See how furniture showrooms are adapting to the new normal

Published July 15, 2020, 9:10 AM

by Angela Casco

Safety is top priority as customers find new items for their home

By now, the so-called “new normal” does not look so new anymore. Wearing masks, frequent handwashing, and temperature checks have become essential practices amid a health pandemic. Establishments such as groceries, pharmacies, malls, and restaurants have made the necessary adjustments to ensure the safety of consumers and staff alike. Ditto with furniture and home decor showrooms.

As many have opened their doors once again to shoppers, the experience is not quite the same, to say the least, especially for those who are fond of touching, tinkering, or even smelling the array of home products showcased under bright lights.

Manila Bulletin Lifestyle reached out to independent furniture retailers to find out exactly how their showrooms changed, what adjustments they have made in their customer service, and whether or not showrooms will remain relevant in the post-pandemic era.
Safety is the new standard
No safety measure is too much—at least that’s what Living Innovations is showing in its Sovrano and Minotti showrooms.

The company’s founder, Ferdie Ong, says everyone’s safety is a priority and it starts in-store. Cleaning and disinfection started a week prior to its opening last month.

ADAPTING TO THE NEW NORMAL At Living Innovations’ showroom, visitors are welcomed with a disinfectant mat and hand sanitizers as safety precautions

“We constantly use new technology like special atomizing sprays, which help protect our showroom and work environment from viruses and bacteria,” he says. “We also invested in timed disinfection units, which disinfect the space after every work day so there would be no need for a person to go around the store.”

Apart from temperature checks, sanitation mats, and alcohol dispensers, all employees have also been provided with safety Covid kits. Those who can work remotely, such as members of the sales and office team, are working from home.

For showroom staff, stricter safety measures have been put in place. Social distancing, as well as wearing face masks and face shields, is mandatory. The staff has also been divided into two groups, which will alternate work days.

“We also pick up all our employees from their home, which ensures their (and our customers’) safety from being in contact with any infected person,” Ferdie says. “Our strategy is to keep our employees safe, so we can ensure that our clients are safe, too. In that way, we can focus on running the business.”
Going digital is key
Lockdown orders have not stopped Casanuova from providing its services to clients. In fact, even when its showroom in BGC has opened, it continues to connect with clients via its e-commerce platform and its use of video communication services.

“We’ve expanded and diversified our business to include e-commerce,” says founder Venus Ngu. “Our site, shopblissph, was just recently launched. It is a platform that carries our home décor pieces from various premium Italian design brands.”

On the same site, clients can also see other curated items, “which we feel are essential as we enter the new normal.”

“As the site is new, we are looking to grow our offerings to include gadgets like our personal purifiers, home appliances, accessories for pets, and even vape kits and pods,” she says.

If physical visits or online shopping are not enough, though, the furniture retailer has an option for clients—Zoom tour. “We place a premium on the shopping experience at Casanuova so we also offer tours of our showroom through Zoom. With this type of setup, we can personalize the digital tour and provide clients with expert guidance from our team.”
Book an appointment
Reopening with caution has been Casa Bella Home and Living’s strategy ever since its flagship showroom welcomed clients again. Founders Joseph Tay and Stephanie Coyiuto-Tay have implemented multiple precautionary measures to ensure “the safety of our patrons and employees,” one of which is the visit-by-appointment-only policy.

BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY Before and after every client visit, Casa Bella’s showroom is disinfected by a professional cleaning team

“All clients are encouraged to pre-book an appointment for exclusive tours before visiting our building,” Joseph says. The booking, which can be done via Casa Bella’s official Instagram account or via SMS, also allows a professional sanitizing company to disinfect first the space.

“Upon entering, guests are welcomed with foot baths in all entrances, as well as alcohol stations, a health checklist, and a mandatory temperature check,” he explains. “We also provide facial masks for everyone, as no one is allowed inside the building without it. Social distancing is also strictly enforced at all times.”

NO EXCEPTION Visitors and staff are required to have their temperature checked before entering the Casa Bella flagship showroom

Relevant still
With the virus hanging around and e-commerce gaining steam, will spacious and stylish showrooms still be relevant?

Ferdie, who has shared that new furniture collections are on its way to the showrooms, thinks so. He says the bottomline is that “the home industry would still be a focus for clients,” so both online and in-store shopping options should be available without compromising safety.

Joseph, whose showroom in Jupiter remains open daily, agrees. “We understand that our clientele are particular about the products they want for their home, which requires viewing of actual products and swatches in order to carefully choose the right product in the right size and color,” he says. “We believe that spacious showrooms would still be relevant post-pandemic because people now appreciate living in a comfortable and functional home.”

All of them agree that it may take some time before their showrooms would be filled with the buzz of customers. In the meantime, they continue to innovate and adapt to the situation, while getting ready for that day when they can finally showcase their showrooms.