#Designgoeson: Designdiffusion.com talks with Nicola Coropulis, CEO Poltrona Frau, about the health emergency and the future of Made in Italy design
March 23, 2020 update: from March 25 to April 3 all nonessential manufacturing activities are shut down by government decree
How is Poltrona Frau dealing with the Covid-19 health emergency? What measures have been implemented?
As Poltrona Frau, together with our group Lifestyle Design, we moved before the emergency exploded. As early as the 22-23 February weekend, with a crisis committee, we started drawing the various measures. Together with the CEOs of the Italian companies of the Group, Poltrona Frau, Cappellini, Cassina, the Regional Manager of Janus et Cie, the human resources managers of all the brands and, of course, the Group’s CEO, we adopted measures that came into force on February 24.
Smart working for offices
We have limited attendance in the offices in Milan and Tolentino implementing smart working, and encouraged the use of left-over vacation days and parental leave. In order to further reduce the movement of people within the company, we have also separated production departments. All the areas within the plant have been circumscribed, with the obligation to respect social distancing. Before the decree of March 8, we were already aware of the situation and ready to manage the acute phase of the emergency. Today, a significant share of our office staff is working from home.
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On the other hand, production departments will work until March 24 to complete the last activities, using protective equipment, in spaces that have been sanitized with a special treatment. Finally, as a guarantee for all employees, we have set up an insurance policy in force from March 17 to December 31, 2020 that offers guarantees for the possible serious health consequences of the virus. On the other hand, Ceccotti Collezioni, the Cascina-based company that has been part of the Poltrona Frau group since 2018, closed its plant as early as March 16, still guaranteeing shipments.
Has an international group such as Lifestyle Design been able to harmonize the closures in the various countries?
Measures are the same in all countries, although, of course, we conform to the regulations of local governments. As far as our directly owned stores around the world are concerned, as of March 21, only those in Mumbai and Shanghai are open. I would like to point out that the Shanghai store, closed from January 23 to February 23 by national regulations, was initially working by appointment only and now is open to the public. In Italy, on the other hand, stores have been closed since March 10. Then, we gradually closed those in other European countries. On March 20, stores located in London, New York, Washington, Miami and Los Angeles closed, followed by Dubai on March 23. The commercial activity goes on remotely, with maximum availability and all the tools offered by digital technologies.
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The health emergency and the Salone del Mobile di Milano
I think that right now, talking about the Salone del Mobile, how and when it will be held, is not a priority, either for us or for other companies in the sector. Since the beginning of the emergency, Poltrona Frau has expressed doubts about holding the Salone in 2020, also because the Salone itself would certainly not benefit from a ‘halved’ show, with a limited audience. For this reason, we immediately suggested postponing the Salone del Mobile to 2021. Moreover, in 2021, the Salone del Mobile di Milano will turn sixty and this anniversary should be celebrated in grand style. With the current situation, we see it dangerously wavering, also because safety conditions are beginning to fail.
The Covid-19 crisis: an opportunity to rethink one’s strategies
It is not easy to predict the repercussions of this crisis on Italian exports, even because it will not have the same impact on everyone. Companies with a widespread presence abroad will more easily overcome a possible absence of the Salone del Mobile. For Milan and Italy, in terms of satellite activities, it will be a serious loss, of course. However, for the furniture market in the narrow sense, this crisis may be an opportunity to start reflecting on the distribution and communication model.
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It is natural that a product like a sofa or a table needs a physical presence; virtual presence helps, but it cannot replace contact. However, we may start thinking that, if people cannot visit the fair, we can bring the products to the public, in different countries around the world. Therefore, it could be an opportunity to start reshaping one’s international promotion strategies.
To conclude, the systemic crisis of 2008 became a drive for change for many industrial and communication dynamics. Similarly, the Covid-19 health emergency could drive another important transformation, which cannot be outlined yet, but must be taken into account. First of all, we can consider that the 2008 crisis lasted until 2012/2013, which gives us some temporal indications. Moreover, it is likely that this compulsory stop will lead us to a greater awareness that Earth’s resources are scarce and we must learn how to manage them responsibly. Therefore, we continue to work, knowing that difficult times await us, and we will have to draw positive aspects for change from them.