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November/December 2009

The cover story

The close is just the beginning RETAIL ROAD TRIP

Retired Boeing exec turns entreprenuer at Blackberry Creek BE MY GUEST

‘Retail Doctor’ prescribes connecting with every customer CONSUMER CHECK

Don’t overlook the growing purchasing power of Gen Xers


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IN THIS ISSUE where to find it

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THE COVER STORY

the close is just the beginning The most successful retailers and sales associates know that closing the sale isn’t the end of the customer relationship—it’s just the beginning. When they treat their customers with respect, do what it takes to resolve any problems, get referrals and stay in touch, the results are repeat business and good word-of-mouth.

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WAKE UP CALL

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SNOOZE NEWS

from the editor’s desk

Analysts are predicting that consumer priorities and spending have been forever altered by this recession—meet Ms. Frugalista!

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CONSUMER CHECK

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CLOSING WORDS

stuff you can use ISPA Forecast calls for 7% sales increase next year; ‘cash for clunkers’ gets traction for furniture; Jerry Epperson’s list of things you can do to get ready for recovery; Steve King says it’s all in the attitude; a government takeover of mattresses?; new FTC guidelines say payments for endorsements must be disclosed; affluents’ mattress buys jump in the 3rd quarter; Sleep Shorts...and more.

profiling your customer

Gen Xers may not be the biggest demographic in the market, but don’t overlook their purchasing power as they move into their peak earning years.

by Gerry Morris

If your sole focus is on selling, you won’t get the results you’re looking for.

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RETAIL ROAD TRIP

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BE MY GUEST by Bob Phibbs

Timely advice about connecting with each of your customers, from “The Retail Doctor.”

www.sleepsavvymagazine.com

the selling scene Making a success of Blackberry Creek Mattress turned out to be just the ticket for retired Boeing executive Dick James.

SleepSavvy • November/December 2009

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SleepSavvy The magazine for sleep products professionals

Editor in Chief Nancy Butler 828-299-7420 nbutler@sleepproducts.org Senior Writer Barbara Nelles 336-856-8973 bnelles@sleepproducts.org Contributors William Carlson Jerry Epperson Steven King Gerry Morris Bob Phibbs Art Direction Stephanie Belcher The Jimmydog Design Group stephanie@jimmydog.com Vice President of Sales Kerri Bellias 336-945-0265 kbellias@sleepproducts.org Advertising Services Manager Debbie Robbins 336-342-4217 drobbins@sleepproducts.org Circulation Manager Mary Rulli 336-491-0443 mrulli@sleepproducts.org Copy Editor Margaret Talley-Seijn Vol. 8, No. 8 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: 126 Parkview Lane, Reidsville, NC 27320. 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. Non-members 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.

www.sleepsavvymagazine.com

WAKE UP CALL from the editor

Retailers, meet Ms. Frugalista!

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ou’ve probably heard the term “fashionista,” which has been around since the late ’90s. But a year ago, after the economy took a nosedive, a variation appeared on the New Oxford American Dictionary’s short list of words of the year: Frugalista—“A person who lives a frugal lifestyle but stays fashionable and healthy by swapping clothes, buying secondhand, growing own produce, etc.” This, according to too many analysts to mention (and too many to ignore), is the consumer you’d better get to know really well, because even when the recession abates, she’s likely to stick around and probably stay in charge of the shopping. The indulgent, credit-fed consumer may be gone forever, replaced by a credit-crunched one that is decidedly more inclined to forgo making purchases in favor of making do. Did I hear some groans out there? Hang on. The news may not be all bad for those of us making a living in the home furnishings business. The recession-battered consumer is also adopting a revised lifestyle: Frugal Cocooning—a new version of the home-centric, “cocooning” trend first identified by futurist Faith Popcorn in the 1980s. People who no longer feel they should be spending money on costly travel, the latest fashions or a steady diet of dining out are spending more time at home—Popcorn’s BrainReserve consultancy says key trends include “eating in” and “hunkering down.” People found out how quickly the money they thought they had a tight grasp on can disappear. Now, they are putting their savings in safer places and looking for

home-centered investments that will last longer than last summer’s trip to Hawaii. Are you one of these people? Yeah, me too. And you know the only things I’ve spent any significant sums of money on this year? Home improvements and furniture. Not a guarantee A renewed focus on the home is no guarantee that home furnishings will go to the front of the line among Ms. Frugalista’s post-recession spending priorities, but it does represent an opportunity for those retailers—and their manufacturer partners—who can present a compelling case. I’m convinced that mattresses offer perhaps the best opportunity of any category. Why? Because, as part of our refocus on the home and a simplified lifestyle, consumers are placing more value than ever on the basics like good health, sound sleep, comfort and security—all of which can be directly associated with investing in new, high-quality mattresses for yourself and your family. You’ll still have to offer the best values in mattresses that you’ve ever offered and be aggressive in promoting them. But to really win over Ms. Frugalista, convince her that your best values are vital investments in her new life, where home, health, comfort and security are at the top of the list.

nbutler@sleepproducts.org SleepSavvy • November/December 2009

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SNOOZE NEWS stuff you can use

ISPA Forecast

Mattress sales to rise 7% next year

As the economic recovery takes hold in coming months, the International Sleep Products Association (ISPA) is forecasting the dollar value of mattress shipments to grow 7% during 2010 and 10% in 2011. The consensus of the ISPA Forecast Panel, which met in October, is that the industry hit bottom over the summer and has begun climbing out, although slowly. A projected total for mattress shipments of $5.4 billion (wholesale) this year is 13.5% lower than 2008. A projected 10.5% skid in unit shipments during 2009 represents the fourth consecutive annual drop, but unit sales are expected to show a gradual improvement for the final months of the year and post a 3.5% gain for 2010. Unit shipments are forecast to reach a level of 35.2 million in 2011, a solid improvement of 6% over 2010.

Every sale has five basic obstacles: No need, no money, no hurry, no desire,

no trust. — Zig Zigler

Singing on mattresses with ‘Glee’

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he kids on Fox’s popular new TV show Glee will be singing on top of mattresses in an episode airing December 2 (episode 12). Titled “Once, Upon a Mattress”—a variation on the Broadway musical title—the action takes place in a mattress store, but not a real one. Episode 13 may be of interest to furniture retailers, too. It’s called “Sectionals.”

www.sleepsavvymagazine.com

SleepSavvy • November/December 2009

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SNOOZE NEWS

stuff you can use Steven King’s

Don’t let it get you down

PUNCH LINE

How’s your attitude? “Oh, my friend, it’s not what they take away from you that counts. It’s what you do with what you have left.” ~Hubert Humphrey Most people would agree that the way we react to a situation determines whether or not it’s good or bad. One person’s “fantastic opportunity” is another’s “terrible letdown.” It’s all a matter of attitude. What do your body language and your words say about your attitude? Are you even aware of their importance? We touch many people every day. Fearfulness and negativity feel wrong and repel people. You are always at your best when your attitude is positive. Your peers, customers, managers, friends and neighbors are attracted to people with a positive attitude.  Best of all, you have complete control over your attitude. 

