Adapting to Change as a Small Business in New Jersey During the Pandemic
We are a New Jersey-based appliance store with retail and e-commerce operations and a deep connection to our community.We believe that independent stores like ours have an important role to fill in a community. We hope to live up to that responsibility with an openness to ideas, a respect for what makes a home run smoothly, and a willingness to have fun. Wherever someone is in their home appliance journey, whether it's a question about a specific feature or if they are ready to design their dream kitchen or outdoor space, we are more than happy to rise to each and every project to ensure quality at home.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on local businesses, and ours is no exception. It's been hard to watch the effects of the lockdown in our local community. We realized early on, that in order to survive we'd have to act quickly. This is when we decided to brace for the worst and embrace all the safety measures we could. It turned out that people need new and replacement appliances including refrigerators, dishwashers, washer and dryer sets to keep the daily life running in a busy home.
Here’s a look at what we did to stay in business during these difficult times.
Rather than waiting for the government to tell us to close our doors, we took action by thinking ahead. We made the preemptive choice to prioritize our staff’s health and safety as our primary concern. Therefore, most members our staff started working from home weeks ahead of government guidelines. In addition we sanitized our Montclair and Bedminster, NJ showrooms. We understand the contact our customers have with our delivery team. We check our delivery teams' temperatures before they route and they wear protective covering for each delivery.
Remote Customer Service
Our humble beginnings as an online store, operating from a basement, guaranteed that our temporary transition back to a remote work structure would be smooth. Relying on our already existing technology infrastructure we scheduled in-person customer appointments both over the telephone and via video.
These measures ensured that none of our full-time employees were laid off or furloughed due to store closures, and instead of losing income or employment, they actually gained hours during the process. We layered our staff schedule to extend hours of service which allowed us to adapt to our customers' new lifestyle.
Our existing digital and cloud operating systems meant that we did not need to divest new funds to create an entirely new ordering platform, but could ensure that customers would still be able to shop safely and securely while buying online. We were able to highlight products on our website to cater to the needs of our customers while also personally directing them toward the specific products they were seeking. When customers felt ready, they were invited to schedule individual visits to our showrooms. This removed the added worry of maintaining social distance in a store full of other people, while allowing us to continue offering appliance shopping experiences without missing a beat.
It’s important to note that due to the essential nature of the appliances sold and transported by Designer Appliances, we were given the go-ahead by state officials to continue operating and delivering essential goods such as freezers and refrigerators. In a 2019 article, the USDA stated, “A refrigerator is one of the most important pieces of equipment in the kitchen for keeping foods safe. We are reminded of its importance to our daily lives when the power goes off, or the unit fails, putting our food's safety in jeopardy.” Appliances are also vital for storing important medicines, as well as sanitizing clothes, cookware, and other household items.
Showrooms and Supply
Creating a clean and customer-friendly space for our clients, as well as safe working conditions for employees, played a huge role in our ability to remain open during COVID-19. Our investment in large and spacious showrooms finally paid off as it allowed everyone to remain socially distanced while shopping during their individual appointments.
We were especially proud of our shippers. They were able to continue deliveries to our warehouses and as well as our customers’ residences throughout all of our usual delivery locations spanning from Ridgewood, Lebanon, Jersey City, Hoboken, and Franklin Lakes, to New York City, Brooklyn and Long Island. Clients from throughout the surrounding area, including Montclair, Glen Ridge, Verona, Cedar Grove, West Orange, Clifton, and Basking Ridge, were willing to travel to our safe and comfortable showrooms to enjoy browsing through our collection and were further reassured by our customer-first safety protocols.
Careful Attention to Marketing
Although taking proper health and safety measures supplied us with growth during difficult times, our success did not come without its fair share of challenges. When Google Maps malfunctioned, resulting in a glitch that showed many New Jersey-based businesses as closed due to COVID-19, our team at Designer Appliances acted quickly to contact Google and correct our profile to reflect the most current hours of operation.
Making it clear to the public that we were open for business was a pivotal decision. When potential shoppers began seeing COVID-19 safety and warning signs posted on other businesses, they assumed those businesses were closed and moved on. We took care to spread the message through signage, clear website announcements, and email newsletters that would remain open to serve the community with delivery, installation, and other appliance needs.
Connecting with the Community
Being a community player is incredibly important to us. Keeping in touch with business partners, suppliers, and other members of the industry was paramount to creating a network of support from which we could accept help and wisdom from other professionals in our field, while also offering our expert knowledge to others. We reached out to our peers and to customers – not to promote products, but to share use and care tips, offer and seek assistance and professional guidance, and establish goodwill with the neighborhoods and communities that have supported us from the very start.
Most people look to big box stores when thinking about purchasing appliances. During COVID-19 big box stores have been unable to deliver, which required people to purchase these items from local businesses in their communities. This surge in local purchasing is paralleled in a recent global survey from Ernst & Young, in which it was found that 42 percent of consumers believed the way they shop would fundamentally change during COVID-19. This included 34 percent of people indicating that they would prefer local products due to the personal nature of purchasing from local companies that they know and trust.
Moving Toward the Future
These are the steps and measures we have taken during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, we have survived during this and we have been able to solidify our place in the local market. We look forward to continuing to be a part of our local community over years to come.
If you are in need of a new appliance, and have been feeling uneasy about the delivery and installation process, or unsure of where to purchase such items in your community, please reach out to us. We would be happy to help you navigate the process and restore your peace of mind.
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