Chicago— NeoCon 2022, held here last month, was abuzz with optimism as commercial flooring suppliers touted rebounding sales and specifications across key commercial segments in 2022. This is after two years of declining activity amid lingering ramifications from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bentley, for example, is already ahead of its expectations. “Business has been fantastic,” said Richard French, senior vice president and chief commercial officer. “We expected to be, in 2023, beating where we were in 2019. We’re a full year ahead of where we expected to be. Where we play happens to fit where the world is shifting.”
In addition to the commercial market, the NeoCon 2022 show itself picked up steam versus last year’s show. Commercial flooring exhibitors say it was at about 50%-75% of its pre-pandemic levels. Show organizers confirmed attendance this year was higher than in 2021, 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,” Byron Morton, vice president of leasing, NeoCon, told FCNews. “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 NeoCon 2022 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.”
A somewhat newcomer to the commercial market, AHF Products hit the ground running in 2022 with its AHF Contract and Parterre brands. “Every PowerPoint presentation I do I put a little rocket ship because we are just taking off,” said Fred Reitz, vice president of commercial, AHF Products. “We’re taking share from a lot of our competitors as we’re re-entering this space with AHF Contract and Parterre. We’re really able to capture a good quarter of the market. The first six months for us we’re growing like crazy.”
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 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 and large projects continue.”
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 our projects still had funding and they wanted to get things done fast. There was a sense of urgency—I’ve never seen projects 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 a big year.”
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 No. 2 for us. 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, “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.”
Patcraft is experiencing a resurgence in several commercial market segments, including workplace/corporate and education where hard surface is picking up steam. “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,” said Shannon Cochran, vice president of marketing and design. “I would say specifically healthcare and education [are the bright spots]. We’ve seen corporate come back pretty strong as well—I would say probably a little faster than we thought it was going to 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,” she explained. “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 collaborate and reconnect.”
For AHF, hospitality and education are where the biggest opportunities reside. “There’s potentially a huge supply risk in the education space due to the inability to service because of the demand that’s coming up,” Reitz explained. “And that demand is being prompted by the stimulus that the government has recently implemented. One percent of that government-backed stimulus is going into the education space. There’s just not enough VCT to get the quick turn in the schools.”
To ease the shortage in product AHF expects, the company launched its much-anticipated vinyl-based tile (VBT) product—a direct competitor to traditional vinyl composite tile (VCT).
Bentley’s French also noted growth in higher education as well as corporate, which he said is coming back strong in 2022. “Corporate and the higher education business—those two have been leading our growth,” he said. “Our corporate customer base on the upper end seems to be coming back to the office. “[A lot of it is] to get people to come back, entice them to come back with a better working space, a better feel, a better aesthetic. So, people are spending more money on the interior to really entice workers back. I think that’s key.”
In higher education, French said the growth is stemming from a smaller percentage of renovation and a larger percentage of new construction. “They are in a sort of arms race competing for students; so, we’ve seen a lot of higher education spending. Dorms—two years of COVID-19 and people want a refresh.”
There was a smorgasbord of new products for attendees at NeoCon 2022. 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 resilient 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.”
Interface launched its new Fresco Valley LVT line at NeoCon 2022. Fresco Valley integrates natural detail into three original 4.5mm Sound Choice LVT styles—Cliff, Ridge and Great Heights. Fresco Valley expands Interface’s portfolio of biophilic flooring, the company said, reflecting how today’s cities and interior spaces are becoming more in tune with nature and more focused on occupant well-being. With designs ranging from metallic minerals to rich woodgrains that vary from tile to tile, the collection showcases unique patterns born from nature and features sophisticated hues that aim to enrich and enliven workplaces.
Keith Richardson, director of performance markets at 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 in AdMix, which probably has been the star of the show on the hard surface side.”
Originally launched in 2016, Patcraft re-introduced AdMix at NeoCon 2022, expanding upon the popular collection with eight new colorways. Incorporating color within the pattern’s fleck, the new hues include five brilliant shades of single and two-tone primary colors for energetic, playful spaces, the company said, along with three neutral options for flexibility in design. When installed, AdMix is designed to offer a virtually seamless terrazzo-like visual and is available in 36-inch square tiles and an 18 x 36 tile. AdMix is Patcraft’s first 100% homogeneous solid resin resilient that is constructed to withstand the most demanding environments.
