The cover story T
Success with accessories Itâ€™s about selling the complete experience
RETAIL ROAD TRIP
Bruce the Bed King battles giants in New Jersey market BE MY GUEST
Six steps to getting more from every mattress customer CONSUMER CHECK
Economy, finances keeping Americans awake at night
I N T R O D U C I N G
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IN THIS ISSUE where to find it
THE COVER STORY success with accessories
Retail merchandising expert Marty Walker explores the revenue and profit opportunities of expanding into accessory categories, including the ability to enhance the shopping experience for customers and create an important avenue for differentiation in an increasingly competitive business climate.
WAKE UP CALL
from the editor’s desk
If a value-driven business like McDonald’s can create an engaging experience to expand its customer base, so can mattress retailers.
stuff you can use Cooking Light advises mattress replacement after 5-7 years; Got apnea? Try a banana; Steven King offers tips on tapping into customer irrationality; ISPA coalition seeking tax breaks for bedding buys; Sleep Council advises pillows should be replaced annually; ‘buy local’ hot shopping trend; cutting hours builds sales for small retailer...and more.
ON LEADERSHIP by Larry Wilson A sales leader is someone who knows how to make the presentation about me and my family, not about him or his products.
BE MY GUEST
by Brian Croft
When you can’t get more customers, a smart accessory program will help you get more from each customer.
profiling your customer
The 2009 Sleep in America poll shows financial worries are taking their toll on sleep.
by Gerry Morris Lowering prices may look like the obvious move when money is tight, but the cost is high.
RETAIL ROAD TRIP the selling scene In North Jersey’s battle of giants, veteran independent retailer Bruce the Bed King sticks with the basics, cultivates loyal customers.
SleepSavvy • May/June 2009
I N T R O D U C I N G
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2EJUVE.ITECOM s LATEX 53 X
SleepSavvy The magazine for sleep products professionals
Editor in Chief Nancy Butler 828-299-7420 firstname.lastname@example.org Senior Writer Barbara Nelles 336-856-8973 email@example.com Contributors Marty Walker Gerry Morris Brian Croft Larry Wilson Steven King Art Direction Stephanie Belcher The Jimmydog Design Group firstname.lastname@example.org Vice President of Sales Kerri Bellias 336-945-0265 email@example.com Advertising Services Manager Debbie Robbins 336-342-4217 firstname.lastname@example.org Circulation Manager Mary Rulli 336-491-0443 email@example.com Copy Editor Margaret Talley-Seijn Vol. 8, No. 4 ISSN 1538-702X Sleep Savvy is published 8 times a year by the International Sleep Products Association, 501 Wythe St., Alexandria, Virginia 22314-1917. Phone 703-683-8371, fax 703-683-4503. Website: www.sleepsavvymagazine.com. Sleep Savvy editorial office: 15 E. Hawthorne Dr., Asheville, North Carolina 28805. Phone 828-299-7420, fax 828-299-7490. Advertising services: 5603-B W. Friendly Ave. #286, Greensboro, North Carolina 27410. Phone 336-342-4217, fax 336-342-4116. Subscription policy & rates Retailers: All U.S. retailers qualify for free subscriptions, up to 5 per location. In Canada, $10 per year; all other countries, $30. Manufacturers, suppliers and others: Personnel at ISPA member companies qualify for complimentary subscriptions, subject to restrictions. Nonmembers and all others: $30 U.S., $40 non-U.S. Please send subscription orders and changes to: Sleep Savvy, P.O. Box 4678, Archdale, North Carolina 27263 or fax 336-431-0317. ©2009 by the International Sleep Products Association. No portion of the content may be reprinted without permission from Sleep Savvy. Printed in the U.S.A.
WAKE UP CALL from the editor
If McDonald’s can do it...
’m acutely aware of retail environments when I’m shopping and keep an eye out for anything interesting. But I’m rarely surprised—and even more rarely pleased—at what I find. So when I stopped by the new McDonald’s, coupon for a free McCafe in hand, I was prepared to sample a low-cost mocha latte. I was not prepared for an engaging experience. Starbucks and Barnes & Noble have nothing on this new Mickey D’s. Curved interior walls—in warm adobe tones with fireplace-stone accents— create a feeling of cozy alcoves that invite patrons to linger and access WiFi. Wood cafe tables and low-hanging pendant lighting could have come from Pottery Barn. Two thumbs up. What was most interesting was the mix of patrons: The usual teens and mothers with kids, but also a group of businessmen talking over coffee, several twosomes of stylishly dressed Millenials and a cadre of seniors in golf attire (who left in a Mercedes). And they all looked equally at home. Was this a way to justify jumping to a much pricier menu? Not as far as I could see. The old standbys were all there, plus a smattering of healthier choices and the new coffee line—at $2.29 for a medium mocha latte, it represented a step up from the $1 value menu but a significant step down from the competition at Starbucks. And I’m sure I recognized a couple of former Starbucks regulars. What’s going on at McDonald’s? The use of an engaging environment to broaden the customer base—to appeal to a more discerning customer, but without losing its appeal to existing customers. The chain is introducing a few carefully selected extras to its
core assortment, improving its health profile and adding cache with gourmet coffees. But importantly, the product line remains distinctly value-driven. And from what I saw, it’s working. . . . so can you The benefits of creating an engaging environment and the important role carefully selected extras can play—in a mattress store—is what Ermcar’s Marty Walker is talking about in this issue’s cover story on accessories. There’s never been a better time to get off the dime and move in this direction—a point strongly reinforced by Leggett & Platt’s Brian Croft in his Be My Guest column. The reality in today’s economy is that retail doors aren’t swinging as often as they were before, so it’s up to you to find ways to make every ticket bigger if you want to be profitable. Our digital ‘extra’ Our newest extra at Sleep Savvy— also an attempt to broaden our customer base—is an online digital version of every issue, available several weeks earlier than mailed copies. If you’d like to be notified when each new issue is posted, send your email address to firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, you can find all of our 2009 issues in digital format at www.sleepsavvymagazine.com.
SleepSavvy • May/June 2009
SNOOZE NEWS stuff you can use
Cooking Light advises mattress replacement after 5-7 years of nightly use The popular magazine for health-conscious Americans featured a special two-page focus on sleep products, “Make over your bed,” in its March issue. The story put the spotlight on three important factors contributing to a good night’s sleep—the mattress, pillows and linens. In the mattress section, the magazine touched on how a quality mattress helps reduce back pain and stressed the importance of trying different mattresses in store, as well as noticing hotel mattresses that are particularly comfortable. The section concluded with a recommendation—provided by the industry-supported Better Sleep Council—that readers replace their mattresses every five to seven years.
Got apnea? Sleep on a banana!
o, we’re not kidding. The humble banana may prove to be a lifesaver for sleep apnea sufferers. Australian researchers have found that downing an unconventional nightcap of a banana smoothie may help keep sufferers’ throats from closing and reduce the risk of blocked breathing. Preliminary results of a study from Australia’s University of New England show that drinking a banana smoothie at bedtime helps keep the throat open during sleep. The phospholipids, or fatty acids, stay active in the mouth for six hours—long enough to get a reasonable amount of uninterrupted sleep. “Our initial findings suggest that bananas may offer a relatively cheap and tasty alternative as part of the treatment for patients with obstructive sleep apnea,” said researcher Dr. Tom Van der Touw. But be sure to brush your teeth first, he added, since the smoothie proved most effective when consumed after brushing.
Don’t stew about the future. Just live each day until
— Dale Carnegie
SleepSavvy • May/June 2009
stuff you can use Steven King’s
They’re not being rational
In his bestselling book Predictably Irrational, Professor of Behavioral Economics at Duke University Dan Ariely offers tools and advice we can use every day on the sales floor and in the management office. Here are three ideas I think make a lot of sense in mattress retailing. 1. Give your customer something. Dan’s team has learned that when you offer customers a bottle of water, cookie, soda or anything of value, they are more likely to buy from you. Once they accept, they feel a little more obligated to do business with you. The flip side of this equation is that customers’ perception of value is directly related to what you offer. For instance, if you offer a no-name, generic bottle of water, they are likely to have a diminished perception of value in the product you are selling. Conversely, they will relate a known brand of water and its prestigious implications directly to the products you offer.
