How One Business Coped with the Impacts of Covid

By Clare Tattersall

Much of Canada is in various stages of reopening after locking down to fight the third and hopefully final (big) wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the past 16 months, forced closures by government have completely crippled some businesses, requiring them to permanently shutter their doors, while others have pivoted to not just survive but stay competitive during this public health crisis. Whatever the experience, it has been a trying time for both employers and employees.

Interested in hearing and sharing how companies have coped during this unprecedented period in history, Coverings metaphorically sat down with Baxter Freake, vice-president at Flooring Canada and Carpet One Canada, both divisions of CCA Global Partners.

How has Covid-19 impacted Flooring Canada and Carpet One Canada’s brick-and-mortar stores?
As you can imagine, it has been a major disruption to how we do business and drove us online. Our websites have been instrumental in informing customers of business and product-related information. Customers have used them as a way to start the buying process and obtain basic information, such as product offerings, newly adjusted store hours and what we are doing to protect them during their shopping process. Many of our locations are in cities where we are well-known and embedded in the community fabric. Social media has been a great way to keep that all-important connection over this past year.

With the disruption in the traditional purchasing process, part of what we have done is schedule private appointments. One-on-ones with customers facilitated by either them coming to one of our stores or us going to see them. Many of our members have also stepped up with creative ways of satisfying their customers’ needs. Some have provided virtual shopping experiences via Zoom in their showroom, while others have offered a touchless shop-at-home service, which included sanitizing samples and dropping them at the customer’s front door. Once the customer made their decision, the samples would be picked up, sanitized and returned to the showroom for the next customer.

As a company, we have adapted to accommodate family needs, as well. Many of our owners and employees have had responsibilities at home, including children that were experiencing home schooling for the first time and/or elderly parents and family members with compromised health conditions. All of this was taken into consideration when we were asking them to assist at the store. We are proud of the way our employees adapted to change in the work environment and did it quickly. Work from home went from an option to a necessity and our employees embraced it. They did not allow the change to be a distraction at a time when they were most needed.

What has CCA Global Partners done to help its flooring retailers adapt to the ‘new’ normal?
As a leadership team, we held weekly Zoom calls to keep everyone up-to-date with the changing regulations and answer their questions. We knew early on that communication was going to be key to allowing them to continue to serve their customers and keep everyone safe.

On the fiscal side, we knew our members had a lot on their plate and we needed to give them a financial break. Our first step was to temporarily wave our monthly membership fee and suspend monthly payments. We also connected with their key vendors and negotiated special terms on new and existing payments.

To ensure our members had access to the best Canadian retail information and at the earliest time possible, we purchased a membership in the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) for every member in Canada.

In September 2020, we held a special virtual meeting for our Canadian membership, called the Loop. We enlisted the help of a professional production company in Toronto, to broadcast from their studio. The Loop allowed us to spend a day with our membership, updating them on what was happening in the flooring industry and in their company. It also allowed them to virtually socialize. Our special speaker was Ted Mallett, vice-president and chief economist for CFIB, who shared how other retail sectors are fighting the fallout of Covid and provided a 2021 outlook. His presentation was followed by a Q&A session.

Flooring Canada and Carpet One Canada launched a consumer sample box program in December 2020. Was the pandemic behind its launch?
The sample box program was already in the works as part of our 2.0 strategy of providing a superior shopping experience for our customers, so it did not come out of the pandemic; however, the program was expedited to assist customers in their product selection. It was recognized as an excellent tool to use during a time of restrictive access to our showrooms. Customers can choose up to six flooring samples at a cost of $16. They are then delivered directly to their homes in a convenient, beautifully presented package within typically two to five days. The experience does not end with the arrival of their sample box. The customer’s local store is notified when they have received their samples and will follow-up to help guide them in making a final decision and scheduling their project.

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