From Home Furnishing Business
Here’s one you probably don’t hear often: Imagine a store that, when it doesn’t have what a customer is looking for, refers them to a competing retailer.
That’s exactly what Martin’s Town & Country Furniture, a longtime seller of bedding and furniture based in Canby, Ore., does. It’s one of the many ways the retailer will go the extra mile to ensure that customers are well taken care of, whoever they ultimately end up buying from.
“We don’t want to close the sale today and give somebody something that might not be what’s best for them just to get a few dollars in the till today” said Martin’s owner/president Neil Martin. “We want to get something that’s right for them, and if we don’t have (it), we’ll look it up online and find where they can get (it).”
This philosophy pays off in the long run, he added: “They’ll remember that. They’ll remember the honesty, and, I think, the integrity, and come back and see us when they do have something that we can help them with. So those are the long-term relationships that we’re trying to build and keep going for generations.”
Runs in the Family
Generations are something Martin knows about—he’s part of the third generation of Martin family members to work in the Canby store, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year.
The business actually began in 1947, when Martin’s grandfather Walter opened his first Martin’s Furniture and Appliance Co. store in Molalla, Ore. During his daily commute to and from his home in Canby, a plot of property in his hometown caught his eye. He bought the land, and in October of 1963, a new store, Martin’s Town & Country Furniture, opened.
Walter’s son Robert joined the business in 1965, as did his brother Neil eight years later. When the store’s longtime delivery person retired in 2000, Robert’s son, also named Neil, joined the family business, which he now owns. While the Mollala store has closed, the Canby location continues to serve the rural community of Canby and its surrounding area.
Martin’s is a full-line furniture store, but the company has done well with bedding by keeping its offerings in this category sharply focused. The retailer has carried Sealy for, in Neil Martin’s words, “as long as I can remember,” but added Tempur-Pedic in 2004.
This has been a successful move, in Martin’s opinion: “It’s a good line and we’re happy to have it. Everybody seems to be really, really happy with their purchase. We’ve had two comfort returns in the last five years and one was not really a comfort return—it was just a size return, the twin was too small and (the customer) wanted to go to a full. The other, the fellow was commenting that he loved the bed, thought it was very comfortable but he was just having a little difficulty turning. So I said, ‘Why don’t you come in and try that new Tempur-Weightless collection—it’s like your Cloud Supreme on the top; it just has that Tempur Float layer in there.’ So we switched him out and he called a few days later and said ‘It’s perfect—exactly what I was looking for.’ We’ve had a couple of switches in the last five years, but they haven’t switched to another brand in the line.”
Going the Distance
Martin takes the concept of “going the extra mile” literally. Not only does the business offer free delivery on beds and other furniture, but Martin and his co-workers have been known to go great distances to take care of customers.
“We’ve had deliveries that were over 250 miles one way,” Martin said. “A lot of the deliveries that are farther out are maybe people that live closer but have a second home in central Oregon over the coast. But it’s not uncommon to have folks from 30, 40 or 50 miles out come in because they’ve seen an ad or heard about us from a friend. They come in and give us a shot.”
While shoppers may come from far and wide, Martin still attributes much of his store’s staying power to his loyal, local customers.
“We have a real supportive community,” he stated. “It’s not really big—maybe 16,000 people. We’re just about halfway between Portland and Salem, about 30 minutes from either. It’s just a little community here, but there are a lot of outlying communities, at least another six or seven ZIP codes within a 15-mile radius, so we have a pretty big area that we service here.”
Tradition is important to Neil Martin, and his fidelity to his family elders influences his store’s bedding sales approach.
“There are really only five people who have worked on the sales floor in the whole 50 years,” he recalled. “We’ve never had any commissioned salespeople on the floor. I think that creates a different approach right there, because we’re not worried about getting a sale today. If we don’t and (the customer) comes back tomorrow or a week later, maybe (another staffer) gets a part of that. … It seems like the different positive comments we get about the store are related to the fact that they can come in and look around, do their research; we’re here to answer their questions but there’s not pressure. So when somebody walks out and doesn’t buy something, I don’t look at that as any kind of failure or lost opportunity. If we’ve done our job, we’ve answered their questions and had the time to get to know them a little bit … I figure when they’re ready, they’ll be back. I really think our ‘be-backs’ are somewhere around at least 50 percent.”
This care and respect shown for consumers doesn’t just occur in the store—it also is the way Martin’s does business in customers’ homes.
