From Home Furnishing Business
Brick and mortar locations are obsessed with making Amazon their problem. The real problem is that we do not understand how to leverage the technology in front of us (or the resources) to help us sell more stuff.
OK, here it is … Amazon did $67.9 BILLION in 2013 in retail sales ($49.6 billion more than the next closest online retailer, according to Internet Retailer. If you ask Best Buy executives or Barnes & Noble executives they would tell you their showrooms act as the No. 1 sales vehicle for their good friends at Amazon. What if we told you that they are 100 percent wrong?
We utilize other’s access to technology as a crutch to make up for the fact that we do not want to leverage it to help us close the sale. The customer wants ease of purchase but that doesn’t always equate to purchasing directly online. She wants to have her questions answered, to understand why the sofa is $499 verses $199 or why the cost for delivery is $79 verses free from AnyoneRetailer.com.
If we are going to stay in business today we need to stop pointing the finger outward and start looking inward. Here are four sure fire ways we can equip ourselves to be successful and give Ms. Jones what she really wants today: a great shopping experience that keeps her coming back.
1. Use Social Media
The only way for us to understand the impact social media can have on our business is for us to empower our entire store and ourselves to understand it, digest it and implement it personally. Follow your friends—and your competitors. They won’t tell the world what they ate for lunch, but they need to understand how Ms. Jones buys today.
2. Buy Online
Empower your key people (operations, sales, buying, finances) to make one personal purchase a quarter from various industries and online sellers. Have them study the strengths and weaknesses of their personal shopping experience, from the product catalog, ease of checkout, delivery options, follow up and customer service. This will allow you to understand how you can make the customers experience better—plus find the loopholes to give you a leg up.
3. Get Ready for Y (and the millennial?)
Generation Y is coming of age. Born between 1982 and 2000, this is the largest generation of consumers ever (bigger than the Baby Boomers) and they will be the dominant consumer force for your future. Find someone at a local university or a local consultant to come in and educate your staff on what Gen Y is looking for. Just making conclusions based on their own experience (or yours) will only lead to the wrong sales approach happening.
4. Know your market
Market research is an expensive investment, not an expendable expense. The Ms. Jones that bought from you five years ago is gone, and a new woman has taken her place. To get the best out of your salespeople you need to invest in understanding who your customer is right now. Dig deep into why she buys, how she buys and where she might buy to equip your salespeople, delivery and customer service personnel with the script needed to sell her (and keep her) today.
Don’t use other resources as crutches to be the solution to your problems. Invest in your people to leverage today’s technology to ensure you are making money today … and tomorrow.
If a retailer is losing market share it can be attributed to one or a combination of three things: merchandise, advertising or consumer experience. The last topic is, at best, vague.
In the past decade a new element in the buying process has emerged with more than 75 percent of all consumers doing research on the Web before visiting the stores. In other words, the consumer visits a retailer’s Internet store unannounced, wanders through the product selection and reads the statements stressing why the retailer is different from the competition, but has no real chance to engage directly with the retailer. More often now than in previous years, a certain number of shoppers buy online without ever visiting a physical, brick and mortar store. Unfortunately, the retailer the consumer purchases from may not have a physical store.
At least 85 percent of the consumers who initially visit a Web site will proceed to the store. However, the list of retailers that the consumer visits has declined to about 2.1 stores per purchase. As the industry is beginning to recognize, the traffic continues to decline regardless of the volume. It is crucial to understand the significant variance between what the new Millennials want and what the downsizing, but still-purchasing Baby Boomers prefer because it is at this point that the sales challenge begins.
This sales challenge can be addressed with retail technology. Time-starved consumers want to have reliable information unfettered by a sales pitch to aid them in arriving at the product that they desire.
