BRIGHTON, Ontario – The world changed on the 11th of March. No one in his or her right mind would have imagined just 24 hours earlier we would shut down our entire economy and society save for a select number of essential services. It had never happened before, not even during either of the World Wars or the Great Depression of the 1930s. Even now, as we slowly struggle back to what will be undoubtedly a vastly different normal, many still can’t quite believe the impact the pandemic has had on our lives and businesses.
That’s what this issue of the Merchandiser – as well as the next – will begin to examine. We’ll try to figure out where this industry is going, and to the degree possible, how we’re going to get there. We’ll start at retail, before moving on to manufacturing and the apparent market.
In the attempt to plot the way forward, the best place to start is where we’ve been. First, we’ll look at the numbers and view where furniture, mattress and major appliance retailing finished as 2019 drew to a close. We also have a snapshot of the first quarter of 2020, based on what is admittedly preliminary data.
The focus will be on brick-and-mortar or, as Statistics Canada prefers, location-based retail. The reason is simple. Traditional merchants still dominate furniture, mattress and major appliance retailing in this country. What little data there is indicates that despite all the press they receive, the direct-to-consumer or e-commerce players – such as Amazon, Wayfair, Endy – are still minor players when it comes to big ticket home goods.
We also chat with a few seasoned independent furniture retailers as well as with a recognized expert, speaker and author on all things retail. The goal is to give some insight into where we’re been and where we’re going as an industry. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but let’s prepare as best we can.
Gracing the cover of this issue, we celebrate the opening of Bennett’s Furniture & Mattresses’ third store in Kingston, Ontario. It is fitting as this family-owned retailer – under the current leadership of Eric and Marlaine Bennett – is enthusiastic about its future as it readies itself for two significant milestones: the transition to its fourth generation and to mark its centennial.