Global upholstery manufacturer La-Z-Boy reflects on how its UK arm has coped with the coronavirus pandemic so far as well as sharing its support to the NHS and the importance of social media.
Since before UK lockdown began, La-Z-Boy has been treating the global pandemic with the utmost seriousness. Guided by the escalating situation in its overseas territories, the UK arm made the decision at an early stage to prepare its head office team for home working, introducing new remote technology, training and trial days to ensure a smooth transition.
While it became necessary to furlough staff members following the closure of retailers, the business ensured a core team remained to plan for reopening and to maintain a communications channel for retailers, suppliers and end users alike.
We’ve had a lot of enquiries from people who are spending lockdown making plans for their home and who have realised they would like more comfort in their lives. So in terms of the market that looks very hopeful.
We are looking at ways to be able to display new products to retailers in a safe environment, says Tristan Pyke, Head of Sales for Independents in the UK and Ireland for La-Z-Boy UK.
“With retailers closed we felt it was vital to reassure consumers that La-Z-Boy was available to answer their queries – through our social media channels, website enquiries and customer services line,” Tristan Pyke, head of sales for independents, said.
He continued: “Social media has been a major part of our communications strategy, with many people spending longer online. We ran a competition for people to win a La-Z-Boy recliner to gift to a keyworker, a family member or a friend who they thought deserved the gift of comfort. It was won by a lady for her daughter who is a community nurse in Sheffield, working hard looking after people in their own homes.”
La-Z-Boy UK has also donated furniture to Royal Berkshire Hospital for their staff wellbeing area.
During lockdown, the logistics and storage of incoming stock has been a major focus, as well as planning how to support retailers once stores reopen and how to safely scale up operations within head office, once appropriate.
“Our office itself will likely look different after lockdown and how we use it may well change,” commercial director Mark Draper said.
“Working from home has been successful and by using video conferencing software it has felt like business as normal and we have actually had more opportunities to catch up as a team and with our colleagues worldwide. We need to ensure our office environment is safe and we can’t overlook the time and emissions saved from reducing our staff’s commutes.”
On working from home, Mark added that the team has a regular schedule for catch ups, which has given them a daily and weekly structure.
"At 9am we have a half hour call with all the staff who are currently working, to discuss tasks for the day, help manage workload and also have a chat - which is great to keep some normality while working from home. It also helps get to know newer team members better and understand what each person is working on.
"At midday we have daily management catch ups to discuss projects such as returning to work, new products or how we can support our retailers. And twice a week we have international calls, which has helped boost our relationships with colleagues overseas."
The business has also been using Microsoft Teams to keep in touch, which everyone has found "easy to use".
"It has some really handy functionality that makes a video call feel like a face to face meeting, such as simple tools to share documents, images, full screens or even annotate or draw to illustrate a point," Mark said.
Future sales are obviously a key priority and the landscape of industry events still remains unclear.
Tristan said: “Of course we are disappointed the Manchester Furniture Show has been cancelled but in the circumstances this was the only feasible decision. However these are strange times, as we would normally introduce new product at the event, but our January product is only just making its way to showrooms.
“We are looking at ways to be able to display new products to retailers in a safe environment – be that at our showroom, via a show van or elsewhere – and how we can make better use of technology for remote viewings.
“Retailers will be at the heart of our future plans so I’ll be working with them to determine priorities, timescales and actions as soon as I am able.”