Struggling retailers like Ethan Allen and Raymour & Flanigan have been skirting Gov. Cuomo’s lockdown rules, The Post has learned.
The publicly traded Ethan Allen, for example, has been letting customers meet with dedicated sales people, known as “designers,” to browse New York showrooms on an appointment-only basis for weeks, according to employees.
“We don’t allow more than two people in the store at one time, and they have to be from the same household,” an Ethan Allen employee in New York told The Post. The staffer, who asked to remain anonymous, said the company has been offering customers in-store consultations with its designers since mid-April.
The company’s Web site also suggests several of its New York locations are open for appointments, including its Garden City location. “Everyday by appointment only,” the Web site says next to the store’s hours.
State sources say these appointments are in violation of its rules and could lead to penalties, including large fines.
“If a furniture store’s showroom is open to the public, they are violating New York’s public health-based Executive Orders,” Jack Sterne, a spokesperson for Gov. Cuomo, told The Post in a statement. “State authorities are working with local governments in every region to ensure these businesses comply with the orders and will pursue formal enforcement measures if necessary, including fines.”
Violations of New York’s lockdown orders can result in fines of up to $10,000. Retailers can also be ordered closed and their state-issued licenses can be suspended, sources said.
Reps for Ethan Allen didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Raymour & Flanigan has also been letting customers book one-hour slots to browse stores in New York, according to sources and the company’s Web site. It also opened stores to appointments in New Jersey last week and in Massachusetts this week — states where furniture sellers are currently only allowed to do business via curbside pickup.
The company, which has been run by the founding Goldberg family for the past 73 years, also did not respond to requests for comment. But it’s not been shy about advertising its new business model on Twitter.
“Big news for our #NY followers!,” it tweeted on May 16, with a link to its appointment page. “We are now open in select regions by appointment-only! Book your appointment and start your #summer #home refresh.”
The workarounds come as retailers deemed non-essential complain that extended lockdowns threaten to put them out of business, even as large rivals like Walmart and Target are allowed to remain open because they sell food.
Ethan Allen, for example, approached officials at New York Empire State Development — the agency deciding who’s essential and who’s not — about doing business during the pandemic. The retailer was told that its warehouse and distribution centers could remain open, but not its showrooms, a state source told The Post.
The bubbling frustrations have led other retailers to flout state laws as well, said Richard Kestenbaum, a partner at Triangle Capital. “We are seeing that more in the luxury space than anywhere else, allowing consumers to access new merchandise even while stores are closed,” said Kestenbaum, who declined to name names.
Some employees fear the reopenings may be putting them and customers in harm’s way.
Raymour & Flanigan, for example, asked New York staffers in a recent conference call to purchase hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes for their stores because the chain’s order of sensor-operated hand sanitizer stations had not yet arrived, according to a store manager on the call. The manager said executives also asked employees to park their cars in front of neighboring storefronts so as not to attract unwanted attention.
“I think we are jumping the gun,” said the store manager, who did not want to be identified. “The way they have chosen to interpret [the law] is not thoughtful.”
The company has, however, hired an outside cleaning company and has someone spraying Lysol and wiping down surfaces throughout the day in the stores, sources said.
“I wouldn’t be here if that lady wasn’t here cleaning,” one sales associate in a New Jersey store told The Post.