Neocon 2019 Review

Neocon 2019 Review

Neocon celebrated 30 years at the Merchandise Mart last weekend, June 10-12, 2019. The annual event coincided with a pivotal time in the furniture market. The market is flat or below the baseline for the overall GDP and innovation is lacking in even the newest offerings. Seemingly, it’s all been done before.

Many of the showrooms exhibited loose offerings of casual and transitional space furnishings. There were no “stars” of the show and more of the same from previous years.

All companies, large, medium and small need to listen to their design leadership and then push back on strategy, new products and 30 years of best of neoconenhancements for existing product offerings. The voice of product and seating design was turned down to a whisper at the show. Design, marketing, engineering, finance, and manufacturing should all have an equal place and voice on big decisions. But, it was evident that everyone was in a risk management mode; few, if any bold design moves were shown in the spaces I explored. The balance of all functional areas in a company is easy to talk about but tough to apply given the pace of competition and pricing pressures in the market.

Over the next few weeks, leadership teams will shake off the fatigue from the show, recharge with brief vacations and then get back to work. Step one should be a collective, long look in the mirror and open exploration of real-world problems. We don’t need another sectional or coffee table to decorate our offices or universities. We do need to continually focus on ergonomics, user interface, privacy, collaboration and…well, the list goes on.

“Are we working on the right problems?”

Restructuring the Furniture Industry For Today’s Market

furniture on display It’s a great time to be a consumer of products, goods, and services. We have all been spoiled by content at our fingertips and next day (or next hour) delivery of almost anything we can imagine or desire. Amazon and DoorDash are here to stay.

This means that all furniture brands need to focus on ease of order, personalization of products or specials, accelerated delivery, quick set up and immediate support for questions about products. To raise the bar even further, order quantities should be one or a few units.

The large players in the market are set up to push big orders through the system and old habits will take a long time to change. Small, innovative companies do not have the capital to invest in advanced concepts or compete for big accounts. This leaves the mid-sized companies in a great position to take market share while partnering with innovative, agile startups.

Taking Notes from History

We experience this set of circumstances in the “new mobility” space. Global OEMs and large Tier One suppliers are partnering with boutique design and engineering firms to move quickly from research into ideation and through concept development before committing big money to manufacturing plants and fixed labor costs.

furniture at neoconThe furniture market can be compared to the movie industry where old school studios owned the resources and were vertically integrated. This allowed the studio almost total control of the process and investments. The entertainment industry is known for cost overruns and weak performance at the box office. Something has been changing. Streaming content services and almost unlimited bandwidth have provided power to the consumer of digital content, movies, music, and apps. The furniture market can learn from this history and apply key lessons to pivot to offer the customer choice, short delivery times and excellent support.

Lastly, vertical markets are continuing to converge. The built environment (vehicle, office, university or patient room), user interface and human factors will continue to be key areas of focus for any marketing, design and engineering team. Any business of any scale needs to deliver excellent solutions to the consumer at the right price point.

Interested in learning more about Fredricks Design’s ideas for the future of the furniture industry? Please contact us to arrange a detailed discussion about our industry insights. We would love to learn more about your upcoming projects in the office, healthcare, and educational environments.

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Furniture and Work Space Insights

Furniture and Work Space Insights

City planning for the work space.

We commissioned a research and ideation project to explore the correlation between city planning and the design of work environments. The findings from this study supported our premise that any work environment is a landscape of unique environments and spaces designed to meet different types of activities and work styles. This connection is a powerful concept that can be leveraged on space planning and furniture design. Collaborative partnerships with the customer, A+D firms and product designers from diverse backgrounds will drive new thinking and dramatic improvements in the work place.

The work space continues to evolve and the next several years will be a challenging time for many furniture brands. The overall market is flat and there are simply a lot of companies competing for market share. Ongoing uncertainty in the market will require agility and responsiveness to customer demands for new thinking and solutions.

A recent day trip to Neocon in Chicago highlighted the trends that will shape the furniture market over the next several years and beyond.


How to Plan, Develop and Deliver a Show Property

How to Plan, Develop and Deliver a Show Property

Naias AI17 Front Seat Render

Well, it’s now only 48 days until the doors open at Neocon 2017…yikes!

Many of our friends in the furniture business are drag racing to the deadline for installation of show properties and prototypes. Wash, rinse and repeat…it’s the same every year.

The furniture industry is not alone in their lean and compressed approach to new product development. Our work with automotive suppliers and consumer products companies is focused on the development of advanced projects, show properties, mock-ups, and prototypes. These are best-in-class companies with brilliant leadership, professional managers, gifted marketers, and fantastic creative and technical teams. Since the downturn, many of these companies have also accumulated significant stockpiles of cash. They have all the resources to do things well and we still find ourselves with tight timing, almost constant scope changes and team misalignment moving from early ideation to completion of show properties.

These are the top three reasons for this condition with a few suggestions for improved team performance and a better outcome to industry shows… (more…)

Neocon 2014: Beanbags and Phone-booths

Neocon 2014: Beanbags and Phone-booths

cartoon phone booth and beanbag

A brief recap of our visit to Neocon 2014…

For those who are not familiar, Neocon is an annualexposition for commercial interiors; the industry leaders (and followers) come to Chicago to showcase their latest furniture, fixtures, and materials. It can be quite a party, but we’re usually there to uncover trends, be inspired, and admire the great design work that many of the companies are continuing to produce. We saw a shift in the respect for individual needs and designing spaces that accommodate them. We’d like to share what we saw and wherewe see it going… (more…)

Indiana Furniture + Fredricks Case Study

Indiana Furniture + Fredricks Case Study

We partnered with Indiana Furniture in Q4 2012 to develop Felix, a new offering to expand their seating line.

Our case study tells the story of our collaborative development from early exploration of the problem statement, design brief development, ideation, concept development, and production release.

We leveraged our complementary capabilities to accelerate the development of a new product to raise the bar for Indiana Furniture in the seating category. Felix is the first offering in a series of seating products based on intelligent product planning and execution of our combined talents.

Please check out the chair development case study and contact us to discuss your future product challenges. Thanks!