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Mega launches stimulus plan

1 April 2020
Retail

SASKATOON – Mega Group has pledged that not one of its members will go out of business or be rendered insolvent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The member-owned buying and marketing group has launched the first of the four-stage Mega Stimulus Plan.

“Mega Group’s mission during this war against C-19 {sic} is clear: Mega will leave no one behind, no member will go out of business or be rendered insolvent,” president and chief executive officer Kim Yost said in a video presentation to members released late last week.

Yost made the presentation from his home in Montreal while in 14 days of self-isolation after returning from Mega’s annual general meeting and convention that was held in Las Vegas earlier in the month. Throughout his chat, he referred to COVID-19 as C-19.

The Mega Stimulus Plan will have four phases: 1) survive; 2) recover; 3) sustain; and, 4) grow. “The recovery phase will begin when all our member stores have re-opened for business and more will be communicated as things evolve,” Yost said.

Mega Group’s executive team has launched the Mega Stimulus Plan, designed to help members get through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Seen here at the group’s recent annual general meeting are (from left to right): Kim Yost, Kevin Leier, Michael Vancura and Luc-André Cormier.Currently, Mega has approximately 180 shareholders, about 140 of whom operate under the BrandSource Canada banner. It also has a large group of members who operate outside the banner, such as Bennett’s Furniture & Mattresses – a three-unit independent retailer based in Peterborough, Ontario – and Trail Appliances, the white goods specialist with stores in Alberta and British Columbia.

In most regions of the country, Mega Group member stores remain closed as part of strategy to fight the spread of the virus, which at press time had taken more than 100 lives from coast-to-coast.

“This is a crisis,” Yost told his members. “Most of you are facing gut wrenching decisions. We are going to be here to help every member through this crisis. No member is going to be left behind.”

Mega’s senior management team will be hosting weekly webinars – currently scheduled for Friday’s at 12noon Eastern time – to update members on what actions the group is taking to support the individual members over the coming weeks.

Kevin Leier, chief financial officer, said the group is working with suppliers to provide at least some relief to members’ accounts and urged members to seek advice when needed about effectively managing their finances over the coming weeks.

He also urged them to scour expenses for items that can be deferred and research the new financing programs being made available to Canadian businesses by the Business Development Bank (BDC).

Michael Vancura, executive vice president of merchandising, told members negotiations are underway to obtain extended terms on new orders. He also noted appliance producers are still shipping and that while the production has consolidated in many cases, mattress manufacturers also continue to ship. However, many furniture manufacturers across the country were closed as of press time.

He also assured members his team is working with vendors to map out what the recovery will look like when it comes as it won’t be business as usual, at least at the beginning of the recovery.

Luc-André Cormier, executive vice president of marketing and digital business, noted the latest data shows traffic to member web sites appears to have stabilised during the crisis and urged them to transition to an e-commerce enabled site if they haven’t already done so.

He also suggested they spend time and effort on platforms they own – such as their web site, e-mail list, e-flyers and social media accounts. “If you are open for business in-store or online, make sure your web site showcases on-going promotions,” he advised.

Retailers should also help preserve their cash flow by scaling back on the advertising spend for media such as newspapers, television and radio. He also said paid search ads should be the last channel to cut as the retailer only pays when the browser to interested enough to click on his ad.

“Manage your image by adapting the tone of your message,” Cormier suggested. “Be less aggressive and show care and empathy. Retailers should spend time populating their social media pages with reassuring and authentic reactions to the situation.” 

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Palliser shutters factory

31 March 2020
Furniture, Manufacturing

WINNIPEG – Palliser Furniture, this country largest upholstery manufacturer, has closed its production facilities here for at least the next two weeks as part of its response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, the family-owned furniture resource noted the pandemic has resulted in what it described as “an unprecedented slow-down in retail business and demand for Palliser products and services.”

With the goal of continuing to operate as a strong and stable business, Palliser made the difficult decision to temporarily close its facilities here beginning yesterday (30 March 2020) for a period of two weeks. It will look at whether it will be necessary to implement a similar strategy for its Mexican facilities in the coming weeks. With this, the company has temporarily laid off 72% of its workforce.

CEO Peter Tielmann (pictured here) has announced Palliser will close its Winnipeg factory for at least the next two weeks.“I am proud that we have created 3,000 jobs in our worldwide facilities, and we will not give up on any of these Palliser team members,” Palliser president and chief executive officer Peter Tielmann said, adding the company is actively exploring workshare and other assistance programs for employees impacted by these temporary layoffs.

With a workforce of some 700 members, Palliser is believed to be one of the largest employers not only in Winnipeg, but in the province of Manitoba as well. Its Winnipeg facility – which also serves as its corporate head office – produces upholstery primarily for the Canadian market as well as its high-end home entertainment/theatre seating line.

“Management has taken the threat of the pandemic on our people and our business with the utmost seriousness. The health and safety of our diverse Palliser team members and their families have been, and remains our top priority,” said Tielmann.