“When we deliver a bed, we often vacuum the floors when we pull the old mattress set out, help them clean up,” Martin said, “because it might be another 10 or 20 years before they get under there again. Any little thing that we can do to help them get that (good) feeling—many stores used to do this naturally, but it’s harder and harder to find customer service at the level that we try to maintain. … So I really don’t see much competition in the way of stores like us. There are other stores that sell the lines that we have. … But with our service, and with our (low) prices—my (family owns) the building and property, so our overhead is very low, so all things considered, it creates an unusual business model.”
The Next Generation
Is there another generation poised to carry on taking care of Martin’s customers in years to come?
Neil Martin may have a few contenders: “I have a four-year-old son and a newborn son about a month old. We’d love to see this go to a fourth generation. … Certainly, once I got here and got to know more about the business, and then take ownership in it, it’s something I take a lot of pride in. … I feel grateful and blessed to have the opportunity to be here.” HFB
Gel continues to be the buzz ingredient of choice among many leading bedding manufacturers, as more and more beds featuring gel (frequently infused with memory foam) were introduced.
One of the main appeals of gel—cooler sleep—was also a recurring theme in the new beds on display. Besides gel, this is also achieved through ventilation techniques as a result of retooled mattress construction.
And adjustable beds continue to be a hot trend among leading bedding manufacturers, as the technology continues to pull away from the hospital/Kraft-matic senior-citizen stereotype and emerge as an important add-on for younger consumers.
Here’s a round-up of the new bedding products shown at Las Vegas Market.
Sealy unveiled its updated Posturepedic line, which encompasses three series:
• Posturepedic Hybrid, a half-gel memory foam/half-springs line;
• Posturepedic Gel, which combines gel memory foam with titanium alloy coils; and
• Posturepedic Classic, which features Sealy’s redesigned Classic Coil.
The company will launch the new Posturepedic beds with an invigorated advertising campaign based on its acclaimed “Whatever you do in bed, Sealy supports it” campaign. New commercials coming to TV are geared to make an emotional connection with viewers by touching upon how key moments of life are spent in bed.
Serta announced it will build upon the success of its gel/memory foam-based iComfort line with iComfort Directions, which adds four new models to the collection.
The new beds feature EverCool Gfx, which adds grapheme for support and heat dissipation; Cool Action Dual Effects, which has new gels for support and coolness; Pods Gel-Active Support, which are macro-gel discs that add support; and ThermoCool Fabric Covers that have Tencel fibers for moisture transfer. The four new beds will range in price from $1,999 to $2,999. The company also showed its redesigned Perfect Sleeper mattress line, which includes a new Sleep To Go pillow that will retail for $39.
Simmons launched two new collections, Beautyrest Recharge and Beautyrest Recharge World Class, which will replace its Beautyrest Classic and Elite lines, respectively. Both lines combine pocketed coil springs with gel foam. The Recharge line, priced from $699 to $1,299, feature Aircool memory foam and GelTouch foam, while the Recharge World Class series (priced from $1,399 to $1,999) adds TruTemp gel, which is said to release warmth for a cooler sleep surface. The company also announced the addition of three new beds to its high-end Comforpedic from Beautyrest line, which will be priced from $2,999 to $3,999. All three beds feature the company’s proprietary Multi-Action Support Layer.
Memory foam giant Tempur-Pedic announced a new push into sleep personalization with the Tempur-Choice line. These beds have a new multi-zone adjustable support system in which a hand-held remote allows each sleeper to modify his or her side of the bed to achieve desired a level of firmness that feels just right from more than 120 different comfort settings. The line includes the 14-inch Tempur-Choice Luxe mattress ($3,999 in queen), and the 13-inch Tempur-Choice Supreme ($3,499).
Responding to customer requests for a plusher feel, Tempur-Pedic showed its new Tempur-Cloud Allura ($4,599 in queen), which combines soft Tempur-ES material with its cozy Tempur-Top pillow top. Another new model, the Tempur-Cloud Luxe Breeze ($4,999) has Tempur-Breeze technology to add an extra-cool feel to the company’s customary support and no-motion-transfer memory foam. Finally, the company showed its new Tempur-Ergo Premier adjustable base ($1,999), which can be run by a free app via wireless Apple or Android devices. These new Tempur-Pedic products will hit retail this spring.
