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How has Covid-19 impacted The French Bedroom Company?
Our customer experience team, operations, warehouse and factory workers adapted to government guidelines almost overnight, and our UK-based suppliers quickly switched to 24-hour operations to fulfil orders at a safe distance. But that was last year…
The butterfly effect of Covid-19
The BBC, Which and The Guardian are all reporting on the severe delays impacting consumers here in the UK and globally. These delays are set to continue for the rest of 2021. From school uniforms, to pet food, to garden furniture, everything is delayed, impacting suppliers, retailers and customers.
Why is production delayed?
Firstly, disrupted fabric production in Belgium, India and Turkey has led to material shortages, with reduced access to quality silk, linen and velvet. Some suppliers are even rationing foam due to production shortages.
Manufacturing in Asia continues to be severely impacted by Covid-19. Indonesian craftsmen and women, who are renowned for their specialist rattan woodwork, are battling the highest rates of Covid-19 any country has seen to date – again another factor contributing to delays.
How are you speeding up production?
While some companies may be inclined to downgrade raw materials to speed things up or cut costs, the wood we use in the construction of our luxury furniture is checked to ensure sustainability and preservation of the valuable resource of wood for our future generations. We simply can’t produce high-end furniture without carefully sourced (and hand carved) mahogany and oak timber. This limits our options when scarcity hits.
Why are lead times longer?
Port operations have slowed significantly as loading teams have had to observe Covid-19 safety rules, and congested ports have caused further shipping delays, as ships have waited to load and unload. Additional global trade complexities were added when The Ever Given Container vessel blocked the Suez Canal, holding up more than 400 vessels – causing delays of up to 60 days as traffic was held, re-routed, or needed to skip ports on their itinerary.
In the UK, lead times from the port to the warehouse have more than doubled due to the shortage of HGV Drivers, a skills gap escalated by Brexit and Covid-19.
What have you done about it?
We’ve invested heavily. Spending ten times more on container transportation costs (up from approx. $2,000 per container to $20,000) in a bid to speed things up. We have not reflected this increase in our furniture prices; our customers are still receiving their furniture at the price they paid, but at extra cost to us.
We’ve doubled our customer service team. It’s heart-breaking and relentless on the team to share the news that our furniture isn’t expected on time, but our customers deserve to hear from us personally with regular updates and we’re always at the other end of the phone to help.
On average, our team have worked an extra days’ overtime, every week, for 12 months to speed things up as much as possible, fast-tracking new designs with local factories and offering to exchange customer orders to UK-manufactured beds. Plus we’ve expanded our bedroom accessories collection (available next day delivery) to help customers transform their bedrooms more instantly whilst they wait.
What about home deliveries?
As government guidelines ease, like you, we’re all learning to live with Covid, considering what we would be comfortable with in our own homes, and providing options for our customers.
We are delivering orders as normal, and all orders are prepared to the highest standards of health and hygiene. Small items are being delivered via DPD courier straight to your door without physical contact.
If you have ordered furniture we will offer the level of service that you are most comfortable with: our two-man delivery crew can deliver to your room of choice and unpack your new items so you can inspect them, or if you'd rather we can leave the items in your hallway (with your signature). Alternatively, we can hold your furniture in our warehouse for up to three months free of charge.
Don’t lose hope. The UK will continue to see delays for the rest of the year but our furniture is coming through - it’s just taking longer than usual.
Cutting corners in the short term will not benefit our customers or our business in the long term. For that reason we ask our customers for their patience and understanding in exchange for quality and service. The reality is frustrating, but we’re in it together.
Can’t wait? We understand, which is why we guarantee a seamless, hassle-free refund within 24-48 hours. Whilst we feel the frustration as much as you do, we ask that you are respectful to the team providing updates - it’s been a tough year on all of them.
With thanks and love,