We’re all riding the economic rollercoaster. Now more than ever, a positive attitude is what will get you through the dips. Most of us have taken a financial hit, and we may not be in the best of moods. We feel that we must close every customer that crosses our threshold. Bills must be paid, we need to eat—and we don’t know when we’ll see another customer. Sadly, all of this pressure has negatively adjusted some attitudes. But don’t let that happen to you. Find a reason to be positive every day. Say hello to strangers on the street, at the gas station, in the supermarket or at the doctor’s office. Greet your customers with a warm handshake and a cheerful “Welcome! I am so glad you are here” followed by “I will earn your business today.” Smile! So how do we change things? It starts with you and me and how we perceive things. It starts—and ends—with a positive attitude. 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 moneyinthemattress@hotmail.com; order his book at www.moneyinthemattress.com.

A government takeover of mattresses?!

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irst the banks, now mattresses?! A recent story posted on The Spoof, a satirical website (www.thespoof.com) that pokes fun at current events, begins this way: “In a shocking move, President Barack Obama ordered Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) to move in and take control of the nation’s faltering mattress manufacturing industry. Millions of taxpayers, at least those still working, had come to rely on their mattresses as the last safe haven for their life savings after bank accounts, 401ks, and stocks and bonds plunged and banks failed as Obamanomics continued its assault on Free Enterprise and the Capitalistic System.” Datelined “Soft Springs, Iowa,”

6 SleepSavvy • November/December 2009

the story continues: “Manny Levine, CEO and founder of Snooze Inc., the nation’s largest mattress manufacturing company, said the move was ‘nothing more than a power play by the current administration to get in bed with our customers and control how they handle their money!’ White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the move was an emergency measure to combat ‘hoarding’ on behalf of American taxpayers, ‘who are not

doing their part to bring back the sagging economy!’ Gibbs said people, as well as corporations, were holding on to a large portion of recent stimulus checks and not putting the handouts back into the economy.” It’s true that the mattress industry would like the government to encourage mattress purchases— the International Sleep Products Association is lobbying for passage of the HIRE Act (H.R. 3382), a bill that would provide tax breaks to consumers and retailers to boost sales of mattresses, furniture and home improvement products. But a takeover of the entire industry to force consumers to pull their money out of their mattresses? Whatever your politics, we’re sure you’ll agree that this idea should stay a spoof! www.sleepsavvymagazine.com


SNOOZE NEWS

stuff you can use

Recession? We don’t want to hear about it

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recent AdweekMedia/Harris Poll finds little enthusiasm for ads that mention the lousy economy. Here’s the way consumers described their reaction to advertising that refers to the recession: ● 27% said they “make the brand seem manipulative.” ● 23% picked “make the brand seem more realistic.” ● 12% said these ads are depressing and, as a result, they are “less likely to buy the brand.” ● 39% offered no opinion, suggesting widespread indifference to this advertising approach. Women were more likely to find recession-based ads “realistic” (27%) than “manipulative” (25%). The pattern was reversed among men, with 29% judging these ads manipulative and 18% regarding them as realistic.

Quotable “Even when the economy bounces back, retailers trying to recapture their business… will most likely have to rethink their strategies, marketing more functional, less extravagant products with an increased emphasis on greater purpose and back-to-basics.” —New York Times Magazine

(“Consumed With Guilt,” Aug. 16)

www.sleepsavvymagazine.com

Cash for clunkers gets traction for furniture

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amily-owned home furnishings store Ruby & Quiri in Johnstown, NY, caught the attention of the venerable New York Times with its version of the federal government’s cash-for-clunkers program. Customers can get a $25 gift card for every old mattress or piece of used furniture they turn in or $50 for upgrading an appliance to an Energy Star model. The clunker is picked up when the new item is delivered and either donated or torn down for recycling, depending on its condition. In its September 23 story, The Times noted that the trend had caught on at an array of home furnishing retailers and manufacturers. In Phoenix, Pacific Manufacturing’s interior designer clients earn 10% off the purchase of any new furniture item or mattress, and if the clunker goes to a charity, a tax-deduction receipt. At Lillian August in Connecticut, Cash for Couches recently offered customers 10% trade-in discounts and donated used furniture to Habitat for Humanity. Walter E. Smithe furniture stores in the Chicago area staged a cash-for-clunkers program for two weeks this summer, offering customers credits of $100 to $500. The result was a 10% sales increase over the same period last year. Retailers said that one of the factors in the success of the programs is the “relief it provides consumers from a vexing emotion: the guilt of conspicuous consumption,” The Times said. Another appeal is that it helps consumers avoid the burden of getting rid of the old furniture—and if it serves a good cause, so much the better. Ruby & Quiri store manager Chris Park said that more and more customers now ask how their old furniture and appliances will be disposed of, which he attributes to an increased awareness of energy issues and support of recycling. In just the first six weeks of the cash-for-clunkers program, Ruby & Quiri had gotten more than 150 trade-ins, resulting in a 30% increase in sales.

SleepSavvy • November/December 2009

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SNOOZE NEWS

stuff you can use Sleep loss can give you a cold

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Sleep Shorts

etting a good night’s sleep every night may be a much better hedge against a winter cold than stocking up on vitamin C and echinacea, confirms a recent study for The Archives of Internal Medicine. Scientists followed 153 men and women for two weeks, keeping track of their quality and duration of sleep. Then they quarantined the subjects and exposed them to cold viruses. Those who slept an average of fewer than seven hours a night were three times as likely to get sick as those who averaged at least eight hours.

Sleep may reduce false memories

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ver lost a sale because you forgot something or remembered a customer encounter incorrectly? It could be a sign that you need more sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep can help to reduce false

8 SleepSavvy • November/December 2009

memories and increase the accuracy of episodic memory, according to a study in the journal Learning and

Memory. Researchers at the University of Chicago and Michigan State University looked at three experiments that tested subjects’ memories of words they’d studied. They found that sleep reduced false recognition of words that weren’t studied while there was no loss in the subjects’ memory of words that were studied. Past research has found that memory is consolidated during sleep, but these experiments are the first to show sleep may be able to reduce false memories, according to the study abstract.

