Coronavirus and Amish Furniture: An Honest Assessment of What’s Going On, And What’s Coming
Wow. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 5 weeks since we had to make the difficult decision to temporarily close our store for the safety of our customers and staff. And we know it will be at least two more weeks, if not more, until we can resume operations.
Of course, we don’t know what’s coming in the weeks and months ahead any more than anyone else does. But in the interest of keeping our customers and community informed, we wanted to address the subject, as well as our considerations and expectations for the future.
First of all, we’ve been blessed with several years of sustained growth, starting with the relaunch of our website in 2016, and continuing with our expansion into our new, larger space in 2018. For that, we thank our wonderful customers. Your appreciation of quality American craftsmanship supports our small, locally-owned business, and we’re grateful for that. You have put us in a good position to weather this storm. Thank you.
The double-edge sword to our recent growth is that we have a large number of open orders that are unfortunately delayed by Pennsylvania & Ohio stay-at-home orders. We’ve reached out to our customers with orders due in April and May, but if you have any questions about your open order, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
We also expect the shutdowns to extend our builders’ lead time on future orders for a short time. Altogether, our builders’ shops will have been closed for six weeks, possibly more if Ohio’s stay-at-home orders are extended past May 1. We will continue to be as transparent as we can be with our customers about what to expect in terms of lead time. Our typical estimated lead time is 60-120 days, and we expect to be able to continue to fulfill most orders in that time frame, but some orders will inevitably be longer than that.
The shutdown has also forced the Hardwood Furniture Guild to postpone the spring furniture show, originally scheduled for April 1-2. The Ohio Hardwood Furniture Market is our twice-a-year opportunity to see the newest styles from over 150 Amish craftsmen, meet new builders, and visit with the builders that we’ve known and worked with for years. The show has been rescheduled for early June, and we are all hopeful that it can still happen this year.
Of course, there are many uncertainties about what we’ll see in the next few months. However, there seems some indication that consumers are shifting their vacation funds into home improvements. After weeks hunkered down in our homes, plus the potential for many families to choose a “staycation” this year, it is very likely that people with discretionary spending money will choose to invest in their home.
Previous design trends have shown that, in times of national uncertainty, people tend to crave traditional styles that feel familiar and comfortable. My personal hunch is that we will see more demand for craftsman styles and colonial styles in western PA. The Arts and Crafts movement originated as a rejection of mass production, putting an emphasis on the maker and the connection between humans and the natural world, and I think that will be a very appealing ideal for Americans who have spent weeks in their homes cheering essential workers and finding ways to use their skills to help their communities. You can see a lot of mission influence in two of the biggest recent trends, mid-century modern and farmhouse chic. For those who prefer a more formal style, a neo-colonial style will feel not only familiar, but patriotic. I also expect the demand for American-made furniture to rise even more steeply than it had been for the past few years.
There’s a lot of talk about the “new normal” everywhere you look. Small retail businesses like ours will need to be flexible to adapt to what our customers will need and want. One expectation is that we will be looking towards an appointment-based model when we are initially able to reopen. We are also investigating ways to let our customers do most of their planning from the comfort and safety of their homes, including the possibility of virtual sales appointments. We’re still not going to be looking at internet sales, but we’ll continue to expand our online catalog and more information is always a call or email away.
Better days are certainly on the horizon. We’re optimistic about the future, and we hope you are too. Please stay safe and healthy until then.