How do they do this? They go online to begin and often complete their purchase. Internet advertising, store advertising and social media are means to direct them to the retail commerce site. Once there, a series of questions aid in profiling the consumer. Information gleaned will also lead to offered products. How focused is the consumer? Is he or she concentrating on one product category or wanting to see an overview of several products? Product presentation on the Web is critical. Retailers can romance that bedroom or sofa or dining room table so that the consumer can envision it in her home—a key to closing the sale.
After the consumer pinpoints one product or products, point-of-sale material becomes important whether online or in a physical store. It directly communicates with the shopper by offering additional product information that can secure the sale.
Once the shopper has made the decision to buy, the rest of the consumer experience is business. How this is handled online or in a store is important to capturing an ongoing customer, one who will return to your store for the next furniture purchase. At this point, consumers feel that they have managed the hard part and are ready to get the minutiae out of the way. Delivery scheduling, protection plans, and after-sale satisfaction now become the main focus. They want their order to be processed efficiently, and the delivery made at a convenient time that fits their schedule. To complete the consumers’ wish list is the expectation of a product that will never necessitate a return for any reason.
The main emphasis of this issue of Home Furnishings Business is to focus on the consumer experience and how technology can achieve the high standard that the consumer demands today for shopping and purchasing.
That standard is how products are shopped and purchased on Amazon.com. Amazon is an online retailing giant, but it is the giant to which millions of consumers have become accustomed. How does your business stack up in comparison?
Mattresses Have Distinct Training Issues From Other Furniture Categories.
Imagine you’re a customer walking into your bedding department. No matter how well it’s lit, or relaxing the atmosphere, you’re looking at a selection of products with little visual difference. Getting customers to understand why there is a difference is a key to training staff for selling mattresses, whether you have dedicated associates for the department or not. Morris Furniture Co. in Fairborn, Ohio, has been busy opening Better Sleep locations dedicated to the mattress category. Vice President Rob Klaben said the retailer is fortunate to have the one of the best mattress manufacturer reps in the industry who makes sure Morris staff knows current sleep technology and represents its showrooms and their products well. “Since mattress customers make purchase decisions faster than furniture buyers, sales associates need to make sure prospects receive all the right information to buy on their first visit to our showrooms,” he said.
THE CITY WAY
At Florida retailer City Furniture, selling mattresses is all about comfort, support, value and brand. “If someone likes a dining room set, it’s because they like the style,” said President Keith Koenig. “With mattresses, it’s first about comfort, then value, not so much how it looks.” Art Hunt, product specialist at the Tamarac, Fla.-based retailer, handles advanced training for sales associates in all categories, including mattresses. He creates manuals and processes for City’s proprietary training programs. He said stores specializing in mattresses are at a distinct advantage when it comes to training: “That’s all they have to know.”
Many salespeople, Hunt believes, have an ingrained reluctance to get involved in the process of selling a bed. “There’s so much information, and it creates a natural barrier,” he said. “You have a gallery with 50 or 60 beds, and there’s a lot of information to remember, and that’s a mental challenge.” That’s one reason City, which expects all salespeople to sell the entire floor, is moving away from selling on product specifications to concentrating on highlighting support, comfort and better health. It’s a good match with so much of the bedding industry’s marketing the past couple of years, which touts the benefits of a good night’s sleep. “We’re trying to sell someone on the idea of how to improve their health,” Hunt said, adding that product knowledge is still important—just not a starting point for the conversation. “When a customer comes in and asks how many coils a bed has, you still need to know since it’s a relevant fact when building a mattress.” Still, the comfort approach toward selling mattresses has eliminated the challenge a lot of City’s salespeople faced with the category. The training certifies each salesperson on a proprietary two-pronged approach that combines product knowledge with a seven-step sales process. Even though a customer might not sit still for all seven steps, the salesperson has to be certified on each one so he or she can fit the process to individual customers. “We do the sale very conversationally,” Hunt said.