A link to Alzheimer’s

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ack of sleep may be a cause of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study in the journal Science. Researchers at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis studied amyloid beta levels in mice genetically engineered to have a disease similar to Alzheimer’s. As it accumulates, the amyloid beta protein creates plaques in the brain. The researchers found that amyloid beta levels increased when the mice were awake and decreased when they were asleep.

FTC guidelines

Payment for endorsements, reviews must be disclosed

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s your company paying bloggers or other social media to endorse your store, its products or services? Starting December 1, you’ll have to disclose that compensation under revised Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines for the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising. The revised guidelines require bloggers and others that endorse products or services to disclose any payments or other compensation—including free products— that they receive for their opinions. The requirement also applies to comments on talk shows, views expressed on social media and endorsements in traditional advertisements. The revisions are intended to help consumers make a distinction between paid and unpaid customer reviews, testimonials and endorsements. Payment for research also needs to be disclosed, so if your company makes a claim of superiority based on a study, not only do you need to disclose the basis for the claim, but you must also disclose any financial support you provided. The FTC warns that advertisers and endorsers that fail to make these disclosures or that make false, misleading or unsubstantiated claims, could be subject to fines of up to $11,000 per violation. You can find a copy of the guidelines at www.ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005endorse mentguidesfnnotice.pdf. www.sleepsavvymagazine.com


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SNOOZE NEWS

stuff you can use

Jerry Epperson

Things you can do to get ready for RECOVERY!

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n his Furnishings Digest Newsletter for October, industry analyst Jerry Epperson—an eternal optimist who’s always looking for the opportunities in any crisis—offered a list of things retailers can do to get ready for the coming business recovery. Here are Jerry’s ideas: Offer new products. Replace and upgrade one-third of the retail floor mix. Move around and dust/wax/replace the remainder of old floor samples. Look new and different! Look at your store and your signage. Replace, paint, refurbish. Appear to be ready for business! Consumers look at ads and consider promotions for weeks or months before they actually shop. Make your presence known now. Explore new media opportunities (email, Twitter, Facebook, etc.). Involve your staff in preparing for the recovery. Offer new

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Dialing for sleep on your iPhone

10 SleepSavvy • November/December 2009

incentives and spiffs. Use updated educational programs for the new merchandise. Encourage enthusiasm. Renew old contacts and leads while seeking new ones. Connect with realtors, designers, homebuilders, kitchen and bath remodelers, bankers, mortgage brokers, electronics retailers, etc. Think and evolve. ● Aggressively buy for your in-store clearance center. ● Turn the catalog counter into a “Seek and We Shall Find” department to help meet customers’ needs. ● Offer both credit and rental options. ● Take trade-ins. ● Start a “gift” area with accessories. ● Make the youth area kidfriendly. ● Offer decorating seminars and in-home decorating suggestions and services. ● Offer your off-duty vehicles to help community organizations (with your drivers, of course). ● Host health seminars on the benefits of better mattresses,

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massage chairs, etc. Have a legitimate reason for a sale, e.g., replacing lines, seasonal changes, store refurbishing, etc. ● Offer to “adopt” customers from failed competitors. ● Host special events for members of local community banks, credit unions, service organizations, etc., to increase your visibility. Confirm that your store’s product mix coordinates perfectly with your neighborhood demographics and your advertising mix. For example, do not advertise beanbag chairs in nursing home publications. Rename your store and change your product mix accordingly, if necessary. This is the right time to do it. Begin to return to a more “normal” pricing mix. Consumers will not seek $188 sofas forever! ●

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Thanks, Jerry. We needed that. For more information about Jerry and his firm, Mann, Armistead & Epperson, go to www.maeltd.com.

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eave it to two young computer geeks to develop an iPhone application for sleep. University of Wisconsin Madison students Daniel Gartenberg and Justin Beck met at an innovation competition and decided to integrate their skills in computer science and scientific research to create new technology to help iPhone and iPod-touch users improve their sleep. The Proactive Sleep App lets users track sleep patterns with a sleep diary and set a wake-up alarm to any song in their iTunes library. The app automatically calculates how much the user is sleeping based on alarm settings. It also features an eye-opening game to help users wake up and comes loaded with information about sleep, sleep problems and behavioral solutions. If you’ve got an iPhone or iPod-touch, just type in “Proactive Sleep” for more information.

www.sleepsavvymagazine.com


Visit Naturaworld.com on:


SNOOZE NEWS

stuff you can use

Too many choices may not be a good thing

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ore choices mean happier customers and increased sales, right? Wrong. In fact, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times, research shows that having too many choices can leave people tired, mentally drained and less happy with their purchases. It also leads people to make poor or default choices— or no choice at all. Consumers may think that more options mean they’re more likely to find the perfect product. But studies show that as the complexity of choices increases, people start looking for ways to simplify the process, which can lead to a bad decision. If there are 50 kinds of cereal, for example, instead of comparing all of the characteristics, shoppers will simply pick one based on something familiar, such as brand name, or something easy, such as low price. If overwhelmed by too many choices, they may opt out and leave the store without buying anything. But even when the choice they’ve made is a good one, consumers tend to be less satisfied because, with so many choices, they’re sure that somewhere there was something better. Sleep Savvy sees two essential lessons for mattress retailers. First, don’t assume that more choice is always better—no need to worry about going a little leaner in your merchandising during tough times. And second, make sure your store has RSAs that are well trained to assist customers in making the right choice.

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Affluents return to bed buying in 3rd quarter

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nity Marketing’s latest quarterly survey of affluent consumers shows a significant release of pent-up demand for luxury goods, including highend mattresses, in the third quarter of this year. In fact, according to Unity CEO Pam Danziger, affluent shoppers’ purchases of mattresses were the highest in two years, which bodes well for renewed sales among those making over $100,000 a year. Unity survey participants, 1,000 consumers who are prequalified to represent the top 20% of earnings, were asked whether they made any luxury

or high-end purchases within a list of specific categories. Among the 20% who reported purchasing luxury linens and bedding accessories, 35% also bought a luxury or high-end mattress or sleep system. Purchase incidence hit its low point of 10% in the third quarter of last year, the point at which the recession among luxury consumers bottomed out, according to Danziger. For more information about the Unity Marketing survey, visit www.unitymarketingonline.com/ cms_luxury/luxury/luxury3/ Luxury_3Q2009_TRAVEL.php.

