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Scott Reid of Reid’s Furniture: Lessons from the pandemic

From the HGO Merchanidiser

 11 June 2021     Michael J. Knell 

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.

Scott Reid, President/Owner
Reid's Furniture; Thunder Bay, Ontario

What have you learned from the pandemic, both as a businessperson and as a human being?

Scott ReidI have learned just how fragile things can be. One minute you are cruising at 30,000 feet feeling you can do no wrong, and the next you’re sitting alone behind a locked door watching customers line-up and being told you cannot let them in. Very frustrating!

I have learned the world is not fair! The big boxes can be open, the internet keeps shipping, and we are closed. Also, very frustrating!

I am, however, thankful I ended up in the furniture business. I listen to friends with hair salons and restaurants talking about this being potentially career ending as I sit here ‘inconvenienced’ while I enjoy one of the most profitable years I can remember. I keep telling myself there is a light at the end of the crazy tunnel. We just happen to be at a bend and can’t see it.

On a personal level, I have learned to really appreciate the quieter pace to life. With two young boys at home, we are not running from rink to rink, we are not eating on the go to get to our next appointment, we are simply doing what we are told, which is to ‘stay home’. With that, we are enjoying movie nights, games nights, long dog walks, and early bedtimes. All things considered I don’t hate being home.  In fact, we are renovating, cleaning and redecorating – just like our customers that are at home doing the same thing.

How has it changed your business, your approach to business and how you see its future?

I have spent my entire working life ‘controlling my inventory’ – always giving preference to suppliers that can ship quickly. During this pandemic, quick ship is anything but. Like most of my retail friends we have been loading up. The pipe is full, the product is coming.

The warehouse is ready to burst with incoming freight. The lock down is hampering our ability to get things out, so we are managing the cash and looking for any ‘spare’ space to store things. With price increases coming every day and lead times getting longer, the math tells me I need to order more, but the death stares from my warehouse manager tell me I shouldn’t.

What is the lesser of two evils? Am I better off being closed with too much inventory or open with nothing to sell? I don't know the right answer but can’t help think if retailers would just quit hoarding inventory, the factories wouldn’t be buried and things would operate like normal.

I have spent my entire working life growing. I measured growth by our sales and did things like expand hours, increase advertising, hire more people and open more stores. The pandemic forced me to cut advertising significantly, streamline the staff, reduce hours and focus on different things. Interestingly, profit went way up. If you treat every customer like she is your last, we have found more of them buy. When they buy, they are buying more stuff and more expensive stuff. We no longer have the dreaded night shift where we don’t see an ‘up’ – so now we are at home with our families enjoying a much better quality of life. The question I am asking myself is, “What do I have to do to make this the new normal?”

I only wish I knew what the future holds. If you talk to some, the world is coming to an end. If you talk to others, they are telling you we will continue to ‘drink from a fire hose’ and now is the time to expand. My gut tells me we should enjoy the ride, invest in inventory, hold onto cash and wait to see what the future brings. I fear we have only begun the ‘open and close’ yo-yo pattern of business.

What I do know is this pandemic has been hard on everyone for different reasons. Be kind, phone a friend, be a good person and help out where you can. 

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This HGO article was written by:
Michael J. Knell
Michael J. Knell

Michael is the publisher and editor of Home Goods Online. A seasoned business journalist, he has researched and written about the furniture, mattress and major appliance industries in both Canada and the United States for the past three decades.

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Home Goods and its accompanying newsletter - HGO This Week - covers the furniture, bedding, appliances, consumer electronics, accessories, lamps and lighting and floor coverings product sectors of the big ticket home goods market in Canada. HGO is also a forum for the dissemination of market research and hard-hitting articles on best practices for Canadian retailers.

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