By Seth Weisblatt, AVB/BrandSource
Without sounding too many alarms, how prepared is America to handle a pandemic? While that question may seem alarmist and even existential, the reality is forcing all business owners to adapt and respond to the situation that is upon us.
The stock market has certainly rung some alarm bells lately, especially in the home furnishings sector with some stocks down as much as 15 percent, FurnitureToday reported.
Major publications across the globe have started sounding the alarm. A headline this week in The Atlantic declared, “You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus.” But it also went on to state that “Most cases are not life-threatening, which is also what makes the virus a historic challenge to contain.”
Reports of Jaguar Land Rover flying in parts for their cars in suitcases are shocking, and one that our industry will not be able to duplicate. The supply chain will take months to recover from the effects of the outbreak, and efforts to move production to other countries will take even longer, the top concern being the quality of the finished products.
To highlight the uncertainty and concern, Ashley announced a 2 percent price increase this week on every product in their catalog. As recently as the week before the word had been that Ashley would be in OK shape to ride out the impact of the virus. Clearly things are changing rapidly as more information becomes available.
As I recently wrote, this is a time for businesses to remain savvy and have their plans ready to execute. Retail Systems Research (RSR) published its own guidance this week about the effects of the virus that are facing just about every channel of retail. Their guidance is similar: “Now is the time to be very strategic,” RSR advised. “To reduce reaction time. And to be prepared for things to go sideways very quickly. These are very intense times. We all must pay very careful attention to what’s going on around us. And, of course, stay safe!”
Based on the latest information available, I believe there are a few actions that home furnishings retailers should begin taking today:
- This is as good of a time as any to begin the process of raising our own prices. We need to protect our margins and stay profitable.
- Forecast out your inventory purchases. Start bringing in your bestsellers a little deeper than you may have planned for April/May/June inventory levels.
- Marketing is key: Take advantage of the fact that consumers probably will want to spend more time at home. Creating smart, timely marketing campaigns that reflect the times helps you stay relevant to the consumer.
- Invest in your people! Frontline employees are the ones representing us and they need to be valued and appreciated for all of their hard work. Times ahead might get tough, and they will hear what the consumer wants before management does, so remain aware, responsive and supportive.
- How is your website performing? This is the perfect time to consider upgrading your marketing game. AVB Marketing websites are best in class.
Last but not least: Reach out to your buying group! I’m here to help or strategize in any way possible. You can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seth Weisblatt is Director of Home Furnishings for AVB/BrandSource, publisher of YSN.