Stearns and Foster’s Strategy For A Three Year Product Transition

Stearns and Foster recently announced that from now on they are going to a three year replacement cycle. I watched their Chief Marketing Officer, Jay Spenchian, in an interview with Dave Perry at Furniture Today, and Jay did a great job communicating their intentions.

  1. Consumers are coming into the market all of the time so the innovation from Stearns and Foster will always be new to them.
  2. To keep things fresh they are going to advertise the brand nationally.
  3. The recent innovation in the Stearns and Foster line is so good that it is going to keep it relevant for that three year period.

Here are a few challenges as I see them: (Give me a break you knew this part was coming.)

  1. The consumer isn’t the only audience you have to deal with; how about the rsa? I can remember other bedding executives not paying close enough attention to that audience and they paid a big price for it. The question is, will you be able to keep the sales force out there representing your products excited? What happens if other bedding producers are not following the three year cadence and have products coming in and out more often. The rsa LOVES that shiney new product to sell.
  2. Being the Chief Marketing Officer, Jay knows if he is going to say that their advertising program is going to help keep people excited about Stearns and Foster, that will take a SIGNIFICANT budget with a message that totally hits the sweet spot with the consumer. This is great to hear, I just hope that Tempur-Sealy supports him and delivers the truckload of money it is going to take.
  3. I have to admit that I can’t speak to this one directly because somebody misplaced my invite to view the new line at market. (Just a joke, I wouldn’t have invited me either.) I can say that I have not heard a lot about the innovation on the line so that tells me something. In order for innovation to drive interest, you really have to have something compelling. Mostly if it is going to last three years.
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Jay Spenchian and Dave Perry

I have to give the Stearns and Foster team credit here. It isn’t easy to lead, and they deserve respect for doing what they are doing. Retailers don’t like spending all of that money on floor samples every other year, and producers don’t like giving floor sample discounts. If the company executes the plan they put forth I really think they have a shot; but that is a big IF.

No matter what happens, I like the fact that they are giving this a try and if it works, it will equate to millions of dollars in additional profits. Worst case you pivot and bring out V2 earlier than anticipated. Right?

What do you think? Is Stearns and Foster on to something here?


Believing Isn’t The Same As Knowing

My daughter Gabby is 13 and plays softball. They have a pretty salty team finishing 7th in the World Series in Orlando last year. (Not bad for a scrappy team from a small town.) Gabby is a lights out center fielder earning her the nickname “Hoover” as she sweeps up anything that comes her way. But on the offensive side she has had some challenges. Gabby has worked with a few different hitting coaches that didn’t help all that much because her issue wasn’t just mechanical; it was mental. She really believed she could do well at the plate but it wasn’t happening.

Gabby started working with Travis Noel, her new hitting coach, at the beginning of this season. Travis did a great job of connecting with Gabby right away, gaining her trust. He would always start his training sessions giving her a hard time about something to make it fun, and to get her out of her own head and it worked. Gabby hit the ball harder than she ever has, placing it deep in the outfield and delivering her best performance at the plate.  Her comment to me on the ride home was, “Now I KNOW what I can do. I never realized how hard I could hit the ball.” I knew right away what my next blog post was going to be.

The point here is that BELIEVING in yourself is critical to success. Winning over a long period of time doesn’t happen if you don’t believe you can pull it off. But KNOWING you can do it takes you to an entirely different place. Gabby believed she could do it, but never really knew what she was capable of. “Knowing” comes after you have had some success. Only then can you call on that experience to drive your belief even deeper.

A good friend of mine, Barry Kahn, turned 40 before I did so I asked him if it was a big deal and his response was, “Not really. The biggest difference is that going into meetings at work, I am much more confident in myself, like I have earned the right to be in the room for the big meeting. I don’t think I am good at my job, I KNOW I am.”

Riding home in the car after the tournament I was almost brought to tears thinking about how hard my daughter has fought to get to this point. All those times where she stood at the plate and didn’t get the result she was after. You want it so bad for your child but you know you can’t do it for them. They have to fight. We spent hundreds of hours working on it together, driving through the frustration, so that one day she would be where she is today. Believing and KNOWING all at the same time.

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Meet the MVP Battitudes. Gabby is the goof sitting in the front row. 1st Place Champs!

Bed Talks 2016 A Huge Success

I recently attended Mattress Firm’s Bed Talks 16 and I’m not sure where to start except to say that Corey Ludens and his team are rock stars in my opinion. They did an amazing job on every detail of this conference.