Purchase incidence of luxury mattresses & box springs/bedding systems Percentage of all luxury linen & bedding buyers in study period

40% 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 0%

1Q08

2Q08

3Q08

4Q08

1Q09

2Q09

3Q09

Just for laughs

www.sleepsavvymagazine.com


The cover story

The close is just By William Carlson

A

car pulls up and a customer gets out. “OK, here we go. I finally got an up! But wait, she’s carrying something with her. Oh man, it’s an invoice. She’s not here to buy—she’s here to complain.” Is this how you react when the inevitable problem walks into your store? Instead of dreading the experience, you should look forward to it. By being there for your customers after the sale is closed, you can—and should—make them your customers for life. It may sound odd, but fixing a customer’s problem is probably more important to your business than selling her a mattress. If a company

14 SleepSavvy • November/December 2009

earns a reputation for not caring about their customers’ problems and concerns, it can spread like poison ivy. On the flip side, I find that the most loyal customers I have are the ones who have had problems that we’ve fixed. You couldn’t pay most of these people to shop anywhere else. People love to talk (and blog and tweet), especially about negative experiences. And you can be sure they’re talking about their experiences with you and your store to their friends and family. Face it, if you sell enough beds, there are going to be issues. The more you sell, the more chances for problems. It’s part of the business. So, in a www.sleepsavvymagazine.com


t the beginning

way, the more customer issues you have, the better your business is doing. And the more opportunities you have. Be the ‘lucky’ RSA Are there one or two RSAs in your store who always seem to have good numbers, regardless of how dead it’s been this month? Other associates may complain that these one or two always seem to need special treatment for their customers. These are the RSAs who always seem to luck into seeing previous customers who turn into new purchases. Luck has nothing to do with it. These RSAs www.sleepsavvymagazine.com

cultivate their future business by doing the right thing with each and every customer they help. Think about how nice it is when you greet customers and they say, “We bought our last bed here.” Whenever that happens to me, I feel proud. I assume that I will close the deal, and I almost always do. But what brought them back into the store? They must have felt that they got good service the first time around. That’s usually all it takes. And if service is what they want in this still shaky economy, why wouldn’t you bend over backward to make sure they get it? If they don’t, you can be sure that the word will get around. SleepSavvy • November/December 2009

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THE COVER STORY

The close is just the beginning

Bad news travels fast There’s an old truism that says if a customer is happy, she may tell a couple of people about it, but if she is unhappy, she will tell at least 10 people about it. From what I’ve read, there’s lot of consumer research that confirms this behavior. I Googled “mattress complaints” and got 943,000 hits. I typed in “mattress store problems” and got another 493,000 hits. And these are just the people who were inclined to write about their experiences. Imagine how many more unsatisfied customers just gave up and swore off that particular business—and then told their family and friends about it. Just my two Google searches suggested that there are well over a million people in this country right now who are not satisfied with their mattress experiences. Lots of potential customers-forlife have become jaded by the mattress-buying process. And all of this negativity gives the industry in general—and each of us—a black eye. It makes potential customers think the entire industry is a pain to deal with.

16 SleepSavvy •

November/December 2009

With the speed of information today and the free platform of the Internet, consumers’ ability to complain about you and your business has never been easier or more effective. Just fix it Many of the Google entries I read ended with some variation of “I will never shop there again.” Almost all of them had to do with either receiving the wrong bed or receiving partial or damaged orders. The result didn’t seem to be anger at the problem itself, but rather anger at the lack of followthrough by the stores. Many customers documented the numerous calls they made to the stores, who they talked to and what they were promised. Their anger comes from promises not being fulfilled. Time after time, it’s the same thing: Someone’s not doing a good job of making things right. I sometimes wonder if some retailers are actually training their people to make the situation confusing in the hope that the irritated customers will just go away. Or maybe it’s that there’s little or no training.

“I think some retailers are banking on short-term memory from their customers,” says Russ Truog, a mattress sales rep out of Florida with 21 years in the business, including 17 on the retail side. “They think they will lure customers back by offering big sales in the future. And there may be customers who are willing to forget if they can save a few dollars the next time. But in the long run, it will hurt repeat business—it will be a slow demise.” Truog echoes the experiences of many of the Internet complainers when he says that most of the problems are small and easy to fix. “The biggest problem I see with RSAs is they don’t call back and follow up,” he says. “They hope it goes away. Then the customer calls back two or three times, and a little problem becomes a big problem.” Truog points out that “Some associates also take it personally and get confrontational. That fuels the fire and compounds the problem. If you take it personally, it’ll ruin your day and affect your sales.” Pay the money One of the biggest obstacles to great service after the close is that many times it will cost you money. We all love to make money during the sale, but giving it back can be brutal. You’ve done your job, developed a relationship with the customer, educated her, recommended the right product, ordered it and delivered it. And now there is a problem. It may mean replacing a defective piece—simple, from the customer’s point of view. But someone has to put out the money to buy the replacement piece, and it can take a while to get reimbursed by the manufacturer. Customers don’t think they should have to www.sleepsavvymagazine.com


THE COVER STORY

The close is just the beginning pay to have a piece re-delivered, but delivery personnel have to be paid. It all adds up. It may not always be easy or cheap to fix your customers’ problems. Sometimes doing the right thing costs money, and that’s just the way it is. But, in most cases, you will be paid back many times over. A smart businessperson has to weigh the positives of doing the right thing—and becoming the

go-to store in your area—against doing the wrong thing—and becoming the store that people seem to avoid. Have a conversation One company that has built a reputation on customer service is Rooms To Go, the nation’s third largest furniture retailer, with over 115 showrooms. Founded in 1992 and still family-owned, the com-

pany is quite a success story. RTG has several policies in place to ensure that their customers do not become vitriolic bloggers filling the Internet with their bad experiences. One is that every customer gets a phone call from someone at the company on the day of delivery. It’s a courtesy call to make sure everything arrived OK and the customer is satisfied with their purchase.

After ‘I’ll take it’

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etail superstars know that closing the mattress sale is just the first step in a series of selling opportunities. Here are some of the proactive steps you should be taking after “I’ll take it” to maximize the sale and to make sure that customer—and her family and friends—comes back to you for her next purchase.

1

Enhance the sale. If enhancements or add-on options haven’t been incorporated into the mattress presentation, don’t forget to suggest the accessory items—frame, pillows, protective pad, sheet sets—that may meet their needs and save them the inconvenience of shopping elsewhere.

2

5

3

6

4

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Reinforce the decision. A decision to buy a bigticket item is often followed by doubt, especially these days. Your customer may begin to tell herself that she shouldn’t be buying it now or should shop around a little more. It’s up to you to put her at ease. Compliment her decision—congratulate her on making the right choice for her sleeping comfort, health and well-being. This is easy to do if you’ve done your best to identify and meet your customer’s needs. Smile and stay focused. Your job doesn’t end with a smile and a thank-you. Stay focused on the customer throughout her visit until she has left the store. If you’re writing up the order, don’t let other employees and customers distract you. Walk her to the door, wish her a great day and invite her back. Keep her information. Is your store collecting all of the information you’ll need to follow up with each customer? Be sure to add email address to the list of basics. Then establish a way to keep a personal file of your customers’ information—it can be anything from an index card system to a simple database file—so you can keep them as your customers.