“Are they an all-foam customer, a hybrid coil shopper, etc.” City utilizes a bed-testing area where customers can check the feel, say, of a foam bed vs. a coil mattress. Customers also can check out which pillow they prefer. When it comes to product information, City recognizes that it’s hard to keep specs for 50 or 60 mattresses in one’s head. “We supply a tone of information in our online learning management system on our Intranet,” Hunt said. “Some customers want that information—say an engineer comes in and asks for the indentation load defection of the foam in a bed. The salespeople don’t memorize things like that, but they can access it via the computer in seconds.” While City Furniture sales staff are expected to sell mattresses, each store has a mattress specialist responsible for the overall department, as well as additional training at the store level. In recent months, City Furniture has taken its staff at all stores through off-site training blitzes for vendors including Serta, Sherwood Bedding, Simmons and Tempur Sealy.
“It puts the category front-and-center in everyone’s mind,” Hunt said.
DEDICATED OR NOT
One debate for training in bedding: Should a retailer have dedicated sales staff for the category or not? “It’s a touchy subject,” said Michael Kua, senior consultant for Impact Consulting Services. “It’s an employee-retention and happiness issue. You have people who’ve been with you for many years that might resent losing out on those sales.” sure anyone you have slated to sell mattresses has the ability and drive to do so. “A lot of salespeople at high-end stores don’t like to sell mattresses—it’s not ‘sexy,’” Kua said. Going with a dedicated staff also risks what he called a “sense of betrayal” from lost potential commissions; and dilution of sales in other categories, especially in small to medium-size stores. “If you have 10 people and put two of them selling mattresses, you’ve reduced your sales staff for everything else by 20 percent,” Kua said. “And when you move two of those 10 into bedding, they might be used to getting three or four ups a day, and now they’re down to one or two.
Their opportunity has been reduced financially, and calls for additional training, maybe even more advertising.” The other problem is with training. It’s not as costproductive for the rep to train a couple of dedicated sales people in a full-service store versus the entire sales staff.
“That’s different at a Mattress Firm, where they might sell hundreds of thousands a month with three people,” Kua said. Jerry Epperson, managing director, Mann Armistead & Epperson, Richmond, Va., said dedicated sales staff vs. generalists depends on the store. “If you look at Jordan’s, they have people in lab coats they call ‘sleep technicians’ that the other salespeople send customers to,” he said. “That’s not possible in a smaller store, though.” While City Furniture has “sleep specialists” in each store, the retailer’s business model relies upon salespeople having the knowledge to sell the entire floor. “We, like most furniture stores and good mattress specialists, have an ‘interview’ process,” said President Keith Koenig. “Most people are buying a mattress for themselves, and they’re concerned about getting a good night’s sleep. “People have a lot of sleep issues. The wrong pillow will exacerbate some problems; budge; brand preference; sleep surface preferences—always try several. The mattress customer is self-selecting, but the sales associate is critical to getting them to that point.” (For more on dedicated sales vs. generalists, see the accompanying sidebar, “Dedicated Mattress Staff: Yes or No?”)
Bedding vendors such as Kingsdown have developed instore diagnostic systems to help consumers narrow down their mattress choices according to body size, sleep habits (back or side, for example) and other personal preferences. Kingsdown’s retail partners using its program include Art Van, Sleep Fit, Sit n Sleep, Baers Furniture and Mattress Warehouse. The key with such programs is to make sure your staff, first, knows how to use them; and second, can “process” customers on the floor. “Sometimes I think they don’t have enough machines available,” said Kua at Impact. “If you have three customers shopping for a bed, do you want them to be standing in line waiting to be tested? “It’s either part of your process or not. The old fashioned way still works if you don’t have the machine. It does work though, and retailers do need to hold salespeople accountable to use the machine. People do trust what a machine says more, sometimes, than what people are telling them.” City’s Koenig is more confident in the sales process the retailer developed over the years.