2. Use suggestive marketing. “Doesn’t this feel absolutely great?” “Look at the fine craftsmanship and attention to detail on this mattress.” “You can feel the difference with this pillow, can’t you?” These statements in a presentation will influence the customer’s decision by causing the brain to create shortcuts to making the decision. 3. Start at the top. This is a tool that many of us already know and use: Always show your customer the highest-price mattress first. The customer’s decision-making process is heavily influenced by their ability to compare. Ariely confirms that showing the highest price establishes a benchmark in the customer’s mind. When you show a high, a low and a mid-priced product, customers most often select the midpriced. In today’s tough business climate, it pays to think creatively and take a fresh look at your presentation through the eyes of experts like Dan Ariely. Steven King is president of Steven King & Associates, a sales training firm, and the author of Money in the Mattress: The Sales Associates’ Guide to Premium Mattress Sales. Contact Steven at email@example.com; order his book at www.moneyinthemattress.com.
Retailers need to embrace new realities
ustomer experience consultant and former Simmons executive Kurt Ling says that the current shopping climate offers three clear messages for marketers. 1. Excess and luxury are out. In fact, not only are they out, they are now shameful. If you buy luxury items, brands or services at luxury stores, you had better not tell anyone. 2. Thriftiness and simplicity are in. In fact, not only are they in, they are going to return us to what is really important in our lives. And that will unite us. 3. Personal relationships are in. Customer experiences that are built on a “show” or a “stage” are seen as gimmicky in these pragmatic times. Personal relationships show customers that companies are authentic and genuine. They provide caring and support at a time when people need people. “Real” is being defined by the people. “There are those who are embracing these new realities and will grow in this climate once they reconfigure,” says Ling. “And there are others who are still trying to do what they were doing nine months ago and are very frustrated. We need to look at the new reality and program accordingly.” To contact Kurt, visit his website at www.customer-kinetics.com.
6 SleepSavvy • May/June 2009
While many firms are dealing with rough economic times, they can’t let customer experience fall to the back burner. If firms let their customer experience deteriorate, they’ll lose customers and amplify the negative impact of the downturn.
— Bruce D. Temkin, Vice President/Principal Analyst for Forrester Research
stuff you can use
ISPA leads coalition to stimulate mattress sales
Make it memorable
he mattress industry’s trade association, the International Sleep Products Association (ISPA), has formed a coalition of home furnishings and related associations representing manufacturers, suppliers and retailers to enact new tax incentives that would boost sales of mattresses. The centerpiece of the American Home Furnishings and Building Products Coalition’s proposal is a consumer tax credit for the purchase of certain home furnishings products, including mattresses. The incentives are designed to boost retail sales and help lead the industry out of the economic downturn. ISPA is actively lobbying Congress to enact these incentives and needs the support of local businesses around the U.S. If you would like to lend your support to the coalition’s efforts, ISPA has created a letter that can be personalized and emailed to your representatives in Congress through ISPA’s website. The letter can be found at http://capwiz.com/sleepproducts/issues/alert/?alertid=12426586.
69% in-store of consumers say the is e nc rie shopping expe important—especially e female, higher incom rs. and “green” shoppe
Price cutting could cause long-term damage
ompanies that lower their prices during the recession may risk damaging long-term brand perceptions. Suspicious consumers assume something is wrong with the product or brand, according to a study from The Futures Company. In fact, results from the Dollars & Consumer Sense 2009 study show that maintaining prices in a down economy may actually be the best way to protect brand image. When consumers were asked what their assumptions are when a brand lowers its prices during tough economic times: ● 70% said “the brand is normally overpriced.” ● 62% said “the product is old, about to expire or about to be updated, and the company is trying to www.sleepsavvymagazine.com
get rid of it.” When asked how they view a brand that doesn’t lower its prices during tough economic times: ● 64% say they assume that “the product is already a good value.” ● 64% assume that “the product is extremely popular.” Drastic price cuts create a doublebarreled risk, according to J. Walker Smith, executive vice chairman of The Futures Company. “First, such
price cuts generally fail to generate enough business to pay for themselves, although clearing inventory is of some value,” he said. “Second, they create long-term difficulties in terms of consumer expectations.” Smith said that when a price is reduced, consumers delay purchase in anticipation of further price cuts. About half to 60% think that when companies lower prices, it means that prices will go down further if they wait long enough. And roughly 50-70% percent think that brands that do not lower prices will have to do so eventually. For more on the study, visit: www.thefuturescompany.com. Editor’s Note: For Gerry Morris’ perspective on mattress price cutting, read his column on page 36. SleepSavvy • May/June 2009
stuff you can use Better Sleep Council
Pillows should be replaced every year
Here’s what the Better Sleep Council—the mattress industry’s consumer education program—says about the importance of the pillow: “Just as your bed should provide good support for your body, your pillow should give you the right cushioning to position your head and neck properly. It should hold your head in the same relation to your shoulders and spine as if you were standing with correct upright posture. If you sleep on your side, you may want a fairly firm pillow to give your head and neck extra support. If you sleep on your back, try a medium-firm pillow to cradle your head with more ‘give.’ And if you sleep on your stomach (although some physicians caution against this position), choose a soft pillow to lessen the strain on your neck. Generally, pillows should be replaced every year, but keep in mind that some wear faster than others. To determine if you should replace your pillow, fold it in half (into thirds for larger pillows) squeezing out the air. When you release the pillow it should spring back into shape and into its original fullness—if not, it may be time for a new pillow. Additional signs you may need a new pillow include: ● The pillow doesn’t feel like it did when first purchased ● The pillow show signs of visible dirt ● The pillow is lumpy and bumpy.” Visit the BSC website at www.bettersleep.org.
Nearly 43% don’t know pillows need replacing
esearch has revealed that pillows in nightly use quickly become populated by allergens such as fungal spores and dust mite droppings. So, not only can sleeping on an old pillow negatively affect postural alignment and quality of sleep, it can also cause or aggravate allergies or asthma and compromise the immune system, says the National Sleep Foundation. That’s why NSF conducted a poll to find out how often people replace their pillows. The results reveal that a stunning number of Americans didn’t even know they were supposed to.
22.7% 42.9% 16.6% 10.5% 7.0% ■ ■ ■ ■ ■
You’re supposed to change your pillow?! Once every two years Once a decade Once a year Twice a year
Perks to pump shoppers?
ooking for ways to lure customers into your stores? A recent story in the Los Angeles Times recounted what some creative independent retailers have been doing—not just to bring consumers in, but to make a personal connection with people in the community. Maybe they’ll inspire some ideas of your own. ● ● ● ●
Tarot card readings Blood pressure screenings Counseling by a career coach Cocktail parties
8 SleepSavvy • May/June 2009
● ● ● ●
Book signings Nutrition workshops Live entertainment A professional photographer
● Exhibits by local artists ● Crafts workshops (Sleep Savvy thinks quilting—very hot right now—would be a great tie-in). www.sleepsavvymagazine.com
stuff you can use
5 ways to get rid of dust mite toxins ‘Buy local’ is the hot shopping trend
ccording to marketing research leader Yankelovich— www.yankelovich.com—73% of consumers across all generations make an effort to support local businesses rather than large national companies. And more than half say they look for goods produced in their own state or in nearby states. Moreover, the economic downturn is adding new fuel to the buy-local trend. Buying, thinking and acting locally appeals to consumers on many levels, from environmental concerns to a desire to “do good” for the economic health of one’s community to viewing local businesses as more trustworthy partners, Yankelovich reports. The strength of this rapidly developing trend points to an enhanced opportunity for mattress retailers to connect with customers, since the majority of mattresses sold in the U.S. are still made in the U.S. and most are produced regionally. Look for the buy local trend to continue to build despite (or even because of) consumer anxiety and financial hardship, Yankelovich says. The key for businesses is to find out-of-thebox ways to make an authentic local connection. And remember: Local is as much a lifestyle and an attitude as it is a location.
