Decorating in the time of COVID
From the HGO Merchandiser
The last time the world endured an economic meltdown, the furniture industry was one of its more significant casualties as it forced nervous consumers to pinch their pennies and put off purchasing that planned new sofa or occasional chair.
The COVID-19 crisis, on the other hand, has created opportunities for many Canadian furniture manufacturers to supply consumers – many of them stuck at home for the foreseeable future – with stylish chairs, cozy sofas and plush, comfortable sectionals.
How COVID is impacting demand?
Although furniture makers were forced to suspend operations throughout most of the spring, many – if not most – reopened to find significant demand from retailers who couldn’t keep inventory on the floor.
“I would have to say we’re busier than ever right now, we can’t keep up with the demand,” says Theodore Homa, general manager at G Romano, a Montreal-based manufacturer specializing in contemporary stationary upholstery.
“People are spending more time in their homes, so they want good furniture now,” he says, adding that people are also gravitating to locally made products. “I think consumers value locally-made products over imported products. There’s always a segment of the population that is more price conscious, but those who can afford it are opting for locally-made products.”
Homa says the uptick in orders makes sense, as people (many of whom are working from home indefinitely) are no longer spending on travel, restaurants, entertainment or many of the other items that usually took precedence over furniture.
“Some professionals have more disposable income right now, so the demand for our products is really high. It’s a combination of more income, a desire for local products and the need to change up their environment,” he observes.
The sudden uptick in demand surprised quite a few manufacturers who weren’t necessarily anticipating such a surge following the initial lockdown.
“From March until probably June, we saw a downturn in incoming orders, but after June we saw orders we haven’t seen in the history of the company,” says Bryan W. Rach, vice president of product technical and innovation development at the Winnipeg-based Palliser Furniture, which is the country’s largest upholstery maker. “All of our retailers are experiencing the best retail they’ve seen in a long time. People are making decisions quicker when buying upholstery.”
Other manufacturers agree business has rarely been better.
“There’s pent up demand from consumers searching for better goods made locally,” says Angelo Marzilli Jr., executive vice-president at Décor-Rest Furniture, a Woodbridge, Ontario-based stationary upholstery manufacturer. “The pandemic is reminding consumers that home is paramount and they’re searching for long-lasting value price point items.”
Most industry insiders concur both retailers and manufacturers are benefiting from reallocated vacation budgets.
“It seems like everyone is taking their vacation budget and putting it into their home. Whether it be renovations or moving, our industry is booming right now. We are so grateful and know how lucky we are to be experiencing this in the middle of a global pandemic,” says Diana Sisto, creative director of Brentwood Classics, the stationary upholstery specialist based in Concord, Ontario.
Sisto says people are spending a lot more time at home and want to make their space as comfortable and attractive as possible. “People are spending a lot of time on their sofas, whether it be working on their couch, having meals on their couch or having their kids using their upholstery much more since they’ve been home.”