Furniture/Appliance Chain RC Willey Managing Pushback, Serving Customers

Like some BrandSource dealers, big-box furniture and appliance chain RC Willey caught some flak for keeping its Idaho stores open amid a stay-at-home order from the state’s Gov. Brad Little.

Readers of the Idaho Statesman wrote the newspaper, asking why certain businesses including RC Willey are still in operation.

For the record, the Idaho Dept. of Health and Welfare’s definition of “essential” businesses includes stores that sell “products necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation and essential operation of residences.” BrandSource dealers have similarly reported pushback from consumers, particularly on social media, over their right to remain open as essential businesses.

Contacted by the newspaper, Jon Jensen, manager of an RC Willey store in Meridian, Idaho, said his showroom is “just as essential as any other hardware store would be, like a Lowe’s or Home Depot that are also selling appliances and staying open.”

The retailer, a member of ProSource associate the NATM Buying Corp., and owned by billionaire investor Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway holding company, operates a dozen box stores across Utah, Idaho, Nevada and California. All but its two California locations are open for business, although they are admitting customers by appointment only, and all visitors must be accompanied by a salesperson. Besides showing products to shoppers, sales staff also sanitize refrigerator door handles, cooktops and any other surfaces that the customers may have touched during the demos.

“That still lets us take care of their essential needs while keeping everyone safe,” Jensen told the Statesman.

Purchases can be picked up at the stores or delivered curbside to their homes, and like most BrandSource appliance dealers, Jensen reported brisk sales of freezers and refrigerators as consumers stock up on food.

Jensen added that his store is operating with about 40 percent of its staff, with the balance of employees electing to stay home and receive full pay through the first two weeks of April. “If things go beyond that, we’ve got other compensation lined up for up to a month,” he said.