The COVID protocols
From the HGO Merchandiser
BRIGHTON, Ontario – As of press time for this issue of the Merchandiser, slightly more than 1.67 million Canadians had contracted the novel coronavirus commonly referred to as COVID-19 since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the pandemic on February 11, 2020. That is roughly 4.4% of Canada’s current population. Tragically, just over 28,600 had succumbed to the disease.
Thankfully, to offset this tragedy just over 82% of Canadians have, at press time, been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 even though it continues to ravage many throughout our society.
This global pandemic has been both a blessing and a curse for this country’s furniture, mattress and major appliance (FMA) retailers, whether national chain, regional powerhouse or single unit independent. On one hand, thanks to the accelerated and wide-spread adoption of e-commerce technology, furniture store sales skyrocketed over the past 18 months as consumers turned their attention inward to focus on creating more comfortable living spaces as they coped with government-mandated lockdowns. They also had more money to spend and fewer places to spend it, since they couldn’t travel abroad, eat in restaurants or attend the theatre.
On the other hand, those same lockdowns closed almost every brick-and-mortar FMA store from coast-to-coast for as long as 250 days during several intermittent periods beginning last spring and lasting well into the first quarter of 2021. And those government-mandated closures have irrevocably changed how store operators interact with the consumer – both online and instore – as the new normal of the Canadian economy reveals itself.
Most of those location based FMA operators surveyed in recent weeks by Home Goods Online agree consumers want to come back into the store, particularly if she’s looking at something in the ‘better’ and ‘best’ price points. She wants to sit on the sofa, lie on the mattress, inspect the finish on that new dining or bedroom suite and interact with a living, breathing salesperson.
At the same time, stores are required and expected to provide a safe shopping environment for the customer to shop in – one observing the protocols laid down by most local public health authorities. This includes the wearing of face masks by both store team members and customers, observing proper physical distancing and ensuring stores are clean with adequate facilities for hand washing.
As noted previously, about 82% of eligible Canadian adults had been vaccinated against COVID-19 as the fourth quarter of 2021 began. But both the broadcast and print media across the country has also been reporting extensively on what is described as the ‘anti-vaxxers’ – groups of people who, for a variety of reasons (whether valid or not), decline to be vaccinated against the disease.
This has prompted organizations, inside and outside of government, to require both their employees and, often, those they interact with to be fully vaccinated when the latter enter the premises of occupied by the former. The best example are the six Canadian teams playing in the National Hockey League (NHL). A fan cannot enter the arena to watch a game without showing proof of vaccination. The federal government as well as a growing number of private sector companies in this country are requiring their employees to be fully vaccinated if their duties require them to work anywhere other than at home or interact with other people.
Most Canadian FMA retailers spoken to for this article are not requiring their team members to be vaccinated as a condition of employment, but they do encourage each one to get the shot. It should be noted, because several of those spoken so requested, HGO is not specifically identifying the retailers we are quoting in this story.
“We’re not mandating that our staff be vaccinated but have encouraged everyone to get the double doses – at this time, our entire team is fully vaccinated. Should we have had any issues, I would’ve, most likely, imposed it,” one prominent store owner based in Atlantic Canada told HGO.
Click here to read the rest of our report in the Autumn 2021 HGO Merchandiser.