The Trend Report Podcast

Episode 118: NeoCon & the Mart

Summary Keywords

furniture, hospitality, showroom, commercial, people, business, market, tenants, relationships, people, disruption, stories, customers, employees, marketing, leadership, discussion, collaboration, customer service, experience, service, memorable, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, international, travel

Sid Meadows, Host of The Trend Report
Byron Morton, VP & Co-Head of Leasing at the Mart


Byron Morton: I'm excited about a number of things! First, debuting our amenities that we talked about to the industry. I'm also very excited that, 2023 is going to be our first year truly back [since Covid 2020]. 

We track registration and how it paces leading up to the show every year. We're about four weeks out right now, and we've probably got about 50% of the registration and—we're pacing about 95% of 2019 numbers. 



Coach Sid Meadows: Hey, friends, and welcome to the Trend Report podcast, where we have real conversations with real people about all things contract interiors. My name is Sid Meadows, and I'm your host. I'm a business strategist and certified professional coach, and a longtime student of the office furniture industry. And I'm excited that you're joining us today. And my hope is that you will gain some insights, inspiration and motivation that will help you grow and your business growth. So let's dive into today's conversation. 

The Trend Report is proudly sponsored by the Insider, a weekly newsletter delivering a quick dose of insights to get your Monday off to a well informed start. The Insider combines meaningful industry perspective with recommended reads and product solutions, offering valuable intelligence and inspiration to anyone working in commercial interiors. To learn more about the insider or to subscribe for free, please visit



Sid Meadows: Hey, everybody. Welcome to this week's episode of the Trend Report! I’m glad you're joining me today. And I'm a first time guest on the show. We're going to talk about something that hopefully all of you are really passionate about. And I'm excited to welcome Byron Morton with the Merchandise Mart and neocon to the show today. Hey, Byron, how are you?


Byron: I'm well, sir. Thanks for having me on today.


Sid: So Byron, I kind of set it up for you — who you are and what you do — but tell us exactly what it is that you do at the Mart and the role you play in NeoCon.


Byron: So I'm Byron Morton, obviously, and I'm vice president and C.O. Head of Leasing for the Mart in Chicago. I oversee all of our showroom business— our kitchen and bath on the first floor, residential fine furnishings on the 6th and 14th floors, and of course, our contract furnishing floors on 10 and 11, as well as sales of the 7th floor exhibit hall for NeoCon. 


Sid: Wow, you are a little bit busy! Now, Byron, how long have you been at the Mart? 


Byron: Been at the Mart since 2004. So I've been here for 19 years, and I started out working specifically on the Contract Furniture showrooms, and my responsibilities grew from there.

Sid: Now, were you in the business before joining the Mart, on the contract furniture side of the business. Are you in real estate? What was your path before you got to the Mart?


Byron: I grew up primarily in wireless and data networking, and actually, I ended up with the Mart because the Mart was a customer. We worked together for I'd say about 18 months, and after a lot of great things happened (as well as navigating through a few problems), they gave me a call and asked me to come talk to them about working with them. It was really fun. Frankly, at that time, I didn't know how to spell “real estate” or “furniture.” But I've learned over time.


Sid: That's great. So I remember my first NeoCon, and I remember walking in—this was 1991, maybe, I don't remember the exact year. But I remember walking into the Mart, and there were all these shops on the lower level. There was a tie shop there, and I had not been out of college for very long. I walk in, and it was my first time in the furniture business, my first time at NeoCon and I'm walking in and there's a tie shop. I will never forget this. I don't remember which entrance it was, but I have on a tie, because we dressed up for NeoCon—that's what you did back in the day. 

This guy is like pulling me into the shop trying to take my tie off and give me a new tie. I say all that just to set up that the market has really gone through an evolution over the years from the early 1990s! Now to 2023. So tell us a little bit about what we can expect to see at the Mart this year, because you guys have made a huge investment in changes at the Mart.


50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.