June 13, 2024

NeoCon & Design Days Recap

Stump team visits NeoCon & Design Days

The Stump team enjoyed two beautiful summer days in Chicago for the annual commercial/contract furnishings exhibition historically known as NeoCon. But with the emergence of Fulton Market, only 1 mile away, and their aptly named “Design Days” it has become two shows in one. So, we shuttled between the venues and various events. The coordination between the two locations, on the same dates, does make sense given the shared traffic and engagement, but the logistics leaves room for improvement (may we suggest more frequent buses and better maps and markings for Design Days, please).

Attendance was up significantly; we heard estimates ranging from 50,000 to 75,000 visitors. The halls were packed at the Merchandise Mart (NeoCon) and the main streets on and around Fulton Street Market (Design Days) were busy every time we were there. Attitudes on business outlook were mixed but generally positive, referencing flat to modest growth over 2023 with better outlooks for the rest of the year.

Quote of the Market

“The Global Economy is entering a new phase of stable, more moderate growth,” Economists at the World Bank (June 11, 2024).

Key Takeaways

Key topics of discussion with industry clients and friends included the below.

North American Strength

With Asian and European economies struggling, we continue to see global players focusing on the US marketplace for sales growth, and the US and Mexico for more production. We are fans of Mexico and are just completing a project in Tijuana. Supply chain diversification was a big topic of conversation, and we believe will continue to be a key point of emphasis in the coming years. 

Soft Seating

The hot product categories are soft seating for collaborative workspaces and public areas. Our highlighted sale of Stylex to Flokk (closed January of this year) was widely discussed - and we expect to see more M&A in this sector. 

Hospitality

With travel in full swing, plus earlier COIVD years that saw little investment, hotel owners are now spending money on guest rooms and public spaces. More commercial manufacturing companies are looking to this fast-growing channel as another avenue of growth. 

Omni-Channel

The Contract “big guys” (Steelcase, MillerKnoll, Haworth, HNI, Global/Teknion, etc.) are historically focused on sales via dealerships. However, more and more revenue is going through e-commerce and non-dealer channels. Expect to see M&A drive this move towards an Omni-channel approach.

Technology

We continue to see AI deployed across the business spectrum. CET has become a powerful technology for floor planning within the commercial landscape. We watched a presentation of Thumbprint, a new floor planning technology, and were impressed with its capabilities. Smart companies will be broadening their use of technology in daily functions to advance and win.


Overall, a great two days in Chicago. We are excited about several deals in the commercial space, on the heels of our sale of Stylex to Flokk.

Interested in buying or selling? Give us a call.

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