ICFA Members Step Up to Produce PPE
As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the United States in early spring, a number of ICFA member companies quickly revamped their manufacturing of casual furnishings products to help produce personal protective equipment and other critical medical supplies in highdemandthroughout the country.
The pivot from sewing cushions and pillows for outdoor chairs and lounges to face masks proved relatively seamless for a number ICFA member companies. Indeed, utilizing outdoor performance fabrics that are water-repellant and anti-microbial also ensured that the masks could be washed and bleached for reuse.
While donating ample quantities of the stylish masks to first responders and emergency personnel in their local communities as well as outfitting employees and their families, these companies additionally took pride in the ability to employ their sewers and skilled associates at a time when most factories were forced to shut down and furlough their workforce. Many also made inventory available for sale to the public at their internal cost as a means of protection from the coronavirus.
In March, NorthCape, an outdoor furniture manufacturer in Alsip, Illinois, was among the first to transition its production and distribution functions to produce and distribute critical personal protective equipment to healthcare facilities faced with serious shortages nationwide. The company began making hospital-approved and nurse-designed fabric masks and nurse gowns. NorthCape soon expanded its offering to include higher-level medical masks and gowns. The company shipped over 100,000 masks and over 20,000 nurse gowns in five weeks.
In mid-March, Telescope Casual Furniture voluntarily closed its operation in Granville, N.Y., for two weeks. The shut-down gave the management team time to work with state and local government officials to coordinate production of personal protective equipment. Some eight sewers following additional health and safety precautions in the factory initially helped the company ship more than 10,000 masks in its first eight days of dedicated production. As a leading business in Upstate New York, Telescope dedicated its efforts first to its employees, community members and their families. After satisfying those needs, the company continued mask production for shipment to its independent sales representatives and retail partners.
Similarly, in Ontario, California, O.W. Lee moved quickly into producing masks intended for healthcare workers, other civil servants and the general public. The company established a “buy one, donate one” program that enabled it to deliver masks throughout Southern California to Pomona Valley Hospital, Pomona; Upland Women’s Shelter, Upland; Shepherd’s Pantry Food Pantry, Glendora; Ontario Police Department, Ontario; Ontario Fire Department, Ontario; Los Angeles City Fire Department, Los Angeles; and UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, along with the Southwest Louisiana Veteran’s Home, Reserve, Louisiana, and Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, New York
Due to overwhelming requests, O.W. Lee also offered child-size masks, as did South Sea Outdoor Living in Greensboro, North Carolina. As the furnishings business slowdown hit South Sea, the company made masks and protective items from decorative fabrics in inventory. This company’s designs were double-layered with a built-in pocket for a filter to provide extra protection and meet the threshold for medical professionals with lower-risk uses. While these were sold at $4 each, additional masks were constructed for charitable donations. “The nice thing is that we can be nimble about it.,” noted Joyce Kuo, business director. “If we need to pivot for a hospital with its own specs, we can work with that. Our specialty is custom upholstery, so we do a lot of made-to-order.”
Through its supply chain partners in Asia, Summer Classics donated more than 12,500 N-95 and surgical masks plus 24,000 additional masks to hospitals around Birmingham, Alabama, including Shelby Baptist, Children’s of Alabama, UAB, St. Vincent’s, Birmingham Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Brookwood Baptist. At the same time, the company’s cushion plant manufactured more than 1,200 masks for employees and family members.
Sunset West in San Diego, California, was another early adopter committed to supporting its valued partners as well as finding ways to support local communities. In early April, the company began producing non-medical masks in partnership with local organizations including Project Masks. In a few weeks, Sunset West sent out 20,000 masks and mask kits distributed throughout the Greater San Diego area to essential and frontline workers, as well as residents in nearby neighborhoods.
To help local hospitals near its Wadena, Minnesota plant, Homecrest Outdoor Living modified its Allure chaise design to create temporary cots. The cots provided a safe and comfortable solution for care givers in hospitals with more patients than available beds.
Jensen Leisure Furniture based in Sandston, Virginia, donated masks to the Henrico County Fire and Police departments, while Berlin Gardens in Millersburg, Ohio, combined forces with a local sign-making company to create face shields for healthcare workers. Owner Sam Yoder said the sign-maker had the idea and materials but not the manpower. “We were shut down, so we had the manpower available to help make it happen,” he told a local newspaper. In March the company produced 90,000 face guards, and by mid-April, it was producing almost 40,000 units per day for a total of over 600,000 shields in just over three weeks.
For more information:
COVID-19: Punishing Toll on Casual Furnishings Businesses – Part 4
Womble Bond Dixon: Employment Considerations for Returning to Work
ICFA Webinar: 60-Minute Take on COVID-19
Survey: Growing Financial Toll on Casual Furnishings Industry – Part 3
CARES Act Providing a Lifeline in Casual Furnishings Industry – Part 2
Casual Furnishings Industry Responds to COVID-19 – Part 1
Internal Revenue Service Guides to Employee Retention Tax Credit
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Guide and Checklist for Small Businesses
U.S. Department of the Treasury Assistance for Small Businesses