Just for laughs
he bacterial byproducts of the large populations of dust mites living in mattresses and pillows are called endotoxins. Adults living in homes with high endotoxin levels are more likely to have asthma and related health issues, according to The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Here are some tips for minimizing this health hazard that you can pass along to concerned customers: 1. Wash all bedding in hot water every week to 10 days or regularly dry clean comforters and blankets. 2. Clean sheets and pillowcases in very hot water and dry them in a hot dryer, or have your bedding commercially laundered and pressed. Dust mites cannot live in environments over 130 degrees. 3. Don’t dry sheets outside, which can bring more allergens inside. 4. Encase mattresses, box springs and pillows in allergen-proof covers. 5. Think twice before running a humidifier, since humidity encourages the reproduction of dust mites. If you use one, clean it regularly to prevent mold growth.
“Good night, son—sweet dreams and a great sleep experience.” The New Yorker
SleepSavvy • May/June 2009
stuff you can use
Sleepless Canadians use booze for snooze
surprising number of Canadians spend millions to self-medicate their insomnia with alcohol, a recent study at Universitie Laval suggests. Overall, 8% of the 948 participants use alcohol as a sleep aid, but among those with insomnia, a full 28% reported resorting to the bottle before bed. “The idea that schnapps before your bedtime is good for your sleep might have been right about 100 years ago, as long as it was the occasional schnapps,” said Dr. Adam Moscovitch, medical director of the Canadian Sleep Institute.”When you knock yourself out as a way of dealing with it—if you can’t shut your mind off in any other way— then alcohol has a very negative effect on your sleep. It deprives you of any of the deep stages of sleep and, once it wears off, it has a rebound effect. So your problem becomes much worse.”
Four days open = more savings
he Retail Owners Institute (ROI) recently developed an interesting “reinvention concept” for Kitchen Kaboodle, a five-store kitchen and furniture retailer in Portland, OR. The veteran retailer found that customers had started buying only the items that were on sale and that there was too little traffic during too many open hours. So in March, the company switched to a 4-day week with everything off price— “Four days, for savings, for you!” “As a locally owned business, as your friends and neighbors, we feel a special need to give you what you want, these days more than ever. And who doesn’t want the same
great Kitchen Kaboodle stuff, at new lower prices? You don’t want cheap steak, you want steak, cheap. To get it, just visit us Thursday through Sunday, or stop by anytime on the web. See you Thursday morning!” The results? Expenses have been cut by 30%—more than enough to offset the discounts. “We’re offering our best merchandise, at the best prices with our best staff on the best days for shopping, all for our best customers,” said coowner John Whisler. “That’s retailing for this ‘new normal.’” For more, visit these websites: www.retailowner.com www.kitchenkaboodle.com.
BEDDING BIZ BEAT February was another tough month for the bedding business as wholesale shipment dollars declined by nearly 18% from the previous February. Unit sales of mattresses and foundations were down by 15.6% for the month as the average unit price fell by 2.7%.
Mattresses & Foundations - Millions of Dollars (wholesale) Sample of Leading Producers $334 $297
Percent change -11.0%
Source: ISPA monthly Bedding Barometer, a sample of leading U.S. mattress producers
10 SleepSavvy • May/June 2009
■ 2007 ■ 2008 ■ 2009
ON LEADERSHIP by Larry Wilson
Sales leadership is about me, not you
t one time, I lived in Eden Prairie, MN, where not much happens after 10 o’clock—and that’s in the morning. One year, Minnesotans suffered through 92 inches of snow. I had a 750-foot, rock-based driveway. The snowplow guys dumped snow mixed with rocks all over the grass. In the springtime, the snow would melt but the rocks wouldn’t. In the summer, I’d be cutting this rock pile with my lawn mower. In short, I had a problem. I looked in the Yellow Pages to find companies that do asphalt paving. They added, subtracted, multiplied and divided, then turned in their estimates. That was their sales presentation. When I saw the bids I thought, “Wow, a new freeway.” When I told a friend, he said, “Larry, I’ve got your guy. He’ll do a terrific job.” Always trust your friends. Selling is about connecting The new driveway guy turned out to be more of a coach than a contractor. First, he asked one of the most important questions: “Mr. Wilson, before I give you the estimate, would it be okay if I ask you a few questions?” That connected with me. Here’s how our conversation went: “Mr. Wilson, you’ve got one of the prettiest homes I’ve ever seen and the driveway sets it all up. The only thing is that near the base of the driveway, it’s just a little bit crooked. You can’t tell with this rock base, but once you get that black shiny asphalt up against that nice velvet green grass of yours, the crookedness is going to show. Do you mind if it doesn’t look quite as nice as it might?” Naturally I said, “I want that crooked space between the black asphalt and green grass straightened out.” And he said, “Good choice.” “Have you ever mixed hot asphalt?” he asked. “It’s
usually a hot day, it comes in a big tub and it’s all sticky and icky.” When I asked him why he was telling me this, he said, “I can give you two kinds of driveways. I can give you a driveway that will last for 25 to 30 years and you never have to worry about it—it’s always going to be the way you want it. Or I can give you one that every 2 or 3 years you’ll have to go out in the hot sun with the icky, sticky stuff.” Naturally I said, “Give me one of those 25-year kind.” And he said, “That’s a good decision.” “One more thing,” he said. “When my kids were the same age as yours, sometimes it would rain all day and my wife would be out of her mind with the kids in the house. When it stops raining, would you like your kids to be able to run right out and play on the driveway or do you care if the water sits there for maybe 2 or 3 days? It depends on the drainage.” Naturally I said, “I want my kids able to play on that driveway as soon as it stops raining.” And then he said, “I didn’t know how you might feel about these things, Mr. Wilson, but based on what you’ve told me, let’s you and I design your driveway.” That was the first time he talked about his products. When we were through, he was $700 higher than anyone else. But he’d convinced me it was worth every penny. This contractor was a sales leader. He knew how to make the sale about me and my family, not about him or his products. He started with fact-finding questions that would tell him where we are and how we got there. Then he shifted to feeling-finding questions that would tell him where we want to go and how we want to feel when we get there. The result is that I got what I wanted and needed. And he got top dollar. ●
Larry Wilson is an internationally recognized pioneer in change management, leadership development and strategic thinking, and is the co-author of The One-Minute Sales Person. He has founded two companies, Wilson Learning Corp. and Pecos River Learning, and is currently spearheading The Wilson Collaborative. Larry works with companies to help them “create the organization that, if it existed, would put them out of business.” His clients include major mattress manufacturers and retailers. Larry can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SleepSavvy • May/June 2009
The cover story
Success with ac It’s about selling the
12 SleepSavvy • May/June 2009
complete experience By Marty Walker, Ermcar Inc.
oday’s savvy mattress retailers are exploring more and more options in related products that can be merchandised around their core mattress assortments. Not only are the options growing—from both inside and outside the mattress manufacturing sector—but more retailers are discovering the multiple benefits of accessorization for their business and brand. Besides realizing revenue and profitability growth through accessories, retailers are finding this direction to be an avenue for differentiation in an increasingly competitive business climate. Is this strategy right for you? Does it make sense for your particular store? Is it another route to weathering these difficult economic times? We’ll take a look at some of the benefits of this direction and how you can incorporate accessories into your operation. Why do it? Why bring additional SKUs into a simple assortment and add to your workload? Why go into an area that you may not be familiar with? Because accessorizing in retail is fundamental. It should not be viewed as an alternative, option or “fix” during exceptional times. It’s hard to identify any category of retail where accessories do not play a major role in defining the store, the brand, the offering, the image and the experience. These defining issues make up the collective reason you, as a retailer, need to consider this direction.