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Call after the delivery. Post-delivery follow-up is a must if you want happy customers. A quick personal courtesy call to check their satisfaction: “Was everything as you had expected?” A chance for the customer to make suggestions: “Is there anything we could do better?” This manages customer expectations so they feel they are genuinely being looked after and flushes out problems so you can take care of them early. Send a personal note. A few weeks after delivery (once they’ve adjusted to that new sleep surface), send the customer a personal note of thanks and a wish for many nights of blissful, healthful sleep on their new bed. Be sure to invite them to recommend you to family and friends. A handwritten note is a nice touch that leaves the customer feeling valued and special. Stay in touch. It may be years before that customer is ready for a new mattress, but when she is, you want to be the name that comes to mind. And you want to be the one on the tip of her tongue when others ask for her advice on where to shop—which could happen anytime. So make sure she hears from you at least once a year. A preferred customer discount could be your ticket to a new sale.

SleepSavvy • November/December 2009

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THE COVER STORY

The close is just the beginning This is a pretty basic, common-sense policy, and it’s one that many customers no doubt appreciate. It’s also one that many retailers no doubt skip. The key is to find out why the customer may be unhappy. “A conversation has to take place,” says Rooms To Go CEO and co-founder Jeff Seaman. “It saves time and money if we can find out what the problem is. And if it is in our power to solve the problem, as long as the customer is being reasonable, we’ll solve it.” “If you’re going to be in business, you have to take care of your customers,” he says. “Your customers are either advocates or detractors. You want to have advocates out there. It starts with a philosophy of trying to make the customer happy and fixing their problems.” Seaman says that 95% of the time, RTG is able to solve the problem without returning the customer’s money. “It’s cheaper to do it right,” he says. Not all retailers take the same approach to customer service that RTG does. And some just can’t figure out how to get it done on a consistent basis. “We try to figure out ways that we have dropped the ball in the past and then figure out ways to have filters in place to avoid them in the future,” says Seaman, noting that the back-office people, the delivery and warehouse personnel all play a big part in RTG’s overall strategy for customer satisfaction. Get the testimonial One way to take advantage of your company’s good customer service

18 SleepSavvy • November/December 2009

a thirteenth month of business. Not bad.

is to request testimonials. In my company, we’ve sent out surveys with home deliveries asking about customers’ overall experience in the store, how many other stores they visited before they purchased with us, how the RSA treated them, etc. Of course, this can open the door for complaints as easily as it can for compliments, but if you’re confident about your business and your skills, it’s an excellent way to use your current customers to help you get more business. I’m always surprised at how prominent comments about the delivery crew are. People really seem to appreciate the simple act of being on time, being polite and, literally, delivering what you promise. We’ve used testimonials in phone book ads, on fliers, on our website and on radio and TV. They’re an effective and inexpensive way to use your customers as advocates. And it’s the customers with problems that we’ve fixed who are the first in line to brag about us and recommend us to others. If all of your current customers—the people who should be out there working for you—brought in a total of 10% more business in a year, it would be like doing

Go for the referral “I believe in selling beyond the one consumer in front of you,” says Steve Milesic, a partner in the multi-unit Mattress X-Press operation in South Florida. Years ago, Milesic worked with the Mattress Discounters chain, watching it grow from 35 stores to 235 before leaving to start his own company. In his 10 years with Mattress Discounters, he did every job from warehouse and delivery all the way to top management. “I always ask for referrals,” says this 23-year mattress industry veteran. “I give them three business cards and ask them to tell their friends, family or church members. If someone they know is in the market, they may be doing them a favor. “I ask them to come back to me if they ever need anything in furniture or bedding—I’ll help them out. It’s a way to generate sales beyond the customer who was sold.” “Word-of-mouth advertising is a tangible asset—you can’t imagine the power in that,” Milesic says. “And people will be more inclined to use it for you if prodded.” Preventative maintenance Milesic believes that “preventative maintenance” is another important method for keeping customers happy after the sale. These are steps that make sure customers leave confident and satisfied, and help lessen the possibility they’ll invent problems that aren’t really there. Preventative maintenance involves knowing your products www.sleepsavvymagazine.com


THE COVER STORY

The close is just the beginning well enough to make an intelligent recommendation to your customer. It involves making a recommendation that is driven by your customer’s needs and wants, not by how much spiff money there may be on a particular model. And it involves being realistic with customers about how their new bed will perform. Milesic’s RSAs are trained to inform the customer at the time of the close about the importance of having proper support under the bed, that rotating the mattress and using a mattress cover are good ideas (also good for selling mattress covers), and that some body impressions are going to occur— that they are a normal byproduct of breaking in a new bed. Milesic also recommends the use

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of follow-up phone calls. “Most people who are not satisfied will not call and tell you. People come in all the time and say they never liked their current bed,” he says. “We build our whole business on explaining how we can prevent that from happening to them when they buy from us.”

Get it right every time If you treat every customer right— every time—you can use the customers you’ve already sold to help you grow your business. Good service and good oldfashioned decency mean repeat sales, referrals, testimonials and good wordof-mouth. Of course—as you can quickly find on the Internet—it can go the other way, too. It’s your choice. ● William “Bill” Carlson is a nine-year veteran in the retail mattress business and a freelance writer. Previously, he was co-owner of a chain of five mattress stores in Florida and currently owns a single sleep shop in that state. You can contact Bill by email at mattressmark@gmail.com.

