Crisis forces historic changes at Simon’s and other retailers

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Image shows two men in the appliances section of their store

Six months ago, “It’s Safer at Simon’s” wouldn’t have made much sense as a marketing slogan for a furniture store. Today, it’s highly effective, according to Jared Simon of Simon’s Furniture, Mattresses & Appliances in Franklin, Mass.

Since the Home Furnishings Association member began advertising safety during the COVID-19 crisis, “We’re doing more business,” Simon said.

The American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame Foundation wants to hear about experiences like that. It has launched an initiative to collect and archive documentation of the industry’s response to the pandemic. Some of that response will show manufacturers that began producing personal protective equipment. But furniture retailers have a lot to offer.

“As many photos and videos as we could get, that would be fantastic,” said Karen McNeill, CEO of the Hall of Fame Foundation in High Point, N.C.

Simon’s stresses safety in its messaging

Simon’s could be a model contributor. It has produced and posted videos detailing its safety and cleaning practices so that customers know exactly what to expect when they visit the furniture, mattress or appliance showroom – by appointment only.

“I want to give you a tour of our mattress department to show you how you can shop safely for a mattress at Simon’s in Franklin,” a masked Simon said in one video, which continued for nearly four minutes and touted the use of disposable pillow cases and mattress covers, cleaning protocols and social distancing.

The message is consistent. “We changed our web logo so it says ‘It’s Safer at Simon’s,’ as we want to reinforce we are the safest place to shop; no crowds, no lines, no waiting,” Simon said.

Customers appreciate the effort to raise their comfort level, Simon said. Although Simon’s offers 40,000 square feet of showroom space, it allows no more than four customers in at a time. Yet, on a recent weekday, 17 customers had made appointments. Once they come in, the close rate is at least 95 percent, Simon said.

Contributing to that is a successful LiveChat function on the store’s website, which helps customers build rapport and trust with the sales associates they will see when they come in to buy.

It’s clear to Simon and many other retailers that some of these new consumer preferences may endure even after the crisis recedes.

[Appliances meet critical needs during crisis]

Crisis will have a long-term impact

McNeill agrees that the coronavirus likely will have a long-term impact on business and industry. So, the Hall of Fame and its historian, Dr. Kyle Hughes, Ph.D., aim to document how the home furnishings sector has coped.

Image shows a woman's face
Karen McNeill

“We may not even realize now how significant this will be, but over time it can really become a fascinating story,” McNeill said.

She hopes retailers will share their stories, which can include the steps they’ve taken to protect their employees and customers; the different ways they engage customers; the charitable work they’ve done in their communities, and more.

Like Simon’s, other HFA members will have plenty to offer. The strategies they have implemented to weather this crisis someday will fill history books. But now is the time for historians to start collecting this information.

Materials can be emailed to Hughes at khughes@homefurnishingshalloffame.com or mailed to 202 Neal Place, Suite 101, High Point, NC 27262.

“In the future, when we look back on the response of our industry to the challenges of this unique moment, the Hall of Fame wants to ensure that we preserve a rich record,” McNeill said. “This industry has always been generous, and now we need for you to tell us your story, not just to create an industry record, but for the public record, in order to preserve these very special and significant stories.”

If you are not a member of the Home Furnishings Association, consider joining and adding your voice to ours as we engage with our government for actions that will help your business succeed.

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