SleepSavvy • May/June 2009 2009
THE COVER STORY
success with accessories Brick-and-mortar retailing is experiential. It is where three core components—product, environment and people—come together. How well they synergize determine how positive the experience is, how engaging it appears to the customer and usually how successful it is. The experiential reality in retail is all over the board. Many retail venues are experientially flat lined. Others are energetic, engaging and enticing. Most fall in the large expanse between indifferent and moderately interesting. Where would you place yours? Where would you say mattress retailing, in general, falls? If a positive retail experience is defined as an engaging blend of product, environment and people, then it would make sense for retailers to bring together: 1) all logical and related products 2) an environment that stimulates the senses and 3) salespeople who can facilitate the interaction with customers comfortably and efficiently. Apple stores—and how great they are—are talked about often these days. The reasons go far beyond the Apple store, which is remarkably simple in design and structure. What makes it so great is the “Apple experience” it creates for its customers. They love the product, the cool environment and the interactivity with Apple associates. It’s the total package rather than individual products. Can a mattress store provide this kind of experience? Why not? Beds, bedrooms and sleep are subjects that often invoke passion. Certainly there are customers who just need a new mattress because they’ve finally admitted the old one is shot, but there are also many who are engaged with their bedrooms—their “havens” for personal rest, relaxation and self-indulgence. Many are passionate about getting good sleep because of its effects on their mental and physical health and well-being. These consumers are open
14 SleepSavvy •
to a great experience with a retailer that is fully involved in this aspect of their lives. The experience counts Like many product categories— including autos, appliances and electronics—the mattress business is driven primarily through the brand names. But in some categories, smart retailers have carved their own branding into the mix, creating preference and loyalty among consumers. Best Buy has accomplished this, working to establish itself as a “brand for brands.” Although it may not be the ultimate in retailing, Best Buy respects the fact that the retail experience counts for something valuable beyond the products and brands themselves. Best Buy lets people enjoy an environment where they can see, touch and hear the brands. More so, they position accessories surrounding these products to create the complete experience. This is what good retail does— it extends the experience to more senses and completes the desire for the product, along with all of the other options that can go with it. Ultimately, it’s through the retailer’s branding efforts—more than the product brands them-
Consumers likely to buy add-on products
No 15% Not sure 24%
Source: The Retail Institute
selves—that consumers can get the full experience. The mattress business needs more of this retail branding. Recent research conducted for the Better Sleep Council (published in the January/February Sleep Savvy) reveals some interesting findings. In rankings of the factors consumers believe are most important to their decisions about purchasing mattresses, issues relating to the retailer were among the top. These included such things as broad selection, polite sales associates and in-store support materials. Brand was further down the list. Does that mean product brands aren’t critical to the retail offering? Of course not. What it does say is that consumers are sensitive and responsive to where they choose to make their brand purchases and who they prefer to make them with. How accessories work On a playing field where a certain degree of sameness is prevalent and where product brand names are widespread, accessories provide the mattress retailer with opportunities to create differentiation and a brand identity for themselves. Accessories help shape the environment and create the experience. They can help define your image and separate you from the pack. Accessories also add to the sale. And many retailers underestimate just how much they can add to the bottom line. In a basics-only accessorized sleep shop, accessories may be 5-10% of total sales. In a more aggressive setting, that percentage can be 25% or more. Collectively, accessories can add to profitability through margins that are typically higher. They contribute to a higher average ticket through add-on sales. Accessories can also be tools for marketing and promotion by tying related items or interesting add-ons to mattress purchases, thus broadening the retailer’s incentive offering beyond price. In the current climate of heavy www.sleepsavvymagazine.com
THE COVER STORY
success with accessories promotion, this avenue can help separate you from the competition and help maintain profitable margins. In some cases, accessories can even make the sale. Successful retailers from other categories—apparel is the best example—will tell you that just as often as a primary/core item can lead to accessory purchases, add-on items can just as well lead to core purchases. This may come from a “just browsing” visit or a customer may remember you better than your competitor because of an environment and assortment of accessories that caught their eye. In retail, it’s often that 10% difference that helps customers remember the store and brings them back. Many categories to consider Within the typical sleep shop, accessories have for the most part been limited to natural add-ons such as basic bed frames, pillows and mattress protectors. But the merchandise opportunities are growing rapidly and their contribution to the mattress retailer—in sales, ticket value, profit margin, image, brand perception and overall experience—can be significant. So what’s available and what should a store consider carrying? While far from a complete list, here are some categories and items to think about.
Mattress add-ons Pillows – functional/specialty Pillow protectors Mattress pads Protective pads Mattress toppers Mattress care products Bed frames/legs Adjustable bed frames/bases Under-bed storage
Top-of-bed Sheets – fitted/specialty Pillows – decorative Comforters and matching shams Blankets/throws Duvet covers
16 SleepSavvy • May/June 2009
Bedroom furnishings/ accessories Decorative bed frames Headboards Nightstands Lighting/lamps Lounging/reading chairs
Environmental enhancers Sound/light conditioners or clocks for sleep/waking Sleep/relaxation CDs and books Aromatherapy (sprays, candles, oils)
Personal products Sleep apparel (robes, slippers, pajamas) Eye masks and earplugs Body products for relaxation (lotions, bath products)
Other specialty categories Natural/organic products Hypoallergenic products Pet products (beds, pillows) Getting started in accessories As a retailer considers expanding into accessories beyond those directly related to the core assortment, the options can become quite extensive. How do you decide what to carry and how do you get started? Two basic guidelines should help in determining what accessories to start with: 1) Related extensions of your mattress assortment and 2) related extensions of your customer base. Related extensions to the mattress assortment might include: ● Branded pillows matching branded lines ●C ontent matches – memory foam pillows with memory foam mattresses, for example ● Functionality matches – a knee pillow for bad backs with backsupport-focused mattresses, for example ● Price/quality level matches – good, better, best.
For retailers that are just getting started with accessories, a closely related assortment may be the most comfortable and least risky. There are numerous opportunities through the mattress brands that offer line extensions, so be sure to talk to your vendors about how they can help you with accessory options. Related extensions of your clientele can be broader or more diverse, but might include: ● Unique top-of-bed collections and items ● Sleep aid products ● Products based on social/ environmental preferences ● Medical support needs ● Personal products ● Price/quality level choices This approach can become more involved, but it can also lead to a greater opportunity to create differentiation and retail brand loyalty with your existing customer base and prospects. Generally, you should never stray far from what you hear from your customers. They are the best reflection of who you are in the marketplace. Once accessories have entered your world and you have some experience with what works, you can expand, either in adding categories or in depth/ breadth of individual categories. Learn from success and failure, and commit to keep working at it. How far can you grow? Only you can determine how far you can grow with accessories. You’ll need to answer some basic questions. Are they contributing to your business? Are your customers responding well to your investment? Do you believe accessories are helping create differentiation in your marketplace? Are they helping to make your store something better than it was—as a brand, as an experience? Do they make it more fun, engaging and worthwhile for you, as well? A new or renewed www.sleepsavvymagazine.com
THE COVER STORY
success with accessories
12 accessory planning and buying tips 1. Start slowly and take a step-by-step approach— learn and apply.
2. Selectively bring in a few choices to see what garners attention, interest and, of course, sales.
3. Enlist help and opinions—from professionals (interior designers, buyers, etc.) if affordable.
4. Visit other retailers and go to furniture markets— Las Vegas, High Point, Tupelo—and accessories markets—Atlanta, Dallas, New York.
