Covid-19 in the world: companies have to navigate by sight

IFDM has contacted many international brands in the sector of furniture and finishes, and all of them – almost – confirm that the motors are running and work continues, though unevitably at a slower pace. The trade hasn’t surrendered, and the world of design – quietly, behind the scenes – forges on

The entire world is living a difficult time. “Sorry, we are temporarily closed until further notice, to guarantee the safety of our clients and staff”, says the most of the industries and shops around the planet. Like after a bad dream, the design companies woke up with a complex situation to manage, while they were working hard on the previews for Salone del Mobile, at the moment scheduled in June.

Jennifer Kang, team manager of HI-MACS Europa, LG Hausys

Although the Italian brands have decided stop the production until the 3rd of April, the foreign companies are facing Covid-19 in different ways, most of them are still in the definition phase of the strategy while trying to understand the evolution of the situation in their respective countries. As says Jennifer Kang, HI-MACS team manager Europe at LG Hausys: “The European team is composed of a number of international team members located in many different countries. Team member’s health is out top priority and we have been able to quickly implement remote working when needed. We are glad to say that our team is healthy and fully operative, and continues to serve our customers and the market needs. Our HI-MACS production plant, located in South Korea, is working at its normal capacity to secure product deliveries worldwide. Our factory workers always wear protective clothing to prevent the spread of the virus, and are strictly observing a safe distance between each other. This social distancing of 2 meters is helping the Korean society to overcome the coronavirus and the rate of new infections continues to drop”.
And about Salone del Mobile, she says: “We believe health and safety always come first, Salone, and all other industry trade shows, should be scheduled when the right safety conditions are back in place and the danger from Coronavirus is overcome. We are confident that companies in the furniture industry will fully understand and be guided by official advice”.

Jan Volsik, Global sales&marketing director Preciosa Lighting
Jan Volsik, Global sales&marketing Director Preciosa Lighting

From South Korea to Czech Republic, where it is based Preciosa Lighting: “As a global company with offices around the world, we are monitoring the local situation and following all measures and directives made by the local governments”, says Jan Volsik, Global sales&marketing director. “We are very focused on the health of our employees and providing support if and when it is needed. As for our work, we are continuing as normal with projects whether in the design phase, in production or somewhere in between. As travel to and in many places is restricted, we are working to secure local professionals for lighting assembling. We are in constant contact with our clients to ensure the projects run as scheduled, as much as is possible in these uncertain times. As for Milan and Salone del Mobile, currently we are still planning to attend during the new dates, June 16-21. These are challenging days for the design and hospitality community (and everyone really). We believe support for one another and acting in kindness will see us all through. Be safe”.

Donata Donzelli, Sales Director Kaldewei Italia
Donata Donzelli, Sales Director Kaldewei Italia

In Germany Kaldewei has put in place a special decision, as Donata Donzelli, Sales Director Kaldewei Italia, explains: “We clearly take responsibility for our employees and for the company. In order to handle the extremely dynamic development in the best possible way, we have developed a crisis committee. During the decision-making process the crisis committee takes the accessible information and recommendations, as amongst others of the Robert Koch Institute, into consideration. So far, the smooth running of operations, especially in production, has not been impaired. To protect our employees and business partners, we have reduced the personal contacts between our employees as well as our customers and suppliers to an absolute minimum. As far as it is possible and reasonable, our employees are working from the home office. In addition, we make intensive use of our digital communication channels, such as video conferences or webinars, in order to remain in contact with our business partners. So far there are neither concrete instructions from the government, nor have we received any economic support”.

Olivier Roset, Direttore Generale Ligne Roset
Olivier Roset, General Manager Ligne Roset

From Germany to France, with Ligne Roset: “We are facing this emergency with calm and serenity following the civic containment measures recommended by the French government for non-priority industries in respect of the health of its employees”, says Olivier Roset, General Manager.  “Until further notice, the business was closed from Friday 20 March to 1st of April. The Chinese, American and English branches of Ligne Roset are still open. The different sales departments maintain contact with their respective customers. The French government has established a vast partial unemployment system for all non-priority industries”. And about Salone del mobile planned in June, he replies: “Looking the current situation, it seems very unlikely that the Milan show will be held in June 2020…”.

Yuichiro Hori, fondatore Stellar Works
Yuichiro Hori, founder of Stellar Works

The hope comes from China, where they have registered zero cases: “Like almost all businesses in China, the Coronavirus outbreak resulted in an extended closure of the Stellar Works production facility following the Lunar New Year holiday. However, our factory has now reopened and production has started once again”, says the founder Yuichiro Hori. “We aim to be at 90% productivity by the end of March. We are currently reviewing all orders and are updating customers on revised delivery dates where necessary. We are working hard to return to optimal production as soon as possible. Stellar Works fully believes in the new 2020 products and is finalising a revised global strategy to give the new collections the best possible launch. We look forward to sharing more information in the coming months. For many years Stellar Works has held a large showcase during Milan Design Week, but due to the Coronavirus outbreak and subsequent restrictions on travel from China imposed by the Italian Government we decided not to exhibit in Milan; we are disappointed to not be able to participate this year, but we are moving ahead to launch these new products and are currently finalizing our new launch plans”.

The Covid-19 wave will be a long one, with differences at different latitudes: every country has its own buying habits, and it will be important to have painstaking representatives who know the territory. It might seem obvious, but professional prowess comes to the fore in difficult circumstances. When markets are surging forward everyone, more or less, is capable of selling. But when the conditions suddenly change drastically, the time comes to think and to choose. The conversations between top international brands and IFDM demonstrate that the helm is in rational and prudent hands, and the companies that have not issued official statements – and there are many – nevertheless transmit the perception that they are speaking a language of alertness and careful reflection.