How Can Housing Managers Plan Their Contract Furniture Purchases Wisely When Faced With Uncertainty?

Colleges that went virtual this fall are eyeing a return this spring. Whether schools ultimately move forward with full-time in-person classes or resume with a hybrid schedule, there’s one big question on the minds of housing mangers across the country: will students find their way back to student housing this spring?

The continued uncertainty about what the short-term future holds for universities due to COVID-19 is putting intense pressure on student facility managers charged with campus upkeep. And, nowhere is this challenge more evident than among student housing managers still unsure of whether residence halls will be packed with students, empty or somewhere in between come springtime.

Student Housing Managers are Being Forced to Roll the Dice

Higher education contract furniture takes a beating. Housing managers typically replace or repair a portion of the thousands of desks, chairs, beds, wardrobes and other furniture in dorm rooms every year. And those replacements cost money; money that only needs spending if students return to campus.

Right now, student housing managers are gambling on whether to purchase all or a portion of the res life furniture they’d typically need at the start of a new semester. With the window of time quickly closing between when student housing furniture orders are normally placed to make January installation deadlines, we’re seeing more and more housing managers scratching their heads.

Student Housing Managers Can Take a Few Steps to Better the Odds of Spending their Contract Furniture Budget Wisely

No one has a crystal ball. But, student housing managers can do the next best thing and get ready for anything spring throws at them.

If you’re one of the many student housing managers out there right now who’s unsure of whether to buy or wait, here are three steps to take to help you make the best decision and be ready when students eventually return.

  1. Assess Your Current Contract Furniture Inventory
    With many residence halls currently empty, now is a good time to complete an assessment of your inventory and determine which furniture pieces you need to replace vs. those you can reuse. Do you have enough beds, desks and chairs for each student? Are they in good condition and free of wear and tear?

    Make a list of the pieces you need. Then, find a student living furniture partner that has furniture options that are both durable and customizable for each item on your list. Durability and customization are going to become even more critical post-COVID as universities look for ways to save money over time and reconfigure dorms and common areas to fit evolving student living needs. At Blockhouse, these attributes have always been built into the furniture we manufacture and we’re now seeing an even bigger demand for furniture that lasts.

    While completing your inventory assessment, think seriously about replacing furniture that doesn’t deter microbes and isn’t easy to clean and sanitize, especially any lounge furniture that will be used by many students. When students do return to campus, keeping surfaces as clean as possible will be the big priority, so plan ahead for this now. As a higher education furniture manufacturer, we’ve planned for this shift as well. Blockhouse furniture utilizes materials such as vinyl upholstery and anti-microbial wood finishes, allowing for easy, frequent cleanings to promote a safe, healthy environment.

  2. Learn from Industry Peers and PartnersUse every resource at your disposal as you determine the best housing plan, including other student housing managers. Look for guidance from your peers at other higher education institutions. They may be able to share best practices that you can incorporate into your own plans.Your contract furniture partner should be another resource high up on your list. A true furniture partner will have insight into how other university housing managers are preparing for students to return to campus and should be able to help guide you with furniture layout suggestions, upholstery and finish recommendations, and more. At Blockhouse, for instance, we’ve been helping colleges and universities across the country with their res life furniture needs well before COVID hit, and we’re seeing this need even more so now.
  3. Get Your Order Together Ahead of Time
    Preparation is key right now. Even if your university’s reopening plans aren’t clear, use this time to shop for furniture that provides both the durability and customization you need. You can even work with your furniture partner to develop multiple furniture orders to plan for multiple reopening scenarios.

Two important tips. One, work with a vendor who manufactures contract furniture in the U.S. You don’t want your installation dates to be at the mercy of your vendor’s ability to ship products, especially now as shipping delays have become the norm thanks to COVID. Two, consider purchasing furniture that your manufacturer already has in stock. If your university’s reopening plan is announced weeks or days before students arrive, you’ll need furniture shipped and installed fast.

We believe in the importance of furniture made here in the US. Every piece of Blockhouse furniture is designed and manufactured in the United States. And, we’re working ahead to stock the most common higher education furniture pieces so we can get universities the furniture they need as soon as they need it.

Find the Right Contract Furniture Partner to Help You Get Prepared

As a leading student housing furniture manufacturer, we understand the unique challenges facing our higher education partners and we’re here for you. From design to installation, we can help you prepare and be ready for students to return to campus. Contact us today to determine your plans so you’re ready to go no matter what student living looks like this spring.