“My experience with diagnostic programs over the years is mixed,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything better than trying out a number of mattresses.” If you do choose to use diagnostics, hold your salespeople accountable for putting them to work—and the reps from vendors with such programs. “If you have the diagnostics, reps need to know those stats and tell your sales staff,” Kua said. “What are different comfort levels they’re selling? Make sure they’re running reports on what’s selling in terms of firmness and price points. “Look at bad performers, and see how they can do better.”
WHAT ARE THEY LOOKING FOR?
Mattress sales training might demand more qualification than any other category. After all, the customer will be spending a third of her time on this product as long as she owns it. “If someone wanders into the sleep section, you know they’re qualified at the get go,” Kua said. “Ask qualifying questions. Incentivize with (compensation) for hand-holders who bring customers to the mattress department. “If they look at anything in the bedroom category, they’re more qualified.” Are you selling a bed, or are you selling the mystery of sleep? If either, make sure your associates are trained to keep tabs on the mattress department’s appearance. “Watch your floor,” Kua noted. “The most popular mattress might be the dingiest, footprints on the base protector. Change out the cover. Is it really clean compared with the rest of the bed?” Good training helps build tickets because salespeople are better equipped to help customers understand the difference between a $500 mattress and a $2,000 unit that might not look very different on the sales floor. “Anything you lie on in the store is going to feel better than your mattress at home,” Hunt said. “The question is what will it feel like six months
The new generation of mattress shoppers is accustomed to going to specialists for particular products. They see an Apple store, they think, “I’ll find what I need for smartphones and computers.” The proliferation of mattress-only retailers is right in line with their shopping habits. How do you, as a full-line furniture retailer, let them know you’re in the business of selling sleep? City Furniture President Keith Koenig believes his stores have a lot more to offer in terms of selection and price in bedding than the specialty stores in its markets. How does he get that message to consumers, and how is it reflected on City Furniture’s floors.
“We feel it all starts with the City Furniture and the Ashley Furniture Homestore brands,” he said. (City Furniture’s also a major Ashley dealer.) “We have the logistics, I think the best in the market; we have the product, from a $249 queen to a Tempur-Pedic, an edited selection of major brands; we have the accessories and top of bed. We have sleep specialists in all our departments and an enormous amount of training for the salespeople they support. “But to be really successful, you need shoppers to have that emotional connection with your brand and great customer service. We’re involved in the community, and people know we’re in it for the long haul.” That approach is reflected in Tamarac, Fla.-based City’s advertising. “Everyone else is screaming, ‘We’re number one, we have the lowest prices,’” Koenig said. “We’re talking about City Furniture and our people.
“I’m not saying we win every battle, but we’re the number one player in home furnishings in South Florida, and we’re a major player in the mattress space, even though the specialty stores have hundreds of locations in the market we serve.”
STAKING A CLAIM
The basis of retail buying group Furniture First’s Mattress 1st program is building consumer mind share for its member retailers when people shop for bedding. “Specialty stores are identified as having expertise, and they offer a specialty experience in the store,” said Andrew Kauffman, director of mattresses at Furniture First. He said retailers who want to do more bedding business should go outside their store and look at it as a customer sees it. “Would you know that you sell mattresses there?” he asked. “If your customer has to come into your store, go up the stairs and all the way to the back, that’s not convenient.” He suggested moving the bedding department to the front of the store or another high-visibility area. “Look for 10 tickets that were for bedroom furniture sales only,” Kauffman added. “Call those customers, and ask them if they know you sell mattresses.” Richard Andrews, president of Andrews Furniture in Abilene, Texas, is looking for ways to keep building mattress sales. “The visibility is something that needs to happen,” he said. “We’d always taken a closet-like approach to where we put bedding, since it seemed to be a very personal shopping and decision process, but maybe that’s not really that important anymore. We put it in a more public location in the store.”
