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COVID-19 Case Study: Preparing to Reopen at a Furniture Retailer

Organization: The Asia division of a global furniture retailer, with about 60 of 450 global stores located in Asia.

Key issues:
• Store closures while maintaining staff pay
• Corporate social responsibility
• Reconfiguring stores for social distancing when they reopen

April 2020 Update

Many retailers of nonessential goods have been forced to close up shop and concentrate on online sales, and this global retailer is no exception. The Asia region contains about one-quarter of the company’s several hundred stores. Since it was closer to the source of the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, the regional crisis management team jumped into action on 23 January, earlier than the corporate team.

The regional team has met weekly since then to discuss business impact, health and safety of workers, and necessary equipment. Within the region, country-specific emergency response teams were spun out to operate on a more granular level. Travel in or out of the region was quickly banned.

All regional governments have mandated shutdown of the retailer’s stores. But no staff layoffs are planned. Workers are being assured that their jobs are safe for at least the next few months. In light of that promise, the security department hasn’t identified any looming security issues.

Factories were shut down until the third week in April. The retailer has stockpiled masks and sanitizer so that personnel in production plants and fulfillment feel safe on the job. Cleaning has intensified, and social distancing is being practiced and enforced. A few fulfillment workers have fallen ill, but they have either recovered or exhibit only mild symptoms. If any plant worker contracts COVID-19, that facility will be closed for disinfection before reopening.

Because the company is known as a good corporate citizen, it has acted accordingly by supporting healthcare workers in nearby communities with food supplies and merchandise discounts, as well as providing food to the less privileged and those hit hardest by the pandemic.

Although the timing isn’t clear, the retailer is preparing to reopen stores. New processes will include thermal screening for staff and customer temperatures, enhanced sanitization, and social distancing via reducing density in stores. For those purposes, as well as for identifying staff, stores will be implementing thermal cameras with facial recognition as well as people-counting ability. The store is planning to operate with these protocols in effect for at least the next year. Some stores around the region are planning to reopen with at least limited hours in accordance with national, municipal, and local orders.


Michael Gips, JD, CPP, CSyP, CAE, is the principal of Global Insights in Professional Security, LLC, a firm that helps security providers and executives develop cutting-edge content, assert thought leadership, and heighten brand awareness. Gips was previously Chief Global Knowledge Officer at ASIS International, with responsibility for Editorial Services, Learning, Certification, Standards & Guidelines, and the CSO Center for Leadership & Development. Before that, as an editor for ASIS’s Security Management magazine, he wrote close to 1,000 articles and columns on virtually every topic in security. In his early career he was an attorney who worked on death-penalty cases.

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