
Commercial flooring exhibitors agreed the show was a bright spot to kick off a good year of growth. “I think everybody that’s here is really positive and happy to be here,” said Amanda Darley, vice president marketing, Mannington Commercial. “I think it may not be the levels we saw in 2019 but it’s been a good crowd, and everyone is very excited to be here and about business in 2022.”
It’s no surprise that the commercial flooring market hit a rough spot in 2020-21 as many of its growth segments were hit with shutdowns, unable to pause for renovation or lost funding for new projects. However, the first half of 2022 is moving full steam ahead and commercial suppliers agree the market is exceeding expectations.
“Business is picking up,” said Mark Page, senior director creative design and development, Mohawk Industries. “I know we’ve grown market share incrementally over the last three months. Business is active—people are trying to renovate, convert their spaces, trying to encourage employees to come back and create an experience in the workplace.”
For Novalis, a 100% commercial flooring company, business never entirely halted but the growth wave is imminent, according to Jeremy Whipple, vice president of commercial business development. “2022 is good,” he said. “The residential guys have been riding a wave with the housing market during the pandemic when everyone was putting money into their homes. For us, things really slowed down, but the great thing is we had a huge book of business right before the pandemic—we were expecting triple-digit growth. We were lucky that a lot of or our projects still had funding and they wanted to get things done fast. There was a sense of urgency—I’ve never seen projects like this get done so fast. So, we didn’t have the same catastrophic events during the pandemic as others, but it wasn’t what our expectations were. Coming out of the pandemic, commercial is growing. As long as we can keep inflation from going crazy, our belief is that 2023 is going to be the big year.”
For Crossville, Lindsay Waldrep, vice president, marketing, noted, “The first five months have been a little insane—in a mostly good way. Luckily, the things that a lot of folks see as negative are some of the strengths that Crossville has, which is really agility. We really are able to pivot and shift with the market, and the fact that we can have inventory up the wazoo in Tennessee is super important. The challenge for us continues to be manpower and the rising cost of fuel. On the bright side, we’ve had new customers, new projects, large projects continue.”
The rebounding segments for many suppliers include healthcare, education and office. While healthcare has been active throughout the pandemic, suppliers agree projects have increased. “Healthcare has definitely been our bread and butter through the pandemic, and sales continue to be strong within healthcare,” said Keesha Nickison, content manager, Tarkett. “And I think workplace is definitely a number two for us. I think corporations are cognizant of the fact that they need to do some things to bring people back, to help them want to be at the office again after being home for so long. So, they’re really taking a look at updates to their properties, and flooring is a big part of that, luckily for us.”
When it comes to the education segment, Nickison added, “I think a lot of new construction is happening in education and looking at social emotional learning for the student and for the staff as well, making sure their well-rounded needs are being met within the space outside of just the core curriculum.”
For Patcraft, Shannon Cochran, vice president of marketing and design, noted 2022 has been very positive for business. “Obviously there was a lot of pent-up demand coming into the year, especially in segments where we weren’t able to get in for any renovations. I would say specifically healthcare and education. We’ve seen corporate come back pretty strong as well—I would say probably a little faster than we thought it was going to come back and that’s been really exciting to see.” When it comes to the workplace segment, Cochran noted opportunity. “I think there’s this opportunity to reconnect. While we were all at home there were benefits there, too. But I think we also realized that the model we had wasn’t super broken. I mean, there were some good things about returning to the workplace and having that reconnection. I think that just gives us all energy in a way that we haven’t had in the last couple years. In corporate, we’ve also seen people doing some small renovations just to bring people back—change the environment a little bit by adding rugs or really looking at lobbies and spaces where they want people to come back and collaborate and reconnect.”
For most commercial suppliers, hard surface continues to be the workhorse in commercial spaces in 2022. “We definitely see a lot of growth on the resilience side,” said Anna Webb, vice president of marketing and product development, Interface. “We got into LVT in 2017. We were, prior to that, a carpet tile company. We are now a flooring provider. And resilient has definitely driven a lot of growth. We’re seeing most of that in LVT.”
Keith Richardson, director of performance markets, Patcraft, also noted the focus on hard surface. “On the healthcare side, hard surface—primarily in acute care—has been the main driver. And we’ve been well positioned on our product development and decided to continue to beef that up over the last few years. So, I feel like we’re at a really good spot with the additions we have coming up. Sheet vinyl is one. We have several new collections of homogeneous and heterogeneous sheet. We also have homogeneous tile, which is Admix, which probably has been the star of the show on the hard surface side, a product that we can heat weld and flash coat for operating rooms, patient rooms, corridors, wherever you want a durable hard surface. So, I would say for healthcare, those have been the main drivers.”
Patcraft’s Cochran added that while hard surface has grown in demand there is also a need to balance the space. “We’ve definitely seen an increase for that hard surface, but we’re also thinking about acoustics and productivity as people move back to make sure that you are balancing the acoustics. So, I think carpet tile and loose-lay rugs has also been a product category that we’ve been watching.”