You know the disruption the pandemic is causing for with your suppliers, but do your customers? Chances are probably not. A pair of retailers told an HFA Live COVID-19 Webinar audience that it’s important to notify customers up front about possible delays in delivering their orders.
Katie White, a fourth-generation family member of Boone’s Furniture & Gifts in Burlington, N.C., and Dennis Dieter, sales manager for Walker Furniture in Las Vegas, spoke to Home Furnishings Association Executive Vice President Mark Schumacher and listeners about the changing nature of sales during the pandemic.
White said customers need to know that the lead time on orders – especially special orders – is much longer these days. “The lead time has grown,” she said. “It’s not 30 days anymore, which is what we’ve had in the past. You have to stay in touch with your customer and be up front and honest with them.”
Manufacturers slowed by virus precautions
Boone’s is a small, family-owned store, but White’s advice holds true even for a Top 100 retailer like Walker. Dieter said purchase orders, once two weeks out, are running much longer these days because manufacturers are dealing with new health and safety protocols.
“We were known for being in stock and delivering the next day, but that had to change,” said Dieter. “We don’t have that anymore. The (PO dates) given to us were not true, and that upset our customers. Now, we’re getting more realistic dates, and we’re making sure our customers know this.”
White said it’s the same retail chestnut that worked before the pandemic: Under-promise and over-deliver. “If we tell them six or seven weeks and we deliver in a month, they love us,” she said. “The key is being up front from the start.”
Both retailers said they are proactively seeking private appointments. Walker is opening its doors early or staying late to accommodate customers who want a private appointment. “We’ve found that when people come in, they are coming in with the intent to buy,” said Dieter. He added that his store’s closing rate with appointments is 98 percent in recent weeks. “You don’t have people just walking around to get ideas and think about things. When they come into the store, they are ready to buy.”