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No masks, no entry some retailers say. Others have a different view.

Furniture World Magazine
Volume 150 NO. 4 July/August


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No masks, no entry some retailers say. Others have a different view.

The Find Says "Yes" To Masks


Stephanie Angold (right), owner of The Find, and assistant manager Julie Mantz model masks on sale in their Reno, Nev., furniture store.

When Nevada ordered residents to wear face coverings in businesses, The Find in Reno was ready. It offered stylish masks for sale.

People were lined up at the door to buy them, Stephanie Angold, owner of the furniture and home décor store, said.

Still, some shoppers weren’t interested in buying one or bringing their own.

“Most customers are wearing them, but if they don’t I won't ask them to leave,” Angold said.

The subject of face coverings poses a dilemma for many Home Furnishings Association members in states or local jurisdictions where retailers are required to enforce mandates. If customers refuse, does the business owner turn them away and lose sales? Or, let them in and potentially expose employees and other shoppers to the risk of getting sick?

Christa Van Vuuren, who owns Half Moon Furniture in Charlotte, North Carolina, answered that question adamantly even before Governor Roy Cooper imposed a statewide mandate in late June. She set a “no masks, no entry” policy for her store. "For people who choose no entry, I’m happy to lock the door behind them,” she said.

She welcomed reinforcement from the governor. “I am grateful he’s looking out for the people of North Carolina,” she said. “This is serious business. We have more than 140,000 dead in this country.”

Sales at Half Moon Furniture have been “really good” recently, Van Vuuren said. But she admits she’s lost some customers who won’t wear masks.

“It might cost me 10 percent of my business, but I honestly don’t care about that. I can’t measure my health and my life on money.” The people she counts on—loyal, repeat buyers—support her.

Samuel's Furniture Agrees

The best solution would be a uniform national approach to sales taxation. “I would not hold my breath waiting for any sort of federal action,” Yetter said.

Elie Samuel, owner of Samuel’s Furniture in Ferndale, Washington, feels the same way.

“I think face coverings are important because they have been proven to be an effective way to fight the spread of the coronavirus and save lives,” he said. “And as far as I am concerned, it is a pretty easy thing to do.

“Most customers appreciate it. Our governor has mandated that everyone wear masks in public spaces, but even before that, we would not allow shoppers in the store without a mask. And we had to turn a few away. As one of my employees said, ‘I didn’t stay home for three months to come back to work and have someone infect me.’

“As we see the numbers nationwide going up again, I think it’s more important than ever,” Samuel concluded.

Furniture Market says "No"

We’ve been told by customers, if they’re forced to wear a mask they’ll turn around and walk out.

But Liz Werner, owner of Furniture Market in Las Vegas, expressed a common concern about mask mandates.

“I don’t really think it’s my responsibility to enforce it,” she said.

She and her staff wear face coverings in the store, but only about half of her customers were doing so.

“We’ve been told by customers, if they’re forced to wear a mask they’ll turn around and walk out,” she said.

At the same time, she added, they’re respectful. If they’re not wearing a mask, they keep a safe distance.

“Right now, I have two clients in a 48,000-square-foot showroom,” Werner said.

Attorney Weighs In

Business owners, large and small, are in a very tough position. They risk alienating customers and employees—any of whom can file complaints with government agencies.
— -Pascal Benyamin

Attorney Pascal Benyamini recommends that his retailer clients ask customers to don face coverings. If customers refuse, “They should have a conversation with them about keeping their social distance.”

Government mandates do raise the stakes, however, said Benyamini, who practices with Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP in Los Angeles.

“This takes employee relations and even customer relationships to a much higher level,” he said.

Benyamini spoke on a Home Furnishings Association webinar in May about legal and human relations issues raised by the coronavirus crisis. But challenges for retail businesses have become even more complex with the responsibility for enforcing mandates for masks.

"The logic behind those orders is that business owners can control what happens on their premises, " Benyamini said in an interview in late June. But actually accomplishing that can be difficult. For example, what happens if customers get into an altercation about masks or social distancing? What about customers who wear a mask into the store, then discard it but refuse to leave? What if customer behavior makes employees feel unsafe?

“Business owners, large and small, are in a very tough position,” he added.

"They risk alienating customers and employees—any of whom can file complaints with government agencies. Workers who think their safety is in jeopardy may decide to stay home, especially if they have underlying conditions that put them at greater risk. And there are legal actions that can be launched if someone claims exposure to the virus took place inside a business."

Benyamini also advises clients to “take a humane approach.” Do everything possible to create a safe environment for employees, customers and vendors.


 

About HFA: The Home Furnishings Association is the only trade association dedicated to the success of furniture retailers. For more information on HFA membership and services for home furnishings retailers visit https://myhfa.org or call 800.422.3778

 

A  feature about Home Furnishings Association's retail members, legislation affecting the furniture industry and other retail news from HFA.


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