5. Tailor your accessory assortment to complement and support core products. 6. Focus on basics initially—stick with classics and non-seasonal items. 7. If extending beyond core-related products, look for accessories that make sense to the environment.
8. Consider buying accessories in packaged collections to help minimize the risk.
9. Avoid coming to generalized conclusions (good or bad) or overreacting —“Accessories will never work for my store.”
10. Ask and listen to your customers. What do they like? What would they expect to see?
11. Keep it fresh—never let accessories inventory look old or tired. 12. Be patient. interest—even a passion—can be a by-product of this new direction, and that should be valued as much as the revenue and profit contribution. A word of caution: Avoid drawing broad conclusions with regard to accessory success or failure. The factors that create success in these products are far more diverse and fragmented than in core assortments. You may be in a perfect environment for selling top-of-bed, for example, but perhaps you didn’t select well at first. Avoid deciding you can’t sell top-of-bed. Factors such as fashion, trends, colors, seasonality, quality, price tier, brands, etc., can all play a part in how well you do. Should that scare you off? Absolutely not. Just continue to learn and apply. How far is too far? Can there be too much accessorization? Once again, there are some questions you’ll need to ask yourself. Does everything you are offering make a positive contribution to your overall strategy and to the store? For
18 SleepSavvy • May/June 2009
some owners, the strategy is to sell mattresses, period. The environment, imagery and marketing are geared strictly to selling mattresses. For them accessorization is still relevant, but it may be better to stay with the brand or functionally related products such as pillows, protectors and frames. For those with a more expanded customer base and marketing strategy, accessories may play a larger role. A good example would be a store in or near a “lifestyle center” where a cross section of retail, restaurants and entertainment creates more opportunities for walk-in and browse shopping than a stand-alone sleep shop might typically draw. In this case, the core selection of mattresses still commands the stage, but accessories may occupy much of the surrounding space, creating a shopping environment that has a more eclectic assortment and much broader options. In a store such as this, customers might see boutiquequality top-of-bed, select bedroom furnishings and personal items designed to enhance sleep.
These are two ends of the spectrum and each is suited to its own strategy. Only the retailers can determine which is best for their store(s). Merchandising: Keep it simple Knowing how to merchandise accessories may not come easily to retailers whose core products are mattresses. This too should be approached simply—at least at first, if not always. Some basic guidelines may help. ● Keep related items together. If products relate and there’s a natural add-on sale opportunity, display them together or nearby. Don’t assume because everything’s under one roof that customers will find them or recognize the natural relation between products. ● Keep quantities of similar items together rather than spreading between displays. A good general rule to follow in visual merchandising is that customers look but don’t always see, so it’s better to keep similar products together as a single display where quantity can help draw attention and avoid clutter. This also helps simplify your internal merchandising, sales, maintenance and inventory management. ● Merchandise on the basis of how you bought the assortment. If you purchase products as a complete category or collection, display them as one. If they were bought independently from everything else, display them on their own. Natural separation of unrelated products, or separation by collections, as Martha Stewart says, is a good thing. ● Create multiple areas of accessory interest. Some retailers prefer to have all categories of accessories in one area to bring customers to it. That may work, depending upon position, size of store, and the effectiveness of the sales process. Generally speaking however, www.sleepsavvymagazine.com
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THE COVER STORY
success with accessories I believe it’s better to use the store to create several areas of interest with accessories. This enhances the overall experience and invites browsing. The mattress business historically has had difficulty leaving customers to roam the store on their own. Accessories can help alleviate that problem. Customers feel comfortable—even enjoy— checking out your “extra” assortment. Let them linger; they are just where you want them. ● When you’re not sure where to put them, consider your sales process. When retailers have a specific sales process, as most mattress stores do, it’s smart to position accessory products where they fit most naturally into the sales process. Having the latex pillows next
20 SleepSavvy • May/June 2009
to the latex beds is an easy example. A bit more subtle may be the merchandising of an aromatherapy collection near the closing desk, where it may draw attention during the transaction and invite an impulse add-on buy. Options for display There are many options for displaying accessory products, but I believe the key to display is keeping it simple and consistent, whether you opt for vendor-provided displays or create your own display approach. Vendors provide inventory-filled displays for most mattress-related accessory products such as pillows, mattress protectors and sheets packages. Many other product lines and collections also are available with custom
display racks, bins, etc. There are pros and cons to using these displays. Some advantages are: ●V endors’ inventory-filled displays are typically free. ● Good vendor displays house the products efficiently, show them well and promote the brand through graphic headers or sideboards, as well as with packaging. ● Maintaining the assortment and facilitating re-orders can be simplified by the display fixture, as it clearly shows restocking needs. On the downside, if a retailer has an investment in its own imagery or fixturing, vendor displays may not fit comfortably into the environment. In addition, while there are many well-done vendor displays, others may not be up to a retailer’s
THE COVER STORY
success with accessories are not in our homes, decorating them for the entertainment of our guests. There’s a distinct difference. In our homes, we show our tastes, our choices, our combinations and our decisions. In retail, we share tastes, encourage choices, suggest combinations and celebrate decisions. In retail, your focus is on displaying product in quantity and in combination with other related products in suggestive ways to entice customers to pick and choose. Products are displayed in ways that encourage touch, movement and arrangement, using methods that maintain the look, even in the course of sell-down. Displaying the entire quantity of an accessory item or a full complement of a collection on a table next to a bed is merchandising. One of each arranged as
Merchandising, not decorating I want to take a moment to remind everyone that we are in retail and in the business of selling product. We
If you or an associate has “the touch” for accessory merchandising, by all means use that talent to explore ways to make the store as interesting as possible. But you also want to keep the store fresh. This includes changing displays periodically, while maintaining consistency with your brand image. And always give your store that “just arrived” feel, making sure it’s organized, neat and clean. No customer wants to feel like she’s looking at a collection that’s been lying around a long time or a “leftover” accessory that nobody wants—unless you make it a real bargain.
visual or quality standards. In a few cases, these fixtures may not be up to the standards of the vendor’s own products. As retailers become more established in the realm of accessories, the more likely they are to develop their own format for display and fixturing. This can be anything from built-in cabinetry to furniturestyle shelving units, tables, hutches, armoires, etc. Much of this will be driven by the strategies and decisions discussed earlier—a byproduct of how involved a retailer becomes in accessories as a part of its business. The upside to this direction is that it further establishes a retailer’s brand image—the look and feel of the store—differentiating the store in yet another way.
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SleepSavvy • May/June 2009
THE COVER STORY
success with accessories it might be in a home is decorating. This is food for debate, as we all know. How many times in furniture retailing have we seen a customer fall in love with an entire setting and buy the whole thing, including the accessories? It reinforces decorating, doesn’t it? After all, they needed guidance, they got it and they responded just as we hoped. Unfortunately, there are no statistics on how many other customers didn’t care for the arrangement and didn’t make any purchase. The answer is to strike a balance where the merchandising of the store creates suggestion for those who need help, and allows for the choice that most customers, especially most women, prefer.
