Is our window of opportunity opening or closing?

Once the COVID - 19 vaccine starts going out, will customers be coming in?

Consumers have been good to the furniture industry during the pandemic by spending money on home-furnishings that usually would have been spent on things like vacations and eating out. 

But when the vaccine starts going out, are these consumers going to come into our stores, or are they going to run away from anything & everything to do their home faster than an adventurous teenager does when the circus comes to town? (I know, I date myself)

While anything is possible, what's most likely?

Undoubtedly, countless people have put off coming into our stores rather than risk infection, so I'm sure there is still plenty of pent-up need out there.

However, I'm betting that furniture and mattresses will be taking a back seat – at least for a while - to the long overdue and much-missed social activities that feature sun & fun and lots and lots of people!

So, while Memorial Day may be a bit soft, (which is not to say that we're not going to do everything we can to capture every sale), I'm betting that we are going to have to wait until Labor Day for people to be exhausted from all the fun & freedom and ready to come back home. At which time, they are going to need new "everything" for their homes. Catching this wave just might be the "mother- load" for 2021. 

Preparing for the opportunity

So, whatever this next phase of consumer spending looks like, successful retailers will figure out the best ways to capitalize on it. Here are 3 simple "old school" ideas to help retailers do just that.

1. Tell me where the people are - and I'll tell you where “smart retailers” will be!

crowded marketplace

Events! Events! Events!

Parks, festivals, zoos, art exhibits, dances, dining, flea markets, even the local coffee-shop, get the point? All the things we took for granted are going to be on everyone's "do as many and as fast as we can!" list. Happy people, smiling faces, what could be better?

Recognizing this, smart retailers will be setting up promotional booths and vans and tents and billboards. Anything & everything they can to get face-to-face with as many of the happy people & smiling faces as possible.

I'd start printing tee-shirts ASAP!

2. Get-A-Way / Give-A-Ways.

happy couple on vacation

As the saying goes, "everything old is new again."

I had the good fortune of starting my furniture career in 1987, working for furniture icon Herschel Alpert at Alpert's Furniture in Seekonk, MA.

That's how far back Get-A-Way / Give-A-Ways go. And as I recall, these packages were extremely popular even way back then. 

I can't even begin to imagine how eager the hospitality and travel industries will be to run at 110% occupancy the instant the zombie apocalypse officially ends. That means that putting together discounted vacation/leisure packages of every kind should be as easy as falling off a log.

Call me crazy, but if there ever were a time when furniture companies should look at giving away vacation packages as an incentive for purchasing furniture, this would be it! 

3. Provide plenty of sales training for your newly hired sales staff.

Trainee at a computer station

Okay, if we've ever worked together, you knew this was coming. 

One of the consequences of this virus is that it inspired many salespeople who were close to retirement to move forward and move on.

Because traffic has been down, most retailers have handled the traffic effectively with their remaining staff. However, as the numbers go up, so will the need for newly hired well-trained professionals.

And since windows of opportunity close as quickly as they open, there may not be time to wait for experience only to do its part in helping newly hired salespeople become effective professionals by Labor Day.

Therefore, companies would be well advised to make the investment

and provide comprehensive sales training for newly hired staff members starting….NOW!

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Overdendy May 11, 2021

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