By Gordon Hecht, Serta Simmons Bedding

Over 2,600 years ago Sun Tzu, the great military leader and strategist, proclaimed, “In times of peace prepare for war. In times of war prepare for peace.” His advice rings more true today than ever.

There’s gonna be a lot of TV binge-watching going on for the next few weeks. After catching up on all the sitcoms and romcoms, reruns of great sports championships and a few cooking shows, you may find yourself stuck with the old sci-fi flicks from the 1960s and ’70s. Chances are good that you may see a few with a time machine that transports the movie actors centuries into the future.

Right now, with all apologies to Misters Zager and Evans, I am not very interested to see what life will be like “In The Year 2525.”  My wish would be to only move the calendar forward to July 4, 2020. My sincere hope is that it will be the most joyous Independence Day that our nation has seen in decades.

We are living in and witnessing unprecedented times and our young people will talk about it for the rest of their lives — just as preceding generations did for calamitous events of their eras. For great granddad it was Black Friday 1929; for granddad it was Dec. 7, 1941 and the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Dad and Mom remember Nov. 22, 1963, when the nation witnessed the assassination of a president. You probably remember Jan. 28, 1986, when the Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff. And none of us will ever forget Sept. 11, 2001.

All dark times for sure, but our nation and way of life healed and went on to thrive. Current predictions are that this stay-at-home environment could continue for as few as eight weeks and as long as many months.  I’m an optimist, so my money is on a late spring recovery. Therefore, this is what I believe July 4, 2020 will look like:

We are Americans and we like to spend. This summer will be the greatest time to be in the home furnishings and mattress business. Three factors will create this buying frenzy:

  • People will have “unspent” money and credit. While many people will depend on government assistance, many more will have worked from home at full pay. During Spring 2020 they canceled vacations, spring breaks, plans to dine out, and saved on the costs of the kids’ sporting events. They will have $2,000 to $10,000 of unspent money (or bank card OTB) at their disposal.
  • We have been homebound, and that home needs work.  In our previous rushed life we didn’t notice how lived-in our homes have become and the poor sleep and discomfort we get from our sleep surfaces. We will also notice cracks in the drywall, spots on the ceiling and tracks in the carpet. Once the all-clear tone rings out, look for a mass movement toward improving the home environment.
  • As for travel … you go first. Sorry to tell you Delta, Carnival and Marriott, but it will be months before people go on leisure vacation trips. They will wait for others to go first to make sure it is safe (it will be) and all those dollars planned for late summer getaways, Labor Day weekends and possibly Thanksgiving travel will remain unspent.

I am hoping there will be bright fireworks and parties to celebrate a true Independence Day, free from the tyranny of an unheralded virus and free to pursue our way of life again.

Your goal for the next 90-plus days is to stay in business. To do so, you’ll need to be more focused, nimble, relentless and creative than ever.

You’ll need to white knuckle it for a while. Prepare to make tough decisions with your team. Look for opportunities to cut costs, renegotiate advertising and occupancy costs, and drop your pride to accept assistance from any willing source, even our government.

The plan’s outline is simple: Stay Safe, Stay Strong, Stay Healthy, Never Give Up and Never Give In. You will need to flesh out the details that work for your area and your business.

As for the pandemic itself, this too shall pass. The war will be ended. And those who planned for the conclusion, for times of peace, will be stronger than ever.

Gordon Hecht is Senior Regional Manager/Strategic Retail Group at Serta Simmons Bedding. You can write him at ghecht@sertasimmons.com.