A DISTINCT BUSINESS
Callan’s Furniture in Waite Park, Minn., recently opened a 3,500-square-foot “store within a store” for mattresses and bedding using Furniture First’s Mattress 1st concept as a template. “The biggest thing we’ve seen with the new department is that you put yourself on equal footing with the specialty sleep shops,” he said. “The consumer can tell there’s been an investment made and that you’re serious about the category.” One good thing about specialty stores moving into a market is that their advertising gets consumers thinking about making a mattress purchase. Do your ads inspire potential customers to do the same thing? Coconis Furniture, South Zanesville, Ohio, has re-thought its advertising approach with the bedding category. “Historically, every ad we ran mentioned mattresses, but with all those new mattress-only stores, our goal is to have a separate budget for the category,” said President Randy Coconis. “By midsummer we should be up and running with that.”
Furniture Stores Battle Mattress Specialty Shops For Share of A Very Profitable Category.
The proliferation of mattress specialty stores should have full-line furniture retailers carrying the category in a tizzy. If you’re among the latter and pay no attention, kiss your bedding sales goodbye. Take a look at Mattress Firm. The Houston based sleep specialist added 75 locations in Colorado and Arizona this past April with the acquisition of BedMart and Mattress King stores. It also bought up 55 stores in two markets where it already had a presence, Austin and Dallas, Texas, with the acquisition of Sleep Experts. If you haven’t seen it already, expect a wave of advertising that will cull customers from your floor if they’re looking for a mattress. The good news is that you can count on the advertising dump from stores that make bedding their living to get people in your market to think about buying a mattress. The bad news: Shoppers might pass you by.
THE “APPLE” EFFECT
When it comes to a mattress, the average home furnishings retailer might think people will head their way. Some will. Others won’t. Consumers tend to glom onto specialists. “We’ve taught our public that generally speaking the specialty stores do a better job,” said Jerry Epperson, industry analyst and partner at Mann, Armistead & Epperson in Richmond, Va. “When we look for a specific product, we just tend to look for a store that specializes in it. “It’s natural that shoppers looking to buy a computer gravitate toward a consumer electronics retailer—furniture retailers beware.” Epperson’s concerns for traditional retailers and the business they might do in bedding go back a long way. “When I first started in this industry furniture stores sold electronics, they sold appliances,” he said. “Some still do, but most don’t. I don’t want us to lose the mattress business as well, especially since it’s so profitable, and it affects the sales of accompanying bedroom furniture.”
Full-line furniture stores can learn some lessons from their mattress specialist counterparts. Some traditional retailers, especially major regional chains, are listening, and opening dedicated sleep shops. Those include HOM Furniture, Morris Furniture, Art Van, Cardis Furniture and Steinhafels. “Bedding retailers offer consumers the convenience of being able to park close to the door and get in and out fairly quickly without having to walk an entire mall or showroom to find the mattress department,”said Rob Klaben, vice president at Fairborn, Ohio-based Morris Furniture Co. “This is why we have created our Better Sleep Shops in our showrooms that have their own entrance with the department right at the door.” The retailer’s newer stores boast separate entrances for the sleep shops, and plans are to add separate entrances to existing locations where possible. “Mattress stores also have dedicated sales associates that only sell mattresses,” Klaben said. “All our Better Sleep Shop sales associates are certified sleep experts that only sell mattresses and related products.” These stores are tying an established brand in their markets to a category that adds a lot more to their bottom line potential than another imported bedroom set. “I’m a big fan of Art Van’s Pure Sleep,” Epperson said. “It’s a great concept, but I’m not convinced that furniture stores can’t do a good job selling the category on their own. Jordan’s does a fantastic job—they have people in lab coats that are sleep specialists—the other salespeople steer customers their way if they’re shopping for bedding.“It’s all about the way they market and approach the bedding category,” he said.