In addition to Winnipeg and Mexico, the company also has operations in Indonesia and China.

Palliser isn’t the only Canadian furniture maker to announce the temporary closure of its production facilities. Las week, Huppé, a manufacturer of contemporary case goods and upholstery based in Victoriaville, announced it will cease operations until 13 April 2020 in keeping with the directions given by the Government of Quebec.

Most furniture and mattress factories in both Quebec and Ontario are believed to be closed under orders from provincial governments as part of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Related Story: LFL closes 72 stores, layoffs 50% of workforce in wake of pandemic

Related Story: COVID closures continue

Related Story: Virus shuts down BMTC

Related Story: IKEA, Hudson's Bay and others close in response to COVID-19

Article adopts contactless delivery

31 March 2020
Furniture, Retail

VANCOUVER –Article, the direct-to-consumer furniture specialist based here, has adopted contactless delivery as its default shipping option in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The company recently launched home delivery service to the Greater Toronto Area after opening its first Canadian distribution centre in Vaughan, Ontario.

In a statement, the company said its delivery team will deliver items to the customer’s front door while maintaining a six-foot distance. A signature won’t be required. Instead, the team will photograph the order at the doorstep as proof of delivery.

Direct to consumer furniture retailer Article has adopted contactless delivery so it can continue to serve customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. “A delivery experience that maintains a social distance is what people need right now. We’ve decided to put the health and safety of our customers, our team and community first,” Article founder and chief executive officer Aamir Baig said.

“Being online-only, having our in-house delivery team and strong delivery partners has made us extremely adaptable to the first round of retail challenges brought on by COVID-19. We’re fully operational across the U.S. and Canada, and we’re committed to making sure our customers receive their orders,” he continued.

In cases where multi-tenant buildings are restricting access to non-residents, Article’s team will deliver to the closest point possible. The digital native has also temporarily disabled its in-room set-up service to help ensure the appropriate physical distancing during the delivery.

The company also noted all its delivery trucks are equipped with key sanitary items, including latex gloves and sanitising wipes. The delivery team will use work gloves whenever boxes are handled.

Baig said the company will modify the service as the situation unfolds, as guided by recommendations received from public health authorities and the government.

Related Story: Article opens Toronto warehouse

Words matter. Are you communicating effectively?

31 March 2020
Retail, Opinion

Greetings, fellow ‘quarantiners’! Hope you’re safe and well. As business owners, leaders or managers, our customers and team members are looking to us for clarity and confidence right now. Are you keeping in touch with customers to tell them if you’re open or closed, what your new hours are and what you’re doing to keep everybody safe? Remind them how you can be helpful. Customers also want to know what you’re doing to help your staff through this mess.

For some businesses, sales have stopped dead, for others sales have slowed and for a few, business is booming. The pain is very real, but it’s uneven. And some businesses have much deeper pockets than others, so they can do more to be helpful and kind. I just read about a commercial landlord in Atlanta who told his restaurant tenant not to pay rent while his restaurant is closed but, instead, to pay that money to his staff. How cool is that? Have you combined creativity, courage and kindness to do whatever you can in both your personal and your business life? What neighbours, friends or family will you help, encourage or uplift?

Are you communicating honestly, frequently and compassionately with your team? Are you doing everything possible to help them financially and emotionally? You can’t jeopardize the very existence of your business but do everything you can. Don’t make financial promises you can’t keep if this shutdown lasts a few months – because it probably will.

Words matter. When communicating with your team chose your words carefully. You’re not ‘scared’, you’re ‘very concerned’ and working on solutions or next steps. As leaders, we don’t have the luxury of being ‘scared’.

Be sure to communicate your gratitude to the essential service workers who are keeping us fed, medicated and well stocked with gasoline or toilet paper. And when this mess is finally over, don’t stop thanking them. Gratitude matters. It uplifts everybody and costs you nothing!

Finally, what are you communicating to yourself? Are you feeding your brain with words of fear, doubt and desperation or words of confidence and determination? Words matter. Words affect outcomes. Are you using this time to grow yourself and your team to better prepare your business to be extraordinary on the other side of this? This week we’ve signed on two more Biz Coaching clients who want to use this ‘slow time’ as ‘get better time’. Attitude matters. We’ll be happy to chat with you about what that might look like in your business. It can be done remotely (electronically) and, therefore, safely. One of our coaching clients is 2,000 miles away. Now that’s social distancing!

I can be reached at [email protected].

Mini Rant: While I have your attention, what is it with those thousands of young people cavorting en masse on the beaches of Florida for March Break week while the rest of us practicing social distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19? Aren’t these the same young people who claim to be so environmentally and socially responsible and committed to saving the world we ‘old people’ apparently screwed up so badly? When interviewed, one of them stated, “Why should we put our lives on hold just because of some flu?” Give me a break!

Stay safe…stay well…stay kind…stay joyful.

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Home Goods Online.ca 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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