22 SleepSavvy • May/June 2009
Accessories add female appeal Consumer research confirms a negative stereotype associated with the mattress shopping experience—at its worst, drawing comparisons to used car sales. At the heart of this is a disconnect with the core retail customer. According to WomenCertified, a women’s advocacy and retail training organization, women account for or directly influence 83% of U.S. consumer spending. In the mattress business, that number may be higher. This industry is not the first to face the need to adjust its retail strategies to recognize and respect women’s dominance as the primary decision maker. The grocery business has evolved through the years to make the experience more conducive to the preferences and needs of women. Auto mak-
ers and dealers, while still battling the salesman stereotype women dislike, have evolved their environments to be softer and warmer, with more design attention being paid to extras, colors and fashion, not just engines and tires. The mattress industry can learn from these and other segments that have moved toward designing, marketing and merchandising their environments for women: Warmer lighting, color and texture to create more inviting stores. Better dispersion of space and avenues for separation— something women like when making purchase decisions, especially large ones. Clear, concise and complete information available in collateral and signage. More interest and personal appeal in the assortment. Women are increasingly accustomed
THE COVER STORY
success with accessories to retail stores that create interest, have visual appeal and offer personal attention. Women enjoy the process of shopping, and they like an environment that encourages discovery, choices and total immersion in its theme. They like suggestion, and they respond well to products and services that add to the experience. Evolving toward experience Mattress retailing is entering a new age of maturity. The growth of specialty sleep shops and galleries, the continual expansion of brands and product lines by manufacturers, along with advancements in technology, materials and processes, have all contributed to a boom. Some suggest the industry reached an apex with the current slowdown. Will it pick up
where it left off once the marketplace recovers? Or will the consumer emerge from the recession with a demand for new thinking, new approaches to the business and new concepts at retail? Whatever the outcome, mattress retail must continue to evolve toward a better experience for the customer. I believe that the trend toward specialty retailing filled with options that add interest, engage the senses and offer individualized appeal is one that will play a major role in the mattress industry’s success and growth. Retailers moving in this direction have the opportunity to achieve better brand recognition, better sales and better profits. They also can contribute greatly to positive public perception of mattress retailing as a whole. And that is a good thing for everyone. ●
Marty Walker is vice president of business development for Ermcar Inc., a Marietta, GA-based strategy, design, development and implementation firm that specializes in providing proprietary solutions to optimize clients’ retail presence. Marty is formerly vice president of visual merchandising and store design for Pier 1 Imports and a consultant in retail marketing and merchandising. You can reach Marty by email at email@example.com or visit the Ermcar website at www.ermcar.com.
SleepSavvy • May/June 2009
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BE MY GUEST by Brian Croft
When you can’t get more customers, you have to get more from each customer There are two main things that add up to sales volume—number of tickets and the average volume of each ticket. If you expect the number of tickets you write to be down this year, your average ticket must grow if you want to be successful. Accessories are a great way you can grow your average ticket, regardless of how much traffic you see. And their high margins make a nice addition to the bottom line. Here are the steps I recommend:
Get a great accessory program Those who sell the bare minimum—just a mattress and foundation—will earn the bare minimum. If you add a mattress protector, a set of sheets, a couple of pillows, a premium bed frame, adjustable base or ornamental bed to the mattress set sale, you are adding a considerable amount of incremental sales volume to the ticket. Display all of your accessories together and make it a centerpiece in your showroom so that customers know you offer the complete package and know exactly what the complete packwww.sleepsavvymagazine.com
age is. Integrate accessory sales into your general sales approach and supplement it with heavy training. Set SMART accessory attachment rate goals Collaborate with your sales team and build consensus around SMART— specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely—goals for the attachment rate of each accessory you carry. Everyone on your team needs to agree on and be committed to selling a predetermined percentage of the mattresses they sell with each accessory item. For instance, a minimum standard needs to be set for the number of pillows you sell for every 10 mattresses sold, as well as for protectors, pillows, frames and so on.
Keep score of the results Once the goals have been agreed upon, it is vital that you hold everyone accountable to achieving the expected results. Publish a monthly scorecard for your sales team to let them know how effective they have been at achieving the attachment rate goals and to let them know where they stand among their peers. Support the monthly scorecard with weekly performance updates and publically share individual high average ticket success stories as they happen to praise progress and positively reinforce the mission of increasing average ticket. SleepSavvy • May/June 2009
BE MY GUEST by Brian Croft
Make performance-based decisions Tie all of your personnel decisions directly to the performance scorecard. Eliminate subjectivity and let the scorecard decide who gets promoted whenever an opportunity presents itself. Look to the scorecard for areas of opportunity for each salesperson to develop and get better. Instead of focusing on the same training topic for everyone, tailor it to the individual based on what his or her unique opportunities are. Get your training material from your top performers. For instance, go to your top performers in pillow attachment rate, listen and learn from them about their pillow sales practices and share what you learn with someone who might really benefit from it. If you have a chronic underperformer who isn’t meeting any of the shared goals and all efforts to help him grow have been exhausted, monthly scorecards also serve as documentation to support healthy turnover decisions.
Give recognition for a job well done Create as many opportunities as possible to recognize your salespeople. For instance, organize a training session between a bottom performer in an accessory category and a top
performer. As soon as the bottom performer sells the item he was just trained on, call him and congratulate him. Send out the details of the sale in an email to all of your salespeople. Afterwards, call and congratulate the person who did the training and sincerely thank her for helping that person. Host a monthly sales award ceremony recognizing the top overall performers on the monthly scorecard, the top performers in each category and the people who helped others improve their performance through their training efforts with awards presented in front of your entire team.
Become the standout store Not only will a great accessory strategy help you build average ticket, it will strengthen your position in the marketplace by separating your store(s) from competitors that are offering only a mattress and foundation. If you are meeting all of your customers’ wants, needs and desires by offering them everything they will need—from making the most of their first night’s sleep on a new mattress set until the day they are ready to renew their sleep experience with new products—you are ensuring repeat and referral business. Everyone wins when you take this approach. Customer expectations are
26 SleepSavvy • May/June 2009
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Brian Croft is the director of U.S. retail sales at Leggett & Platt, a Fortune 500 diversified manufacturer that serves a broad range of wholesale and retail customers in the furniture and bedding business. Brian is a 10-year veteran of the retail bedding industry and now works to help retailers across the country maximize their potential. You can reach Brian by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 417-358-8131 or by visiting www.leggett.com.
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CONSUMER CHECK profiling your customer
Sleep in America poll
Economy, finances keeping Americans up at night National Sleep Foundation poll reveals inadequate sleep bad news for health, safety
early a third of Americans are losing sleep over the state of the U.S. economy and their personal financial concerns, according to the 2009 Sleep in America™ poll from the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). The poll suggests that inad equate sleep—on the rise as economic fears become entrenched—is strongly associated with unhealthy lifestyles, negatively impacting overall health and safety. The national poll of 1,000 adults uncovered striking disparities in the sleep patterns, health habits and quality of life between healthy and unhealthy Americans. Those who are in good health and get enough sleep are twice as likely to work efficiently, exercise or eat healthy. According to the survey, 27% of Americans reported their sleep had been disturbed at least a few nights a week in the previous month due to personal financial concerns (16%), the U.S. economy (15%) and/or employ ment concerns (10%). Other national www.sleepsavvymagazine.com
and global issues seemed to be wor rying people less—health care costs (8%), the wars in Iraq and Afghani stan (6%), global warming/environ ment (3%) and/or the threat of terror ism (3%). The survey was conducted last fall at the start of the global economic cri sis. It’s almost certain that Americans’ worries and sleep disruptions have increased since then, NSF notes. People sacrificing sleep Over the past eight years, the number of Americans reporting that they sleep less than six hours a night jumped from 13% to 20%, and those who reported sleeping eight hours or more dropped from 38% to 28%. “It’s easy to understand why so many people are concerned over the economy and jobs, but sacrificing sleep is the wrong solution,” said David Cloud, CEO of NSF. “Sleep is essential for productivity and alertness and is a vital sign for one’s overall health.”
Although 40% of Americans agree that sleep is as important—or more— as diet and exercise to overall health, they’re not making sleep a priority. The average adult still is not getting the amount of sleep they say they need to function at their best (nearly seven and a half hours), reporting that they get only six hours and 40 min utes of sleep on a typical workday or weekday. And those who said they are not sleeping well have more diffi culty maintaining healthy behaviors than their well-rested counterparts. Specifically, they reported being unable to do the following because
Follow-up polls mirror Sleep in America findings
esults of online polls conducted by the National Sleep Foundation since the release of the 2009 Sleep in America™ report mirror those of the broaderbased study and reflect Americans’ increasing anxiety: ● 24% said employment concerns were a top reason for their sleeplessness. ● 24 % said personal finances were a top reason for sleeplessness. ● 24% expressed concern about personal relationships. ● 14% said they were experiencing health-related concerns. ● 56% listed exercise as the top activity they were unable to do because of sleepiness.
