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What Do We Do Now?

Furniture World Magazine
Volume 150 NO.2 March/April


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Five positive steps your business can take to more effectively deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

  1. Let customers know that you are doing everything you can to keep them safe.

    Assuming that you have not been ordered to close your stores completely, or you have chosen to do so on your own for now, how do you convince your customers that your stores are safe?

    First, take steps to make sure that your customers and employees are as safe as possible by following the CDC and other government guidelines. Be especially careful with elderly employees and even more so with those having pre-existing conditions.

    Then, depending on your current situation, consider posting on social media, your website, and perhaps sending an email blast to your customer list a message such as the following.

    • Sample Note: This is an unprecedented time. The safety and well-being of our customers, staff, family and friends is our top priority. As the coronavirus (COVID-19) affects your community, we want to share some immediate steps we have taken to keep those we come in contact with safe and healthy.

      Like many of the other emails I'm sure you have received, we are closely following the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), state and local health organizations. We continue to receive the most up-to-date information and have taken the following actions:

      While we take great pride in the cleanliness of our store every day, we have increased the emphasis on cleaning and disinfecting high-touch areas such as door handles, desks, phones and displays multiple times throughout the day.

      We've instructed all employees to take precautionary health measures, including frequent hand-washing and staying home when sick.

      We've instructed our delivery staff not to shake hands and to practice social distancing as appropriate.

      Our staff has been empowered to share information via email, online chat and phone. We want you to shop from whatever environment you feel comfortable with, be that in-store or online.

      If you would like to schedule an appointment while our store is closed, reach out and we will try to accommodate you.

      Thank you for being a customer and a friend. We are grateful for your loyalty and know that together, we will all get through this.

  2. How to handle layoffs should it be necessary.

    If you find it necessary to temporarily lay off employees, file unemployment insurance for them online if you can. Recently the system has been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of applications. Be aware that if you continue to pay people during this period, they may not be able to file for unemployment insurance in some states. Keep abreast of changes in state laws that may affect your business unemployment insurance account.

  3.  

    What should your hours be if you are not forced to close down?

    In late March when this article was written, some furniture retailers had not seen a significant fall off in business, but going forward the overwhelming majority of furniture retailers will see a drop off. I suggest considering closing your store for a couple of days per week and even shorting your store hours as needed. All of this of course depends on the ever-changing regional, state, and federal laws and regulations.

  4. How do we weather the storm?

    Take advantage of the slow down and forced time off to take an objective look at your company. Evaluate your systems and processes. Think about the tasks you've needed to do, but have procrastinated on, perhaps for years. Now may be a good time to build your infrastructure. Get input from your staff, your suppliers and reach out to industry organizations for assistance.

    It may be advantageous for you to seek a business loan at this time. Investigate low- or no-interest government loans and others at very low interest rates and delayed start dates for repayment. Of course, you have to seek out lenders in your area to see what options are available. You may also want to see if you have business interruption insurance coverage. If so it may require some rapid action on your part.

  5. What will happen when the threat subsides?

    The week after 9-11 I visited a store in Arkansas that sold furniture, appliances, outdoor furniture, barbecues, and televisions. This client had a bank of televisions in his store tuned into the news, which of course was all about 9-11. The first thing I did was turn off every television. In times like these, should people visit your store, it's because they want to make the best of a difficult situation, get on with their lives and perhaps buy products that will put smiles back on their faces. It's important to set the stage to help them do just that. After a terrible week post 9-11, this store had one of the best weeks in their history and finished out the month strong.

Dealing with the issues we are facing is extremely difficult for most of you, but this too shall pass.


About Joe Milevsky: Joe Milevsky, CEO and founder of JRM Sales & Management, Inc., calls on his more than 40 years of industry experience to help hundreds of clients improve the performance of their companies and profit as a result of their business relationships with JRM. Before establishing JRM, Joe held various executive positions with several of the strongest companies in the retail furniture industry. He has authored numerous articles for industry trade publications and he is a regular speaker at national events for the Home Furnishings Association (HFA), Hearth Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA), Nationwide Marketing Group, and various other buying groups as well as many other organizations both domestic and international.


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