SleepSavvy • November/December 2009

19


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RETAIL ROAD TRIP the selling scene

Blackberry Creek Mattress Retired Boeing exec turns entrepreneur to help people sleep By Nancy Butler Photography by Liz Crabtree and Jason DeWitt

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Blackberry Creek owner Dick James

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t the height of his career, Dick James was in charge of the European operations of a company with worldwide sales of more than $60 billion. Now, you’ll find him greeting customers, answering the phone, lifting mattresses onto pickup trucks or unloading frames at Blackberry Creek Mattress Outlet near the mountain city of Boone, NC. And loving every minute of it. When Dick retired as president of Boeing Europe in 2002, he and wife Darcey settled in near Seattle, then moved to North Carolina in 2006, returning to Dick’s roots. Born in Goldsboro, he left home at 16, worked his way through High Point University, where he graduated magna cum laude, and spent 23 years with Piedmont Airlines in WinstonSalem. Before being named to head Boeing Europe in 1998, he was vice president of commercial business development and responsible for some $25 billion in sales for the aviation giant. On the Blackberry Creek website, the “About Us” section makes no mention of Dick’s impressive background. It simply says: “Our owner, Dick James, combines Christian business ethics with a very low overhead, bringing you the best possible mattress buying experience in the industry.” SleepSavvy • Ncovember/December 2009

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RETAIL ROAD TRIP the selling scene

It’s clear that Dick James has found an important new sense of satisfaction in life. As a mattress retail entrepreneur, he says he gets greater personal reward from selling people a good night’s sleep than he ever did selling $25 billion worth of airplanes. “I’ve been a marketer all my life. But I’m an entrepreneur at heart—I just didn’t know that until I was 60,” says Dick. “I really needed to run my own shop.” The right fit It took Dick a couple of years of retirement to admit that it wasn’t for him, so he started looking around for an enterprise he could sink his teeth into. “When I decided to go into business, I knew I wanted to improve the quality of people’s lives,” he says. After considering a number of options, he looked at a four-yearold sleep shop owned by a woman who had built a great reputation in the area and knew he’d found the right fit. He also knew that, “I wanted to be No. 1. I know what it means to be No. 1.” That was a pretty ambitious goal, considering that three years ago, Blackberry Creek Mattress was housed in 800 square feet of storefront with eight beds on display. Since then, Dick has moved the store twice, first into a 2,100square-foot rental space, and last

22 SleepSavvy • Ncovember/December 2009

summer, into a new 6,000-squarefoot, stand-alone store that he built and owns. And now, he says, his store is No. 1 in the area. One of the reasons is great value. “I’ve always been below my competition in price and keep my margins tight,” he says. “I believe that you never give the competition an opportunity. So almost everything is on sale all of the time.” As a fledgling independent, he saw the wisdom of joining a furniture retail cooperative, Mega Group, which gives smaller retailers bigger buying power with mattress and accessories vendors. Currently, he carries lines from Simmons, Serta, Spring Air, Tempur-Pedic, Eclipse and American Bedding, a Georgia independent. His price range runs the gamut from $275 to $8,000 in queen, but his bestsellers are in that $699 to $799 sweet spot. Like most retailers, Dick has witnessed major growth in sales of mid-priced and promotional beds during the recession—and he’s impressed with the strong values he’s getting from his vendors. His competition around Boone is mostly other small businesses rather than the big chains. Armed with his strong marketing background, he’s been able to carve out a competitive niche by catching on quickly and attending to the basics of success.

The power of advertising Dick is a big believer in the power of advertising. Blackberry Creek is in all of the local newspapers, including weeklies and monthlies— there are 20 free pubs in Boone alone, which is not uncommon in tourist-focused towns. And space is cheap—about $400 for a full-page print ad. The store runs spots on half a dozen radio stations, heavily during the summer, and on TV year-round, rotating on two local cable stations. Dick also makes local online buys such as “Ray’s Weather Center”—a popular site because of the changeable mountain climate. Price is not the focus of Blackberry Creek’s ads, though some feature a tagline that touts “Home of the $275 queen.” The TV ads focus on consumer tips and Dick is making more use of a “Rest well, live better” message in his advertising programs, which he says more accurately reflect his business philosophy than a price message. Blackberry Creek’s advertising program is a work in progress. In fact, it’s clear that Dick sees the entire business as an evolutionary enterprise. He’s always reading and listening, looking for new information and ideas to make the business he adopted late in life the best it can be. Although he follows certain basic business tenets, as a small business www.sleepsavvymagazine.com


RETAIL ROAD TRIP the selling scene

owner, he is able to be very flexible and uses that ability to make changes and try different things. “Everything is so dynamic and changing so fast in our world,” he says. “I’m always on the lookout for new ideas and opportunities.” Relationship building and consumer communication are areas that capture his attention. “We need better communication to our customers—it’s a huge hole in our industry,” he says. Dick is very involved in his community, serving on several boards and committees. He donates beds to the needy and supports local causes. He has established relationships with the doctors and chiropractors in the area who now refer patients for new mattress purchases. He’s working to cultivate the hospitality business in an area that attracts visitors from around the world. And he places special value on close relationships with vendors who, like him, remain flexible and can accommodate custom orders. Cultivating customers Cultivating a strong relationship with customers is job one at Blackberry Creek. When looking for the right salespeople, Dick specifically sought out a “mature feminine influence” rather than a background in selling. His sales associates are all women: Sherry Read, fulltime store manager and business manager; Liz Crabtree, who works part-time and teaches photography at nearby Appalachian State University; and Doreen Carson, who splits her time between the store and assisting other local businesses with their bookkeeping needs. All three RSAs are salaried, not commissioned—“So we can focus on the customer,” says Dick. www.sleepsavvymagazine.com

Pillows from Hickory at Home and Leggett & Platt Canada and sheet sets from DreamFit are showcased on shelving that creates a half-high wall just inside the front door.

Learning how to sell is an ongoing process—for all of them, including Dick. “The hardest thing is training. None of us are natural salespeople, so we’ve all learned together,” he says, adding that Sleep Savvy is required reading. The sales approach is soft sell. “In the long run, it really pays off because it brings us lots of

business and creates loyal customers,” Dick says. “At Boeing, we had a saying: ‘An unhappy customer will cost you 11 sales. A happy customer will make three.’” There’s no comfort guarantee offer at Blackberry Creek—it hasn’t shown up as a competitive issue in this area yet. Instead, Dick has implemented the Sleep SleepSavvy • Ncovember/December 2009

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RETAIL ROAD TRIP the selling scene

Trust guarantee program—an enhanced warranty—which is sold as a 10% add-on. The minimum