SleepSavvy • May/June 2009
profiling your customer
Tips for healthier sleep
ccording to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 70 million Americans are affected by a chronic sleep disorder or intermittent sleep problem. Women suffer from lack of sleep more often than men and with increasing frequency as they age. Here are a few tips from the National Sleep Foundation on getting a better night’s sleep: ● Try to have a standard, relaxing bedtime routine and keep regular sleep times. ● Make sure your bedroom is dark, cool and quiet and that your pillows, sleep surface and coverings provide you with comfort. ● Exercise regularly, but finish your workout at least three hours before bedtime. ● Avoid foods and drinks high in caffeine (coffee, colas and tea) for at least eight hours prior to bedtime, and avoid alcohol for a few hours before bedtime. Caffeine and alcohol disturb sleep. ● Use your bedroom only for sleep and sex to strengthen the association between bed and sleep. It is best to remove work materials, computers and televisions from the sleep environment.
28 SleepSavvy • May/June 2009
they were too sleepy (numbers com pared to those who are sleeping more than six hours a night): ●W ork well and efficiently (25% vs. 9%) ● Exercise (30% vs. 10%) ● Eat healthy (22% vs. 6%) ● Have sex (16% vs. 7%) ●E ngage in leisure activities (28% vs. 10%). The poll also showed that those sleeping less are more than twice as likely to miss family events, leisure activities or work functions because of sleepiness or a sleep problem (24% one or more times in the previous three months vs. 11%). And they are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors to help them get through the day when sleepy: ●E at foods high in sugar or carbohy drates (21% very likely vs. 11%).
profiling your customer ●S moke cigarettes or use tobacco
(18% very likely vs. 10%). Nearly 65% reported experi encing sleep problems at least a few nights a week within the past month. Yet, only 32% of those with sleep problems report discuss ing them with their doctor. “Getting enough sleep every day is as important to your health as eating healthy and being physically active,” said Woodie Kessel, retired assistant surgeon general of the U.S. Public Health Service and member of the poll taskforce. Kessel added that physicians should routinely talk with their patients about sleep, diet and exercise habits. Drowsy driving epidemic Lack of sleep is creating a major pub lic safety problem as more Americans
get behind the wheel when drowsy. The 2009 poll found that more than half of adults (54%) had driven when drowsy at least once during the past year. Nearly a third (28%) said that they actually nodded off or fell asleep while driving. The growing number of people who report that they sleep less than six hours a night—two out of 10 adults— say they are too tired to work effi ciently, to exercise or to eat healthy. Nearly 40% of these Americans who are sleeping too few hours have driven when drowsy at least once a month in the past year and nearly 90% report ed symptoms of insomnia at least a few nights a week in the month prior to the poll. The poor economy is also taking its toll on medical treatment for insom nia. “With the economy worsening,
we are seeing patients in our clinic who have told us that they would not be returning for treatment because they or a family member have lost their jobs and they are concerned about costs,” said Meir Kryger, MD, director of research and education at Gaylord Sleep Services. “These patients may wind up far sicker. Sleep disorders are often associated with other chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension, and they can add complexity and even accelerate each other if untreated.” NSF is urging Americans to be vigi lant about maintaining good sleep, exercise and diet routines to help combat anxiety during tough eco nomic times, as well as to improve overall health and productivity. To learn more, visit the NSF web site at www.sleepfoundation.org. ●
SleepSavvy • May/June 2009
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RETAIL ROAD TRIP the selling scene
Bruce the Bed King Robert (left) and Bruce Wiener in front of the Hackensack store
Veteran retailer follows the basics to survive in tough New Jersey market By Barbara Nelles Photography by Howard Seyffer
n the densely populated northeast corner of New Jersey, family-owned Bruce the Bed King has survived through thick and thin for more than a half-century. Owned by cousins Bruce and Robert Wiener, the retailer is a David among many Goliaths, surrounded by a phalanx of big-time competition, from major mattress chains to big-box retailers to some of the most heavily trafficked shopping malls in the U.S. The Wieners take an old-fashioned approach to retailing mattresses, staying steady by sticking with the basics. Their store layouts are nothing fancy, they have a loyal customer base and they follow a tried-andtrue promotional strategy of wrapping sales around national holidays. It’s a strategy passed down from their fathers, who founded the business in 1954 as Colony Sleep Center on Main Street in Hackensack, where the original store still stands. The more recently opened second store is just to the north in Paramus, the region’s shopping mecca—a maze of crowded highways and malls boasting the highest retail sales per annum in the U.S. In such a landscape, where many family-run shops have long since faded from the scene, the Wieners hang in there with their hands-on approach and modest goals. Personal integrity is paramount, they say, as is a certain amount of self-deprecating humor. www.sleepsavvymagazine.com
SleepSavvy • May/June 2009
RETAIL ROAD TRIP the selling scene
Inside the Hackensack store
It was back in 1977, when Bruce and Robert were working alongside their fathers Sidney and Bud (who have since retired to Florida) that they lit on the idea of giving the business a human persona—Bruce’s persona, to be exact. The name change from Colony Sleep to Bruce the Bed King was largely inspired by the wildly successful, though now defunct, consumer electronics chain Crazy Eddy. Eddy’s frenetic “Our prices are insaaane” ads were a fixture on the local airwaves for two decades. Bruce continues to give the business a human face—in person on the sales floor in Paramus, as well as in the company logo, the cartoon-character cutouts of him in the stores and the giant store window caricature at the Hackensack store. And Robert has no problem with that—“If you think of us as a restaurant, Bruce is the face out front waiting on customers, and I’m in back, in the kitchen—where I want to be.”
32 SleepSavvy • May/June 2009
Generating WOM As every marketing guru advises, in tough times you survive by marketing to your existing customers. It’s a lesson not lost on the Wieners, whose greatest source of pride has always been their loyal following and the word-of-mouth it generates. “We have customers who buy all of their beds from us through the years, including their children’s first ‘big boy’ or ‘big girl’ beds, then when they grow up the kids come back to us when furnishing their first apartment,” Bruce says. “Just the other day I had a lady buy a $3,000 bed—over the phone,” Robert adds. “She’d never been in the store but had heard about us through a good friend.” One of the reasons they inspire so much trust, the Wieners say, is that they have always been a familyowned-and-run business. “When customers call the store, more than likely one of us picks up the phone. People know we are accessible and
accountable,” Bruce says. “The big guys push large numbers of customers through their stores very quickly through heavy advertising—they’re not desperate to please each customer,” Robert says. “We are just the opposite. We want to completely satisfy each customer, because it’s loyalty or word-ofmouth that got them in here and we want that to continue.” Equal footing Both stores show 40 mattress models and carry six brands: Simmons, Tempur-Pedic, Spring Air, Serta, Gold Bond and Dormia. “Because our salespeople are not commissioned, there is no incentive to sell one brand over another,” Bruce says. “So the different brands can compete against each other on equal footing out on the floor.” The Paramus store is 4,800 square feet. Hackensack is almost three times as big, with a sofa bed and juvenile furniture department. The www.sleepsavvymagazine.com
RETAIL ROAD TRIP the selling scene
Wisdom from their fathers
ydney and Bud Weiner, the retired founding fathers of Bruce the Bed King, passed a lot of business wisdom along to sons Bruce and Robert. Here are some samples: ● The main thing is to get customers to lie down—so show them how. Lie down on the bed yourself and get comfortable. ●T reat customers like friends and family—give them a fair deal, a good value and a good experience. ● “ The fish always stinks from the head (down)”—as an old saying goes—so treat those who work for you with respect and they’ll treat customers the same way. ●W hen someone who works for you offers what sounds like a crazy new idea for your business, don’t be too quick to pass judgment. Think about it for a while. Give every new idea a fair chance.