Boyd Specialty Sleep introduced a new line of four Natural Flex latex beds priced from $699 to $1,499 in queen. The company also showed its new Cosmopolitan platform bed that will sell for $199 in queen, as well as four revamped air beds—the Operetta, Orion, Comet and Stardust—which have been updated with Boyd’s new TPU air core and will retail from $1,999 to $3,499 in queen. Finally, Boyd showed two new occasional-use beds, the $79 Siesta mattress and $129 Comfort Ease II fold-away guest bed.
Canadian mattress protection specialist Caber Sure Fit showed its new line of DreamSeren mattress and pillow protectors, made from a variety of fabrics including terry, bamboo and eucalyptus, and priced from $59 to $199.
Classic Brands announced the addition of a new mattress to its Dormia Memory Foam Collection, as well as three new gel memory foam mattresses to its E-Commerce Collection. New accessories from the company include the Cool Gel Memory Foam Topper.
Comfort Solutions showed its revamped five-model Perfect Contour collection, which combines a foam core with layers of latex, latex gel foam, and gel memory foam. This line is expected to retail from $799 to $1,299 in queen. Also redesigned was the company’s health-skewed Dr. Breus Bed line, which now consists of six new beds: Vitality, Longevity, Endurance, Synergy, Stability and Success, set to range at retail from $1,299 to $3,499 in queen.
Europe-based specialty provider Dormeo Octaspring, which made its U.S. debut in 2012, showed its proprietary memory foam honeycomb-structured springs that are the basis of its line of beds.
Englander Sleep Products debuted its LifeStyle line of specialty gel beds, along with new gel-based Tension Ease and Anniversary models, for a collection priced from $499 to $1,899 in queen.
FXI/Anatomic Global showed its Rejuvigel mattresses at Market. The line combines soft Visco foam with swirled waves of gel for better support and air/moisture movement. The beds are priced in queen at $1,199 (11-inch), $1,499 (12-inch) and $1,899 (13-inch). The company also showed its Bed Bug Defense Shield Mattress Protector, a disposable, flexible mat placed under a mattress to protect from bed bug infestation.
Glideaway Sleep Products premiered its Natural Awakenings by Sleepharmony latex and gel collection, which includes the eight-inch Nightshade, 10-inch Calypso and 12-inch Primrose. The beds, which have a temperature-regulating treatment and a top layer of latex to remove heat from the body for cooler sleep, will retail from $999 to $1,799 in queen.
The big news from Kingsdown at Market was the unveiling of the company’s new Sleep Smart beds, which come with interactive technology that, according to the vendor, monitors a sleeper’s movements, pain, pressure and sleep patterns throughout the night, and can reconfigure the sleep setting on an ongoing basis to ensure maximum comfort and health benefits. The company demonstrated the Sleep Smart system in a closed-door theater in its Market space.
High-end bedding specialist E.S. Kluft & Co. showcased its Aireloom brand’s Adapt-and-React collection, which includes all-foam, hybrid foam and innerspring versions that utilize gel for temperature regulation. The beds have a heavyweight zippered cover and a non-quilted Scandinavian look, and will be priced from $1,799 to $3,499 in queen.
Italian bedmaker Magniflex debuted its eco-friendly Linen Natursoft Deluxe line, which has a linen cover and layers of mallow extract and soy-based foam, and will retail for $3,999 in queen. The company also showed its new GeoEthic group, which are made with non-toxic, renewable materials. The Magnigel collection, into which pre-polymer gel is swirled into the foam, was also shown.
The big reveal from green-skewing Organic Mattresses Inc. was of the company’s new Point-of-Purchase program, which includes branded upholstered organic chenille materials including a headboard; pillows with shams; and an upholstered mattress base.
Pure Latex BLISS rolled out its new Yulex collection, a line of mattresses, toppers and pillows made with eco-friendly biorubber from the Yulex Corp. According to the company, these beds will offer a lush feel not commonly associated with environmentally friendly beds. The line includes the eight-inch Eco, 10-inch Sustain and 12-inch Renew.
The five-model Response Sleep System by Sharper Image collection was shown at Vegas Market, and, according to its manufacturer Southerland, can provide zero-gravity pressure relief, responsive support and contoured comfort. The beds have layers of open-cell Talalay latex and foam layers.
Adjustable base specialist Reverie showed its high-tech 7S (Supreme), which features “Made for Mobile” technology that enables control of lift, massage and other functions by tablets and smartphones via a remote app. The base will sell for $1,700 in queen.
Under-bed specialist Seahawk Designs unveiled a new upholstered 19-inch by 50-inch storage bench that complements the company’s Davenport storage foundation system. The company also introduced an adjustable bed base option, an extension to to its Casual Elegance collection.
