Next year holds promise, according to Neville Refalo, General Manager, of furniture and interiors store, Art at Home, who looks ahead to 2022 with optimism, after a “difficult” two years, saying that the business will continue to prioritise its customers and has a number of projects ready to be implemented.
“At the moment, since the situation is still not completely stable, we cannot really make long-term plans,” he says. However, “we have many exciting ideas for the company and hope we can implement many of them in the coming months, while also still offering the best experience for our customers who come into our showroom – an intent which has been and will always be our main objective,” Mr Refalo says.
Despite the past two tumultuous years, during which the COVID-19 pandemic forced authorities to shutter stores, the interiors sector has not changed substantially, he continues, which allowed the business to be agile in its reactions. “Our customers now tend to buy more online other than visiting in person. This has been one of the main challenges during this difficult period, although we grabbed the opportunity to tackle certain areas we were lacking in and improve them,” the General Manager attests.
Indeed, the GM is “proud of the way we managed to steer the company to safe waters during the COVID period. It was not an easy task, with many daily challenges coming up, but I am happy to say that we managed without shedding any of our employees,” he states.
Mr Refalo, who has worked with the firm for four years now, sees the ability to pivot and to steer the company proactively as central to his role. “You need to be a jack-of-all-trades in a business like ours: you need to understand what each job entails and, if possible, know how it’s done. My work is focussed mainly on the way forward for the company,” he attests, adding that this requires “being involved in all the process and ensuring a strong relationship with our employees.”
Art At Home has a long history, having been established in 1987, by Joseph Mizzi, a former art teacher who decided to follow his passion for furniture and interiors and open a business in the sector. “The name of our showroom is inspired by Mr Mizzi,” the GM states, explaining that the outlet started out as a small furniture shop in Hamrun, later adding a three-storey showroom in Attard after 10 years of operation.
“The original idea was always to sell good quality furniture and interiors at affordable prices, and this has been the mantra for our company over the last 35 years,” Mr Refalo attests. However, as the years passed, and the industry changed, the business shifted to accommodate the needs of the market. “The furniture industry changes yearly. It depends on various factors such as society, people’s tastes and foreign trends. What might be ‘in fashion’ today might not be in 2 years’ time. The industry has changed a lot over the last 35 years and the major challenge for us is to keep having furniture which is needed and desired here in Malta, as well as to cater for all of our clients’ tastes.”
Yet, the sector remains a cutthroat one, the GM insists. “In such a competitive industry like ours, being still there and doing well after all these years is a key milestone. Every time we expand our operations to new areas is a milestone. Every time an employee of ours tells us how happy they are with us is a milestone. Everytime a customer returns to buy an item from us is a milestone. Our main secret is that we treat each and every customer as a member of our extended family – by being sincere in every way and helping whenever problems arise,” he concludes.
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