To protect the health of home furnishings industry workers and to preserve their jobs for the future, the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA) has spearheaded the Alliance4Safety, an initiative designed to reinforce a unified industry message that “Safe=Essential” for home furnishings businesses.
“The most important aspect of operating a home furnishings business during a health crisis is operating safely – not meeting an arbitrary definition of ‘essential,’” explained AHFA CEO Andy Counts. “Whether you are an industry supplier, manufacturer, importer, sales representative, retailer, designer or specialized furniture carrier, your business is essential to those whose livelihoods depend on it.”
In July, AHFA canvassed companies in all segments of the industry from all regions of the country to find out how they operated during the nationwide COVID-19 shutdown and what measures they took to get their companies back up and running. This information was combined with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, Small Business Administration, local departments of health and furniture industry consultants to develop a comprehensive guide for keeping industry workers:
- Safe at the factory door;
- Safe on the factory floor;
- Safe in the store; and,
- Safe in the customer’s home.
The resulting website, www.Alliance4Safety.org, can assist businesses in developing and implementing the right response for their individual company and community when faced with a nationwide or regional health crisis. Importantly, it also provides a centralized resource companies can use now to convey the “Safe=Essential” message to relevant government, business and health organizations.
“The time to convey this important message to state and local officials is now, before the arrival of any new health crisis or decisions about future shutdowns,” Counts advised.
The initiative is supported by a broad group of industry associations, including the Home Furnishings Association (HFA), serving the needs and interests of more than 1,200 retail home furnishings companies representing 7,000 storefronts, and the International Home Furnishings Representatives Association, representing 2,000 independent sales representatives across the United States and Canada.
In addition to the leading furniture manufacturers, distributors and suppliers represented by the AHFA, the effort is backed by the International Casual Furnishings Association, AHFA’s division representing 300-plus manufacturers, importers, retailers, suppliers and sales reps for outdoor furnishings, and the Specialized Furniture Carriers, an AHFA coalition of 30 companies with expertise in handling, warehousing and delivering home furnishings nationwide.
“In the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the home furnishings industry learned useful and effective ways to manage the spread of infection during a pandemic,” Counts explained. “Companies learned new ways to monitor employees’ health, how to manage executives working from home, how to socially distance production workers in our factories and how to serve retail customers while minimizing physical interactions.”
The industry also learned that when containing a virus results in community shutdown, the cost of that shutdown – measured in lost jobs, lost income, lost tax revenue and massive expenditures at all levels of government – is crippling.
“That’s why we decided to act now, before we face any new shutdowns or containment actions by federal, state or local officials,” Counts said.
“From the beginning of this crisis, we have stressed to government leaders at all levels that home furnishing retailers sell products that are essential to the comfort and well-being of Americans spending more time in their homes,” said Mark Schumacher, executive vice president of the HFA. “We also made it clear that furniture stores operate safely for their customers and employees. Whether a company manufactures, imports, designs, sells or delivers home furnishings, it contributes to better living and work-at-home spaces, provides good jobs and supports communities all across our country.”
Companies throughout the industry are urged to share the Allliance4Safety “Safe=Essential” message with government and health officials in their states and local communities.
“Share it with decision-makers at your Chamber of Commerce and economic development agency. Share it with your local media,” said Counts. “We drafted a Sample Letter to make it easy, and companies are urged to customize it with details on their unique business operations.”
Additional Alliance4Safety tools are available to the industry at www.ahfa.us., including a sample press release for local media outlets and downloadable graphics, including store or factory signage, and Alliance4Safety logos.