Well, what an enormously long journey the Pandemic has been for all of us and how quickly we all began to adapt! Eighteen months ago words and phrases like quarantine, self isolation, Covid 19, Zoom, Skype, flatten the curve and sanitize were not part of the general lexicon and ‘stay safe’ would have seemed an odd way to end a conversation.  Even elbow ‘hand shakes’ and mask wearing may have seemed like ridiculous activities as well as standing six feet apart. And, if anyone had told us that we were all going to have to stay at home and not go anywhere, even to visit friends and family for almost a year, I don’t think we would have believed it. Or relished the idea. Yet, here we are and we have done it!

 

Obviously we are not quite out of the woods yet and there are still a number of question marks hanging in the air… but we can pretty much see and taste our freedom on the horizon. Freedom to shop, freedom to visit friends and go to public places and eventually the freedom the travel again.

 

As a nation and as a world we have done pretty well and pulled together to solve the problem of a Pandemic on a scale that most of us could never have imagined. Putting aside the sadness of the situation there are a number of positive changes that have come about as a result. Online meetings have taken the place of face to face meetings and many people have worked at home and this in itself has given the natural world time to heal from the toxic gasses emitted from our vehicles and transport systems. Bicycles have become a popular form of transport and the use of the outdoors has led to better health and improved lifestyles. Family units have become closer, and some people of shy dispositions have even enjoyed mask wearing and the anonymity it brings and have used that mechanism to grow in confidence.

 

The pandemic has changed how we see the world and in the furniture industry we are seeing a huge trend to bringing the ‘outdoors in’, not just in customer’s homes but especially in the public places and offices we serve, because for the first time the workforce at large has been able to experience the outdoors for longer periods of time…and we like it. Ironically there is also a move to bring the indoors out as people have had time to enjoy and furnish their gardens. Another trend largely born of the pandemic is to make our homes cleaner, safer, more comfortable and to migrate these comforts into new or improved home working spaces. We have all been at home a long time and mostly… we like it.

The increase in ‘staycations’ has led to holiday accommodations fundamentally changing too, with many of us now preferring a safer home away from home experience, rather than visiting larger hotels which are naturally harder to keep hygienic due to bigger crowds. Offices, shared working spaces and the way they function have most likely changed forever too. Conscious decisions have been made by many organizations to furnish and floor these areas with flexible, cleanable, easy to sanitise furniture and flooring, which is less likely to trap viruses and allergens.

 

At a company level we too had to adapt in the way we conducted our business. Long before the first lockdown ended last Spring, we put in industry-leading safe measures of working, over and above those recommended by the government, for the safety of our customers and our team… keeping a safe distance, limiting the number of people in a given space, one way systems in the store and our warehouses to avoid the pinch points, mask wearing and frequent sanitizing of hands and common touch points. These processes and safety procedures should be commonplace in retail now, but sadly this is not always the case. Working with our contractors and listening to customer feedback, we have also developed safe working systems for deliveries and floor fittings which really works. You can read about  our systems here. Even though we are getting closer to the point where most people will be vaccinated we will still have to continue to be vigilant and work in this way even when we reopen as we all know that to be vaccinated does not necessarily mean you are covid free.

 

During the lockdowns we were able to do a little business. The construction industry has remained open and has kept our Commercial Contracts Department pretty busy. Certain domestic flooring work is also considered ‘essential’ where customers’ safety is potentially at risk from poor floors, so during the months our doors have been closed we have been able to make socially distanced house calls with samples and help our customers repair and replace their essential flooring needs. Many have liked it so much that we intend to continue to offer our ‘at home’ appointments and product demonstrations for those who would like them. A short conversation online or on the phone gives us all we need to bring the right samples to your door and there is nothing like seeing the flooring you intend to buy actually in your home before it is fitted. Same goes for our online presence which not only serves as a shop widow for us but also as an online store, and our click and collect facility has been ever popular with loyal customers and new ones alike.

 

We have also been able to serve customers that have special needs as far as furniture is concerned with our wide range of mobility products such as lift and rise chairs and adjustable beds and some of these we have served through video conferencing or private one to one ‘covid-safe’ appointments with strict safety measures in place. In a nutshell the pandemic has brought to us new ways of trading that we had never thought of before and new ways of serving our customers, many of which will serve us well in the years to come. Having said that… we too cannot wait to open our doors again and see your friendly faces… even with masks on! We hope that you won’t hesitate to come and see us and browse our exciting new season ranges in our Grand Re-Opening Sale, starting Monday April 12th. We have all the best practices put in place to keep you safe while you shop in our expansive showrooms and the whole team in our ‘Peter Green family’ take regular lateral flow tests to ensure we continue to protect each other and our customer friends. Your safety is important to us… see you soon!