Spring Air celebrated its Back Supporter collection by rolling out two new Special Edition Back Supporter models, available in firm and plush feels and priced at $599 in queen.
Therapedic International showcased its Agility collection, which combines gel foam and micro-pocket coils for coolness and support. Bio-based Preserve VG gel is swirled into the bed’s foam compound. Four models, Dash, Tango, Freestyle and Crossover comprise the line, which ranges in retail price from $1,299 to $2,499 in queen.
Known as “The Sleep Doctor,” Dr. Michael Breus , Ph.D. certainly has substantial cred to justify that title. A clinical psychologist who has specialized in sleep disorders, Dr. Breus is a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine. His 2011 book, The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan: Lose Weight Through Better Sleep, details the connections between sleep and metabolism, and he has appeared on a variety of TV talk shows, including “Oprah” and “Dr. Oz.”
Dr. Breus has applied his expertise to a mattress collection, The Dr. Breus Bed, now at retail. He recently spoke with Home Furnishings Business about his beds, their benefits, and their retail potential.
HFB: Let’s say I’m a new customer walking into a store. You’re a retail sales associate. How do you guide me to your beds?
Dr. Breus: I would say that probably the most salient points of the beds are, warm people sleep cool and cool people sleep warm. So one of the first questions that I teach RSAs about, is to ask people ,“How did you sleep last night?” Not what price they want to pay or what size—we’ll get to those questions later. I really want them to get into a conversation about health. And there are some easy questions to ask:
“How many times did you hit the snooze button?” That’s actually a telltale sign of how sleep-deprived somebody is. If you hit the snooze button more than once, your body doesn’t want to get out of bed, which means you haven’t gotten enough sleep yet.
I ask people questions like, “How long did it take you to fall asleep?” Somebody will say, “Oh, less than five minutes.” That’s actually not a good scenario. Your body should take somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes to fall asleep. So if it’s not taking that long, again it means you’re sleep-deprived and your body’s forcing you into sleep very quickly.
We ask consumers if temperature is a problem for them. Also, “Do have any pain when you sleep?” So again, we’re talking about physiology-based questions. “How old is your mattress?” sometimes is a very interesting sign. I don’t believe there’s a particular number of years a mattress should be held onto by a consumer. I think your body tells you when you need a new bed. So when you wake up with aches and pains, it’s probably time to think about a new bed. I will say, I think there’s an upper-level limit, but I don’t like people holding onto their beds more than seven years.
HFB: Price is going to be a part of this conversation, especially in a tough economy.
So how do RSAs get past that and sell the benefits you’re trying to bring to this industry?
Dr. Breus: One of the things that I always talk to with RSAs is that we have to give people an understanding of what the value of sleep really is. For me, I think it is immeasurable, but I’m a sleep doctor, right? I understand that people have a fiscal responsibility that they have to know and understand. These products were designed to help you sleep better and sleep longer and deeper for an extended period of time.
This is not a product that you’re going to buy again in two years, three years, four years. It’s really an investment in sleep, so that’s how we have people talk about it. Price is really the last thing that they come to. It’s really about, “How important is sleep in your life?” And if sleep is important in your life, then this makes sense. It’s like eyeglasses to me.
This absolutely has been effective so far. There are definitely consumers out there who say “I’m not spending more than $599 on a bed.” I understand that. I’m responsive to that. That’s not where these products lie. Will we ever get there? Maybe. I’m not sure. Here’s my problem: The materials in these beds are so specific, and I spend so much time finding the right (ones), that if I actually get the right material in the bed, the raw materials cost more than $599. So I can’t get down to that price unless I cheapen the materials, and I’m just not going to do that.
HFB: How has the response been at retail for your line?
Dr. Breus: It’s been excellent. We’ve been thrilled with what’s been going on with people. … We’ve been very thrilled with the response—and it’s interesting, people are much more interested in selling health as opposed to selling a puffy rectangle.
And I like that idea. I’m here to try to change the industry, with the industry. I want to educate the industry and all of the RSAs out there. I believe that everybody who owns a sleep shop or a furniture store that sells mattresses is actually a healthcare professional. This is a piece of healthcare equipment, that’s how I look at it. I always say, “If you were going to run a marathon, you wouldn’t do it in flip flops, right? You’d do it in good shoes.” The same holds true for a bed. The people should be matched—the right bed for their sleep needs, and they will perform better and be healthier.