Wieners merchandise the floors together—Bruce is the style maven and Robert crunches the numbers. “We’ll cherry pick from our suppliers,” Robert says. “I like to use a wine shop analogy—we pick and choose among the ‘varietals,’ looking for great values that we, ourselves, like. We might carry the top of one line, the bottom of another and the middle of another. And being small, we can turn on a dime, removing bedding that’s not working and bringing in new products.” Queen price points open at $350 and top out at $3,600 in innerspring and $4,000 in memory foam. Prices on all floor models are clearly marked, and store signage informs shoppers that they are offered “the lowest price first” with “no haggling.” Most sales fall in the $650 to $1,000 range, but have hovered at the lower end of that range for the past year, which has been particularly “brutal,” the cousins acknowledge. Growing customer interest in specialty sleep has been a bright spot during these tough times, Bruce says. Memory foam leads the way, followed by latex and adjustable beds. The stores also do a brisk business in futons, daybeds and decorative www.sleepsavvymagazine.com
bed frames—all mattresses are displayed with frames. Like family Bruce takes the lead in sales at the Paramus location, assisted by two sales associates. Robert assists with sales in Hackensack as needed, but cedes the floor to the store’s 20-year veteran RSA, preferring his behindthe-scenes role in the business office. Robert handles hiring, putting the emphasis on personality and demeanor rather than prior mattress sales experience. In fact, he prefers to hire RSAs without mattress expe-
rience so they can be trained in his store’s selling approach. Training consists largely of shadowing the owners and experienced salespeople, as well as reading issues of Sleep Savvy and other training materials. The cousins say they treat all who work for them as family—and some of them actually are. The result is a small but loyal group of employees, all of whom have been on staff for five years or more. All new hires must be bilingual, Bruce says. Bergen County is a melting pot of recent immigrants from around the world—25% of the population is foreign-born and 32% speak a language other than English at home. “I’ve had people speaking every language in the Paramus store,” he says, “It really is the U.N. over here. But you do learn to read faces and gestures, and figure out how to communicate. I’ve gotten quite good at it.” Spelling it out Bucking a trend, Bruce the Bed King declines to offer the ubiquitous comfort guarantee and informs customers of that fact right up front. “We spell it all out for shoppers: ‘We don’t take our beds back, but here is how we are going to make
Bruce and “Bruce”
SleepSavvy • May/June 2009
RETAIL ROAD TRIP the selling scene
The Paramus store
34 SleepSavvy • May/June 2009
sure you buy the bed you need,’” Robert explains. “We also tell them how some stores make money off those guarantees and invite them to do the math.” The sales floor is Bruce’s “laboratory,” he says. “I’ve been doing this so long there isn’t anything about a mattress that I don’t know, but you’re always honing your approach when it comes to dealing with people.” When shoppers come in, he asks what comfort level they need, then has them lie down on a bed in the middle of that range. “People always say they need something ‘firm,’ but what they mean is ‘supportive,’ so by having them lie on a bed in the mid-range we can go from there.
RETAIL ROAD TRIP the selling scene
You also want to get an idea of what they can afford from the start, so you show them beds within their budget.” Once the shopper has chosen something comfortable, then “I explain how it’s built and how that will benefit them,” Bruce adds. This tried-and-true customer approach is a proven winner for the stores, Bruce says—unless it happens to be after 4:00 on Saturday. “Maybe it’s a New Jersey thing, but there’s a special time late on Saturday afternoon when you know you can’t approach customers who have just walked in,” he explains. “They’ll throw up their hands, palms out, as if to push you away because they’ve been out mattress shopping all day and are feeling
pushed around themselves. They’re confused, tired and frustrated. So you just stand by, stay tuned to their vibe, listen—if they’ll talk—and ‘let the game come to you.’” Delivery fan mail Bruce the Bed King’s delivery— free with purchases over $400 and including pickup of old bedding—is handled through an outside company the Wieners have contracted with for the past 10 years. It often gets rave reviews from customers, who mention the excellent service in thank-you notes and emails to the store. Many of the notes —addressed to “Bruce the Bed King,” of course—are posted on bulletin boards in both stores. When customers opt to pick up
their own bedding at the warehouse in Hackensack, store personnel tie the sets securely to customers’ cars using the technique “Uncle Mal Gold—who worked as a salesman for the family for 40 years—taught me,” Robert says. “And I’ve passed it on to every warehouse person ever since.” On the back end, running a tight ship in the warehouse is important to remaining profitable, Robert notes. The cousins depend on warehouse manager Batron Johnson, a 10-year company veteran, to manage inventory and logistics and keep things running smoothly. “He’s like a drill sergeant—he doesn’t let things sit there when they shouldn’t,” Robert says.“And that’s just what we need.” ●
SleepSavvy • May/June 2009
CLOSING WORDS by Gerry Morris
The high cost of low price
’ve been saying this for more than 20 years: The mindset of the average consumer when shopping for any utilitarian item is to seek value. Consequently, the mattress industry has largely responded by trying to demonstrate value. With little differentiation between products—from the consumer’s perspective—the result has been a heightened emphasis on price. Unfortunately, when the economy is in decline, the importance of price is further exaggerated on both sides of the equation. Retailers tend to retreat and manufacturers respond by introducing lower-priced models and lines. It all seems so logical—after all, money is tight. Why wouldn’t you respond in that manner? But there is a cost to this logic: Everyone loses. On the supply side, the cost is measured in terms of dollars. But it’s on the demand side—our customers— where the real damage is done. The negative effects are manifested in more ways than you can measure. It’s no secret that advertising low prices works. I’m not saying we have to discontinue the practice, but there is another approach we can add—a more profitable one that I believe will work even better. Getting our message out As people reprioritize their spending, we have an opportunity to sell better products because we have a great message. There are few, if any, other big-ticket consumer products that have such a long-term impact on quality of life as a mattress. Stepping
36 SleepSavvy • May/July 2009
up even a few levels from an inexpensive mattress would almost certainly help your customer get extra minutes of restorative deep sleep each night. In the same way that a daily vitamin, a walk, an extra glass of water and a healthy meal have incremental benefits over time, the long-term benefits of sleeping on a quality mattress can have dramatic results. But even more importantly, the positive effects are felt each and every day. If we could go back in time and monitor a person’s quality of life when sleeping on an inexpensive mattress over several years, then redo the same time period on a better quality bed, the difference would surely be measurable in almost every category— health, appearance, happiness, productivity, relationships and more. Making the mattress connection With the plethora of articles and news reports confirming the importance of sleep, consumers are becoming more aware of the benefits. Now it’s up to us to connect
the dots to a quality mattress. It’s there for the taking for those brave enough to take the initiative. It’s a message that can be told through advertising and again by the retail sales associate, one on one. I believe it’s our responsibility to sell mattresses with the motive of helping people sleep better. As I’ve said for years, it is entirely possible for an individual to spend his or her entire life having never gotten a truly good night’s sleep. What a shame. I can’t imagine that any individual would reflect upon his or her life and think: “If I had to do it all over again, I would have slept on a less comfortable mattress.” Let’s help our customers get through these tough times by helping them understand the importance of getting good sleep and encouraging them to choose better quality mattresses. Remember:
“The bitter taste of poor quality lingers far longer than the sweet taste of low price.” — John David Stanhope Gerry Morris is director of training and development for SleepTrust. As a bedding sales rep for more than 20 years, Gerry has shared his insight with thousands of bedding sales professionals. He is also the author of Spring Training: A Supplementary Guide to Mattress Sales and Sell More Bedding…Guaranteed. Contact Gerry at Gerry.Morris@SleepTrust.com or by cell phone at 903-456-2015. www.sleepsavvymagazine.com
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