Jim Rice of BrandSource Rice: Lessons from the pandemic
From the HGO Merchandiser
BRIGHTON, Ontario – COVID-19 has been a life altering event. This is now old news but almost everyone agrees it has contained a multitude of teachable moments. So, HGO approached eight influential independent furniture, mattress and appliance retailers and asked them to share what they’ve learned. They all seem to agree that either despite or because of it, this tragedy has made better human beings and better business people.
Each week for the next four, one of these responses will be highlighted in this space. To read the entire report, check out the Spring 2021 edition of the HGO Merchandiser by clicking here.
I want to thank each of these energetic and thoughtful industry leaders for taking the time to consider the questions and respond fully. Aside from some minor editing to ensure clarity, their answers are presented as submitted.
Jim Rice, owner
Ameublement BrandSource Rice; Edmundston, New Brunswick
What have you learned from the pandemic, both as a businessperson and as a human being?
Our little once-unaffected-COVID-free area exploded recently. It was quite impactful. We were living in our little haven, hidden from any danger then suddenly kaboom! Lockdown!
The writing was on the wall but regardless having to close once again was not something we were looking forward to. The last 12 months have been quite the eye opener. We went through a rollercoaster of emotions and reactions to the constantly evolving situation around us.
Initially (back in March 2020), we had no idea what was ahead of us. We went from thinking ‘that’s it, finito’ to ‘holy crap’, we can’t get product! Everybody’s buying everything!
We had to adapt continuously, spending most of our time sourcing product and managing customer expectations. Forecasting is close to impossible, since you can’t really rely on sources to supply the goods.
How has it changed your business, your approach to business and how you see its future?
Nonetheless, there have been more ups than downs to this whole thing. Our company had the best year ever with the best margins ever. We managed to transition our delivery service to a local contractor. We had sufficient cash flow to move forward with several renovation and infrastructure improvements that were previously on hold. We realized we needed to get our web business sharpened up – and that’s what we’re doing right now.
So overall this pandemic has been a ‘good’ thing for me as a furniture retailer. My biggest concern now is finding a crystal ball that will tell me what lies ahead.