24 SleepSavvy • Ncovember/December 2009

fee is $50 and the customer must buy a protective pad from the store’s Leggett & Platt line. “We

love the program because it gives us a little extra comfort zone for customer service,” says Dick. During Sleep Savvy’s visit to the store, Sleep Trust’s Gerry Morris—who writes the “Closing Words” column for Sleep Savvy— was on hand to conduct a consumer seminar on mattress buying tips. A free mattress drawing was an added attraction. Sherry Read says of her boss, “He always goes above and beyond on customer service. We’ve only had one claim in two years.” So while Blackberry Creek has no formal comfort guarantee, Dick says that if a customer absolutely hates the mattress she bought, he’ll take it back. Being “totally ethical” is important to him—“It’s

www.sleepsavvymagazine.com


RETAIL ROAD TRIP the selling scene

just my background.” Follow-though is a big part of making sure the customer is happy, Dick says. “Too often, you won’t even know the customer is unhappy. Since the last point of contact is the delivery guys, they always ask the customer if they’re happy with the product and the service—‘Is everything OK?’ ‘Can we do anything for you?’” Blackberry Creek’s delivery team is eight students from Appalachian State who are paid well for their time and work flexible hours. They coordinate with fulltime warehouse manager Sean Spradling. “We always try to accommodate the customer,” Dick stresses. “We’ll even come flip the mattress

www.sleepsavvymagazine.com

for you when we’re in the neighborhood.” Because of the good prices, soft sell and strong service reputation, 70% of the be-backs actually do come back within a year following an initial visit, Dick says. To make sure Blackberry Creek stays in the minds of its customers, the store uses the warranty to collect information. “We always need to do more follow-up—send notes, make calls—both with those who buy from us and those who don’t,” Dick says. “And of course email is opening up a whole new world.” Mattress retailing is still a whole new—and exciting—world for Dick James. He’s not sure where his business will be in a few years,

Dick James hosts a mattress-buying seminar for local consumers featuring Sleep Trust’s Gerry Morris (left).

but more stores are almost certain as the economy turns around. And given Dick’s history, so is his ongoing success. ●

SleepSavvy • Ncovember/December 2009

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BE MY GUEST by Bob Phibbs

You need to connect to that customer who’s standing in front of you Your customer is a person who has her own feelings, needs and desires. To succeed, employees have to be taught that every customer who comes into your store is not just another chance to sell someone your “stuff.” When employees can’t see an individual without prejudging, sizing up her pocketbook or trying to gauge her desire for your products first—can’t see that she or he is an individual worthy of their time and respect—those employees run the risk of seeing that individual only as dollar signs. That’s the disconnect of retail sales. The disconnect is that the RSAs don’t see how their attitude affects their sales and paycheck. When employees do that, they spit out generic features and information onto the customer. That helps create a false confidence that they can make the “right” customer buy. That happens when they try to get the customer’s budget for a purchase, pressure customers with a “today only” threat or use one of several tired closes on them. Customers smell it and walk. www.sleepsavvymagazine.com www.sleepsavvymagazine.com

The hard truth is customers don’t buy from people they don’t like. And the higher the ticket, the more easily we, the buying public, can be put off. It isn’t the products’ fault, the economy or the customers’—it’s yours. Don’t take the loser’s limp—“They got all the information they needed from me and then purchased from someone else.” You lost the sale because they didn’t feel you connected to them. In some ways, selling during a recession is the same as it’s always been. It’s about finding out what’s important to the customer and then giving it to her. In another way, selling during this recession has changed because we’ve changed. We don’t pick up the phone and call a friend—we check their Facebook status. We don’t invite friends to dinner—we catch up with e-mail or a quick text on our cell phone. What this has done is left most of us feeling more detached from family and friends—more alone than ever. There’s a reason shopping has been called “retail therapy.” People shop to feel better about themselves. So when we land in your store, it’s an opportunity for us as customers to connect with another person. We hope that the interchange will make us feel better about ourselves, find items that interest us and receive validation that comes from somebody appreciating us, whether that’s for purchasing a great new mattress or simply stopping in. SleepSavvy • November/December 2009

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BE MY GUEST by Bob Phibbs

Without that validation—like when employees ignore us—we as customers feel more alone than we did when we walked in. And we don’t pile back in our cars to return again for that experience. No wonder sales are down for so many stores! Let’s face it, for many retail employees, it’s hard to be nice to other people. These types of employees require the customer to be nice to them before they can return the favor. It’s like they need you to put the gas in their car before they’ll turn the key. That disconnect is why their sales go nowhere. Maybe it’s because of their upbringing or their current circumstances, but for whatever reason, they find no joy in working in retail. I have a confession. When I was first starting out, I found joy in working retail because I was in a rotten relationship. I didn’t like myself because of it. But I found I could go to work and forget it. I had to learn to connect to people, because only by doing that could I get the validation I was hungry for. I know it sounds a little like a line from Cabaret, but in those four walls, life was beautiful. I helped people find what they needed, used my skills in sales to get them to treat themselves well, met interesting and diverse people, and with every ring of that cash register,

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felt better about myself. Is that a bad thing to admit? That many times as salespeople, we need an achievement, an award, a ring of the register to feel better about ourselves? Likewise, is it bad that if we don’t get the sale, we tend to take it personally? Aren’t these behaviors just human nature? Is an actor shallow because applause makes him feel worthy? Is it any different than a coach who strives for a winning team? A writer who completes a book? A business owner with profits in the bank? I don’t think so. It’s not hard to be nice to someone after they purchase a $2,000 bed from you. You get your own Sally Field— “You like me, you really like me”— validation. What takes practice is engaging someone when they purchase a $19 pillow or come in just to browse. And that’s the beauty of retail—we get to work on that with every person who comes through our door. How well are you connecting? Here are some examples of things you might want to notice and ask yourself during and after an encounter with a customer: ● What did I say just before she crossed her arms? ● Why didn’t she reach out to touch the product when I showed it to her?

● Why did she ask that question? ● Why does she want to redo that room? ● What is he looking for this product to do? ● Why did they choose to come in here? Why now? ● Are they fixing up their home because work is so hectic? ● Is she treating herself because no one else will do that for her? We all have needs and the desire to feel worthy, important and valued. The sales process gives us the chance to do this for others and for ourselves. It begins by connecting to the customer in front of us as a person who is valued and worthy of our respect. And that person, in turn, rewards us with the same. ● Bob Phibbs, The Retail Doctor, is a best-selling author and speaker who has helped thousands of independent businesses compete by using his sales approach. His book, You Can Compete: Double Sales Without Discounting, is the backbone of thousands of companies’ training programs. Phibbs teaches his business makeover methods and sales strategies to such top brands as Hunter Douglas, Brother and Yamaha. For more tips, visit his website at www.retaildoc.com.