One of Mohawk Group’s major unveilings at the show was its Social Canvas collection, which took home the gold award in sustainability for modular carpet in the Best of NeoCon Awards this year. The modular carpet collection is a result of a collaboration with ArtLifting, an organization that champions artists who are impacted by disabilities or housing insecurity. Social Canvas conveys the expression and poignancy of Charlie French’s abstract painterly style, depicted in multiple styles, each viewed as a different canvas. The styles in this collection span chunky and smooth textures, colorful brushwork and have a refined palette. With Mohawk Group’s new EcoFlex One backing, Social Canvas is Living Product certified, NSF 140 Platinum and has low embodied carbon for a net-positive impact. The collection embodies Mohawk’s sustainability efforts and supports a more equitable future for all, the company said.
Mannington Commercial unveiled its innovative Amtico Active Lines Collection, an easy-to-customize LVT flooring solution that is designed to help bring a sense of flow to busy spaces. The Amtico Active Lines Collection makes it simple to customize flooring with 112 possible running line combinations of styles, base colors and accent colors, all of which can be mixed or used independently for a completely tailored floor. Because the accent colors are digitally printed, designers can also create a fully custom accent color that perfectly matches a project’s branding or palette. The collection is available in two sizes—18 x 18 or 6 x 36—and four styles. In addition, it features a 40-mil wear layer and Quantum Guard Elite, Mannington Commercial’s performance technology.
Shaw Contract unveiled its West Elm + Shaw Contract collection at NeoCon 2022. Coordinating rugs, broadloom and carpet tiles offer a range of textures that simulate the look and feel of handwoven rugs, while maintaining the performance necessary for commercial applications. This allows commercial spaces to create a residential feel through color, texture and feel. A warm color palette with hints of mid-century modern patterns, which West Elm is known for, provides options to create unique spaces that feel warm. There are six tile options in a 24 x 24 size. Rugs are available in four standard sizes of 6 x 9, 8 x 10, 11-foot circular and 12 x 15, with either surged or hidden edges. Custom sizes are also available to truly create a unique space. There are seven different rug styles. All rug styles will also be sold as broadloom. All carpet tile styles are made with EcoSolution Q100, a high-performance, 100% recycled content nylon fiber.
Bentley introduced its Modern Curator concept at the show. Moody and a little edgy, Modern Curator is a collection of three styles—Look Sharp, Trained Eye and Seeing Things—created to coexist in engaging ways and resonate with a generation grappling with unprecedented change and unparalleled creativity, the company said.
For Kährs it was all about continuing its sustainable roots with the introduction of Zero & Green at NeoCon 2022. Produced with 100% renewable energy and reducing the CO2 footprint of Zero Sheet by 32%, Zero & Green is billed as the next generation of sustainable commercial flooring. “So the Zero family has been a big player in the PVC-free game for a long time—we were pioneers in the PVC-free arena,” said Kali Kupp, director of marketing, Kährs Americas. “Zero was the first-ever PVC-free homogenous sheet flooring introduced into the market. So, we’re calling this the next generation of Zero—same performance, basically the same structure just now more sustainable and greener. We’ve done improvements on the side of a production. So now it’s 100% produced with renewable energy.”
AHF officially launched its Expressive Ideas at NeoCon 2022, the new VBT innovation for commercial installations. Marketed under the AHF Contract brand, the VBT product line, exclusively from AHF Products, is said to offer lower maintenance and life-cycle costs versus traditional VCT tile, with colors developed specifically for commercial environments.
The low-maintenance VBT product offers superior scratch, stain and scuff resistance without polish, reducing the total cost of ownership over the life of the floor. Education, corporate, retail and healthcare environments can resume operations far more quickly and with minimal interruption because of a simpler maintenance regimen and a variety of performance benefits that enhance efficiency, productivity and sustainability goals, according to the company.