AVB Members Share Their COVID Crisis Learnings at Furniture Industry Conference

BrandSource members Suzanne Carey-Fernandez of Moderno Appliance, left, and Roby’s Andrea Langeliers, on FurnitureToday’s virtual panel

For those unfamiliar, FurnitureToday is the preeminent publication of the home furnishings business, and its annual Leadership Conference is a premier event where the industry’s movers and shakers share their insights and outlooks.

This year, AVB was honored to have two of its members participate in the three-day symposium: Suzanne Carey-Fernandez, co-owner of Moderno Appliance & Furniture in Massachusetts, and Andrea Langeliers, president of Roby’s Furniture & Appliance in Oregon. The two joined “Reinventing the Store Experience & Other Small Business Survival Strategies,” a virtual panel discussion on how small retailers adapted to the health crisis and managed to thrive amid a pandemic that has sidelined so many others.

Fortunately for Carey-Fernandez, her Lawrence, Mass., showroom was only closed for two weeks while her and her husband, co-owner Victor Fernandez, awaited delivery of personal protective equipment (PPE). During that period, Moderno’s website acted as a clearinghouse for updates and details on in-stock items that customers could find in their store, she told attendees.

As the outbreak continued and more employees began working from home, Moderno saw demand rise for home office furniture as well as dining room fare, she noted.

Likewise, Roby’s saw its dining room business grow as some customers turned their kitchens and dining rooms into multipurpose spaces, Langeliers said, with dining tables doubling as platforms for both work and meals.

As for lessons learned from the pandemic, Casey-Fernandez said the health crisis taught her to be more transparent with customers and to stay in closer contact with her vendors, which has allowed all of Moderno’s relationships to grow.

For Roby’s, the pandemic compelled the company to up its digital game, Langeliers said, which led to new online sales opportunities both locally and nationwide.

Looking back on the webcast, Casey-Fernandez reflected that “Taking part as a panelist in the FurnitureToday Leadership Conference was an unexpected, but positive experience. We were able to share our experiences from different parts of the country and as varied types of businesses and learn from each other as well.”

All four panelists met ahead of time to discuss possible topics, she said, and the team at FurnitureToday helped prep the panelists for the virtual setting.

As an added bonus, “I was also able to enjoy the rest of the conference and connect with others in the furniture business,” the Moderno co-owner added. “Overall, a great opportunity that might not have been possible if not for the virtual environment.”

Hat tip to FurnitureToday.

BrandSource, a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc., is a nationwide buying group for independent appliance, furniture, mattress and CE dealers.