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CONSUMER CHECK profiling your customer

Gen X moves into position of power

T

hey don’t have the numbers and wealth of the graying, 77 million-strong baby boom generation or the youth appeal of the 64 million-strong, under-30 Millennials. But market research giant Yankelovich warns retailers not to forget about the 57 million members of Generation X—those in their mid-30s to early 40s. As the recession continues to threaten boomers’ retirement accounts—making them less inclined to part with their still enviable cache of discretionary dollars—the Xers are poised to come out of the recession with home enhancements high on the purchasing priority list. There’s no question that Xers’ spending decisions and behaviors have been radically altered by the same anxieties that everyone shares. Nevertheless, says Yankelovich in a recent Minute MONITOR, there are a number of factors—some of them related to these very anxieties—that represent opportunities for marketers: ● 70% are homeowners. The Xers have settled down and seven out of 10 of them now own their homes. That makes them prime targets for home improvement and enhancement, including the full array of home furnishings. They may be deferring some of those bigger ticket items right now, but that won’t last forever. ● 75% are parents. Three in four Xers are already parents and many are planning to have more children. In 2006 (the most current data), 36% of births were to women 30 to 44. The parenting life stage www.sleepsavvymagazine.com

brings with it a need for a diversity of products and services, including beds and other furniture to meet the changing physical needs of growing bodies. As children—especially girls—move into their ’tween and teen years, social needs and peer pressure also play a role in decisions about how rooms are furnished. Juvenile and twin beds, for example, may be replaced by roomier, more comfortable full and even queen sizes. ● Peak earning years. According to Yankelovich, many experts put peak earning years between the ages of 40 and 54. The recession may be causing them to reassess career paths and expectations, but the fact remains that Xers are still on the way up when it comes to their careers. This pragmatic generation, Yankelovich says, has the ability to think long term. Looking beyond today’s tough economy, Xers are

feeling more confident about their financial future than their elders, facing today’s challenges with more resilience and self-confidence. ● Retirement far away. While jobs are harder to come by and anxieties are running high in the workplace, Xers still have lots of work years ahead. Diminished 401k accounts are less of a concern for them than for their elders. (However, Yankelovich notes, right now they are concerned about their parents’ well-being—nearly four in 10 Xers are worried that they may have to help support a parent.) ● Been here before. This young crowd witnessed up close the collapse of the dot-com boom in 2001, as well as the recession of the early ’90s. They’ve seen financial crunches come and go before, and they’re survivors. But, while they’re still young, Xers probably can’t reset their lives and start over as many of them did after the last recession. They’re likely to have homes and mortgages, spouses, young children and other important responsibilities that make it harder for them to change direction. For businesses selling the products that go along with these increased responsibilities, this may very well be good news. Targeting the Xers Here are some of the steps Yankelovich recommends for companies that want to market successfully to Generation X: ● Get to know them. Take a hard look at your products, services and marketing messages to determine SleepSavvy • November/December 2009

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Here’s what retailers say about

Sleep Savvy Rocks!

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Sleep Savvy is the best magazine for helping retailers make money.”

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Get seen. Advertise in Sleep Savvy. Contact Kerri Bellias, 336-945-0265 or kbellias@sleepproducts.org


CONSUMER CHECK

profiling your customer whether your company needs a fresh look—or even a first look—at this increasingly important group of consumers. (Among Yankelovich’s client services is a complete Xer TargetNOSTIC audit of your business.) ● Be open and honest. “Marketers can’t just pop into Xers’ lives like they’ve been there all along and expect to be taken seriously,” Yankelovich warns. Instead, be open and honest about why you now value them and what unique benefits you can offer them at this stage in their lives. Xers are extremely marketingsavvy with highly attuned radar for spin, so don’t even think about trying to put something over on them. ● Take the long view. The Dollars & Consumer Sense 2009 study, conducted by The Futures

hear that this too shall pass and that time is on their side.”

Company (a partnership between Yankelovich and Henley Centre HeadlightVision), indicates that consumers are willing to spend, particularly on products that save them money in the long term. That will appeal to Xers’ pragmatic sensibilities. “Encourage—even congratulate them on—their long-term view,” says Yankelovich. “They might already know it, but in terms of their struggles, it still helps them to

Bottom line Yankelovich concludes that even though Xers are understandably anxious, “they can be counted on to remain engaged in the marketplace right now while also keeping a focused eye on the future. Xers’ homes need furniture and electronics, their kids need clothes and toys, their families need medical services and entertainment options, and their portfolios need attention and guidance. An opportunity to forge longlasting relationships exists by taking the road less travelled (or in this case, the target less targeted) and choosing to speak directly to Xers and their unique generational qualities and life-stage attributes.” ●

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CLOSING WORDS by Gerry Morris

Where should your real focus be? “If you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change, you will get results.” —Jack Dixon

I

n the world of retail mattress sales, there are three important things we can focus on that will boost sales:

1. Our purpose What is the purpose of retail mattress sales? The obvious answer is to sell mattresses, with the hope of making a profit. But if Jack Dixon’s paradoxical quote is correct, and I believe it is, how should we change our focus in order to get results? Here’s my suggested focus: To help as many people as possible get deep, restorative sleep every night on a topquality mattress. Instead of selling, we should be serving. Today’s consumers are informed and empowered. If they don’t like what they hear, they know they can go any number of places to buy a mattress. The paradox of success is that by putting others’ needs above your own, you will be more successful than if success is your goal. People can perceive motive, and as long as our only motive is to sell mattresses and make profits, consumers will not trust us. If, however, we change our focus to helping consumers sleep well, the result will be that they want to buy from us. Consequently, the companies and RSAs that focus on sleep will sell even more mattresses and make even greater profits. In addition, doing the

32 SleepSavvy • November/December 2009

right thing for the right reason generates benefits beyond the monetary. 2. Our product Ours is a simple product—with little differentiation, from the perspective of the consumer. Focusing on the product’s features often causes confusion. It’s not the product features that are so important; it’s what the product does for people. We know that a mattress is one of the best things anyone can buy for their health and happiness. We know that getting great sleep starts with getting a great mattress. Each and every one of us should be shouting that from the mountaintops. Through our messages to consumers, we can move their focus away from getting a great deal to getting great sleep. 3. Our presentation While mattresses are a simple product, the process of bringing them to the point of sale is complex and involves the efforts of countless individuals. The entire sequence culminates in an event that should be the focus of all our efforts—the conversation between

retail sales associate and consumer. This is where the rubber meets the road—the point in time when the ownership of goods is transferred from the supply side to the demand side of the equation. It’s the essence of retail. As they say, nothing happens until something is sold. Our common purpose is to facilitate that most important event—manufacturers by continuing to build quality products; retailers by creating inviting environments; and associates by helping consumers improve their quality of life. An effective, ongoing sales training effort is one of the most important keys to success. Associates that are serious about improving their skills should take advantage of all the great training resources that are available. There are lots of issues and distractions that divert our attention from what’s really important. Focusing on these three areas will bring positive results for everyone, especially our customers. ●

“Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time.” —Andrew Glascow 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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© 2009 Leggett & Platt, Incorporated

Profile for International Sleep Products Association

Sleep Savvy Nov 09  

The magazine for sleep products professionals

Sleep Savvy Nov 09  

The magazine for sleep products professionals