The whole impetus behind retail buying group Furniture First’s development of its Mattress 1st concept is helping its traditional retailer members compete against mattress specialty stores. The idea is to provide those members with a national specialty chain’s impact on consumer mind share while putting their own local recognition and merchandising touches to work in building mattress sales. Knorr Marketing brought the concept to Furniture First; and retail designer Martin Roberts is consulting with the consortium on individual stores for merchandising and display. The program kicked off in May 2013, and in its first year, has 15 approved Mattress 1st locations with more on the way, according to Furniture First Director of Mattresses Andrew Kauffman, who offered a progress report at the buying group’s symposium last month in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. “Specialty stores are identified as having expertise, and they offer a specialty experience in the store,”Kauffman said. Mattress 1st has two options: a store within a store; or a freestanding specialty store. “We’re looking to provide a national chain-type presence in the category for members,” Kauffman said.“It’s turn-key, ready to set up.” At the Furniture First gathering, members shared success stories of ramping up their bedding presence as mattress specialists in their markets. Dewey Furniture, Vermillion, Ohio, opened a separate Mattress 1st location in the back of its existing furniture store. Mattress percent of sales volume climbed from 9 percent before the move, when mattresses were mixed with other goods on the floor, to 15-plus percent of volume. “Salespeople and customers are energized,” Kauffman said. “The bedding department is averaging a 30 percent increase since last October.” Mattress and bedding volume at Waite Park, Minn., retailer Callan Furniture was around 8 percent of volume, and its bedding department lacked flow before its conversion to the Mattress 1st model. Now, bedding accounts for 15 percent of volume; and bedding sales are now up 35 percent year-over-year in the first full month of being open under the new approach.
PLAY TO STRENGTH
Furniture retailers might not have the focus of the mattress specialists, but they do have some business advantages, said Keith Koenig, president of Tamarac, Fla.-based City Furniture. “The specialty store explosion has been good for the industry and a good reason for furniture retailers to wake up and revitalize their mattress category,” he said. “When I started out, we just sold waterbeds. We were the ultimate specialist, and I understand the strength of a specialty store. The customer thinks of you for the category and that you’re an expert.” That said, a lot of full-line stores have some advantages. “First, in general mattress specialty stores have higher occupancy costs as a percentage of revenue,” Koenig said, adding that retail specialists usually have higher personnel costs and a harder time gauging staffing than full-service stores. “Furniture stores have built-in value opportunity,” he said. “They typically have a lower cost structure. MAP products not withstanding, generally (specialty stores) look for higher margins.” The other advantage if you can get a mattress shopper in the door: “Shopping a mattress specialty store is not, in general, an exciting experience,” Koenig said. “Ms. Consumer tells us—and this is based on a lot of research and focus groups—that she looks to furniture stores for inspiration. “On top of that, and no disrespect because they’ve been very successful, (specialty stores) are a lot of mattresses with some POP and sales associates.” Plus, when City sells a mattress, its salespeople also know to pitch a bedroom or at least some other furniture to go with it. City has eschewed the dedicated store approach. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of senior people (at mattress specialty stores), and it seems the costs are higher,” Koenig said. “We’d have to raise all our prices in the category. We run our mattress departments at a lower margin than a specialty store could afford.” Rather than open specialty sleep shops, City’s works to execute its business model as well as it possibly can. “I’m not saying it’s not a good idea to open specialty shops, and I’m not saying we’ll never do it, but we’ve just had bigger fish to fry,” Koenig said. Epperson noted that traditional retailers square footage for bedding often is larger and more diverse than specialty stores. “Furniture stores also tend to have more of the complementary items like bed top and pillows,” he said. “That’s a big profit center if you can sell it.” Epperson said one retailer friend bragged that he was the biggest Simmons dealer in the state. “I asked, ‘Do you advertise that?’” he said. “Traditionally, you bring (customers) in with the brands, but convert them to something with similar features but a better margin.”
