Why was an empty booth my favorite display at this year’s NeoCon trade?

With 4 million square feet of floor space, the Merchandise Mart in Chicago was the largest building in the world when it opened in 1930. It also had its own zip code. Over the past three days, the same building was buzzing with the 32nd biennial NeoCon trade show, highlighting new office products from over 400 brands.

[Photo: Jacek Kadaj/iStock/Getty Images Plus]

The result was a complete furniture bonanza: modular desks, ceiling lights that double as acoustic baffles, sofas that would look equally chic in your home or office, and an enormous number of planters.

NeoCon is one of the biggest trade shows in the world, so I knew what to expect when I first walked through the building’s gold doors. But on the seventh floor, amidst a sea of ​​products, there was an almost empty booth. An outline of a chair was stamped on the floor, and a logo stretched across the back wall: RESET.

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[Image: Reseat]

Unlike other brands that are displayed throughout the building, San Jose-based Reset is not in the business of making new furniture. Instead, it focuses on giving old furniture a new lease on life. Think of it as a digital marketplace that provides companies, designers and furniture dealers a place to buy and sell vintage office furniture by top manufacturers like Milleranol.Formerly Herman Miller), Steelcase, Haworth, and Allsteel—at about half the price of their newer counterparts.

It’s a surprising contender for a trade show that oozes novelty, but Reset’s booth stopped me in my tracks precisely because it wasn’t like the others. I’m not saying every furniture company should follow suit and discontinue new products altogether, but Reset’s model certainly offers a refreshing alternative.

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[Image: Reseat]

Reseat’s client portfolio includes Oracle, LinkedIn, Rivian and Yelp. And since its launch in 2020 (then known as Clear Office), Reseat’s sales have tripled, saving more than £3 million of furniture from landfills. About 17 billion pounds of office furniture ends up in landfills each year, mainly due to the fact that 98% of companies dig up their old furniture when they move, requiring one company to pick it up and drive it to the thousands of dollars. pays. landfill

“It’s furniture that’s built to last decades and decades, and most furniture isn’t even looking a decade and is being thrown away,” says Reset CEO Brandi Susewitz. In the Bay Area, she notes the cost of removal for a 6-by-8-foot workstation averages $200. Extend that and you have what she says the budget for removing Macy’s was for one of her five-story corporate offices in downtown San Francisco: $280,000.

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[Image: Reseat]

Reset wants to change all that. In 2021, it launched a feature called Reseat ID, which helps companies build a detailed inventory as soon as they buy their furniture. This includes the rendering, measurement of each product, and how many pieces they have in each category. Simply put, it made it easier for companies to account for everything they owned at the end of their lease, when the last thing they want to do is find out how much furniture they have and how much it costs. . But customers could not see when those products would be available, nor could they place orders directly on the website.

Now Reseat is launching a subscription-based upgrade that lets companies sell or donate their furniture on a user-friendly dashboard. Importantly, it also tells customers which furniture will be available months in advance, so designers can quote them in upcoming projects, and dealers can plan ahead.

Depending on how involved a company is with selling and coordinating this move, it can get between 30% and 70% of the sale price; The reset gets the rest. (Perhaps the biggest catch is that older furniture doesn’t come with a warranty, but Susewitz says customers can inspect and inspect the furniture in person, which helps alleviate some of those concerns.)

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[Image: Reseat]

Susewitz says the average order for Reseat is about 500 products, Oftentimes startups are looking for good deals, which are usually bought by many different companies. But the industry is changing, she says, as more and more companies, including LinkedIn, are committing to buying secondhand furniture only for certain locations—in this case, an office in the Bay Area. (Reseat can also clean, refurbish and reupholster pieces, for 2%-5% of the total price.)

Broadly speaking, the furniture resale market is booming, and analysts predict it will take a hit $16.6 billion In sales by 2025, an increase of 70% from 2018. At NeoCon, however, the resale market seemed like a distant dream. On every floor, I saw brands rushing to share unique takes on their hot, new, hybrid work. But each new item produced comes with its own carbon footprint, so if we’re going to design, manufacture, and market new products every year or two, they must improve existing products, and do it in sustainable ways. should be done from (And for the love of everything else, please bag conference swag.)

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[Photo: Steelcase]

Many brands carried on by focusing primarily on physical innovation. For example, furniture giant Steelcase showcased its new Savina sofa—made with 70% recycled foam from discarded mattresses and upholstered with recycled fabrics—and a new stool collection called Flex Perch, Which is made up of 70% recycled electronic waste.

Italian furniture brand Arper re-imagined its famous Juno chair, which was originally made of plastic; The “Juno 02” comes in six new colors, but is also made from 70% post-industrial recycled plastic.

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Juno 02 by James Irwin [Photo: Salva Lopez/courtesy Arper]

Meanwhile, Andreu World launched an interesting collection of furniture made from interlocking pieces of wood, negating the need for screws or adhesives.

And Carnegie unveiled the world’s first bio-based outdoor textile. When I ran my fingers through the fabric, it felt and felt surprisingly plastic-like, yet more than 85% of the material is made from sugarcane—a more durable replacement for the oil-based polyester in most outerwear. alternative. Free of chemical coatings or toxic dyes, the material is both water and UV resistant, and can clearly withstand bleach cleaners.

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[Photo: Carnegie]

I’m sure there’s more that I missed. The Mart is a maze and a palace at once, and Neocon is all about standing out in a highly competitive market. On my way to Reset’s booth, I heard a mushy pickup line: “Would you like to see the coolest thing you’re going to see today?” Reseat’s product-free booth proved that there are less-waste ways to make a splash. And if Susewitz had borrowed that line, it would still be goofy but at least it would be true.

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