With all the branding in the category, he added, there’s more mattress-to-mattress comparisons than retailers see in say, wood furniture. He added that the bedding industry has come far from the days when blue-and-white-striped ticking was considered an acceptable standard for mattress appearance. “The only (visual) impression you get of that mattress on the sales floor is that cover,” he said. Koenig recalled visiting a major sleep chain when shopping for a niece who was moving into an apartment with a short-term lease and who didn’t want to spend a lot of money on her mattress. “I’d seen the advertising, but when I went to the store, I had to go into basically a closet to see it,” he said. “That’s not our value proposition (at City). We want to give a customer looking for an affordable set the chance to choose one from an attractive selection.” Even if you aren’t, a wealth of retailers across the country are giving more attention to their bedding department. “Our bedding business has gone way up the last couple of years,” said Richard Andrews, president of Andrews Furniture in Abilene, Texas. “But the specialty chains like Mattress Firm are popping up all over the place. Those guys are spending money hand over fist to buy up stores and expand.” Andrews runs a 30,000-square-foot store, with 24,000 square feet of warehouse space. Mattress sales are 15 percent of volume. “Four years ago we were pedaling along trying to get 10 percent,” Andrews said, crediting the efforts of vendors such as Tempur-Pedic to highlight the health benefits of good sleep as an influence. “Our average ticket is much higher, and our penetration is probably up over the last three years. Our Web site says, ‘Sleep Better Tonight.’” Callan’s Furniture, Waite Park, Minn., is learning from the specialists. “First, their focus is on the task at hand, selling mattresses,” said Patrick Callan, president. “Second, they simplify the consumer experience and the buying process. Callan’s has incorporated the store-in-a-store approach, using Furniture First’s Mattress 1st concept as a template for a 3,500-square-foot boutique to sell mattresses. Key vendors include the Tempur-Sealy family, including Stearns & Foster, and Furniture First’s Mattress 1st and Health 1st private labels. “We’d planned to retrofit our mattress department in 2014 anyway, and Mattress 1st fit our program,” Callan said. “We’re a significant player in our marketplace, but we knew we were still leaving a lot of mattress sales on the table.” Callan’s had a soft opening for its mattress department in February and a grand opening in March.
The effect on the retailer’s mattress sales was immediate. “The smallest increase (month over month) has been 35 percent, and the largest was well over 100 percent,” Callan said. Coconis Furniture created a separate bedding entrance for its South Zanesville, Ohio, main store, and plans to implement the same strategy moving forward. “We’ll do the same thing with our new store in Heath,” which opens in July, said Randy Coconis, president. “It will be a specific destination but at the same location.” Coconis also plans to switch a third location to the Mattress 1st concept. “In my town, we have Mattress Firm, coming; Sleep Outfitters opened last year, and Mattress Mart,”Coconis said. “The younger generation doesn’t think about furniture stores carrying mattresses. They’re used to going to an Apple store when they need a computer or phone.” The impact at Coconis Furniture has been immediate: “Since we’ve moved to the new front entrance, our mattress business is up 50 percent since January,” Coconis said. Coconis also is considering free-standing bedding stores, and is moving to mattress price tags that show flat pricing for the mattress alone, or with a good, better, best story on adjustable bases for appropriate products. “We’re doing that on everything that takes an adjustable base,” Coconis said. “In our training, we’re also requiring our salespeople to ask along the line of ‘Now that you’ve found the perfect mattress, let’s look at the foundation.’ In-store demonstrations are the key to that. “We’ve always marketed free delivery on mattresses,” he said. “Now we’re moving to free delivery on a $799 and up mattress with the purchase of a mattress protector with a 10-year warranty. In the last 30 days, our protector sales have gone up 30 percent.” In the mean while, think about what mattresses can do for your sales.“I love the mattress business, because if it weren’t for this category’s innovation, creativity and marketing efforts, everyone would be selling an identical slab,” Epperson said. Unlike many furniture categories, bedding vendors have managed to convince the public that real differences exist among products that can look remarkably similar on the sales floor.