We arrive in San Antonio to the JW Marriott (terrific property), to a mariachi band welcome and beautiful lunch buffet, so right from the beginning I was impressed. That night there was a reception at Knibbe Ranch where we heard a great welcome message from Steve Stagner, Buck the cowboy took us through the history of Texas, and then Ken Murphy, who really got the crowd worked up barely escaping several fires on stage. (To hear more about that listen to the Sleep Geek podcast Mark Kinsley and I recorded about the entire Bed Talks 16 event.)

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It wasn’t just the pageantry of it all, these guys delivered some great content. We heard from some people at the corporate office about their new merchandising programs, company policies, vision for the future etc. But we also heard from some in the field as they told personal stories that inspired us, entertained us, and brought us to tears.

Here were my three big takeaways from the event:

1.  If you say you care about your people then step up and invest in them. Mattress Firm has clearly done that by bringing in over 1,200 people to experience Bed Talks in person. Most of these people earned there way by meeting sales/operational goals, and some were there simply to be honored for the success they have achieved in the past year. It would be easy to fill up the agenda focused only on boring details about company procedures, but this was different. It was very obvious that many of the speakers were there to teach the team about leadership principals that would help the audience navigate the business, and inspire them to drive harder on their personal life as well. Happier employees = happier customers. Makes sense to me.

2.  Mattress Firm really did shine a light on some of their problems. They talked about not having enough women involved in the organization and how their new LeadHERship program was going to help that. They talked about how they have too many stores, largely due to their aggressive acquisition strategy and the problem that was causing some of the rsa’s working those lower volume stores. They said they need to reduce store counts but in the mean time, they bumped up compensation in those stores to help their people earn a better living and in some cases they doubled and tripled the pay. This one got a standing ovation can you believe that? I actually think it was Jody Putnam and his delivery of the message that they were loving. icon smile Bed Talks 2016 A Huge Success

3. MFRM Nation really does understand delivering a brand experience. A company brand is so much more than the logo on the building. The people in your company, the real ambassadors of your brand, have to be lined up with you and your culture if they are going to be that touch point for the consumer. At the end of the day THEY ARE YOUR BRAND so how are you getting your people excited to carry forward what you want YOUR brand experience to be? How do you inspire your team? How do you get them to feel good about what you are doing and where you are going?

MFRM also talked about the importance of their 10,000 employees, what it means to be #1, giving their front line the resources to succeed, and believing the idea that by 2020 they will be a $7 billion company by focusing on culture, company, and community.

You need to listen the aforementioned podcast to get some more of the details but I will tell you that the week was incredible. Without a doubt, my favorite part was the GIVE BIG day where everyone at the conference built bikes, made blankets and created college welcome kits, all for their foster kids program Ticket To Dream. If you have not heard about this program you need to check it out for yourself because they are working miracles for kids every day and it was awesome to get to be a part of it during the conference. Get involved if you can!

Thank you to everyone at MFRM Nation for a great experience. It made a HUGE impact on me. Well done!

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Ken Murphy getting the troops FIRED UP!

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These guys started Mattress Firm in Atlanta-minus me- but they are all fraternity brothers or little sisters from SFA-minus Karrie who is a South Dakota girl. From left to right…Steve Stagner, Karrie Forbes, Jeff Quinn, Mark Quinn, bottom row-Cricket Cox, and Tiffany Avila

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Bob Gorsich works his magic. Literally.

Do Consumers Really Save Money Buying Bed In A Box?

A lot has been said about the bed in a box business and there is a significant amount of excitement around the category and for good reason; the consumer is looking for a different experience. Here are a few thoughts on why the business has grown so much in the last 12 months:

  1. Consumers don’t really like shopping for a bed.
  2. Large move by consumers to e-commerce in general.
  3. Cool factor and brilliant marketing.
  4. Consumer reviews are driving interest.
  5. Better perceived value on product because of the cost model and high margin at brick and mortar.

 Do Consumers Really Save Money Buying  Bed In A Box?

It’s that last one that I want to address here. Has anyone actually purchased one of these beds? I am going to generalize here and bucket them all together so forgive me in advance, but for the most part I have not been all that impressed with product. Do they make a decent mattress? Yes. Is it anything that hasn’t been done before in our industry? No. Are these beds saving the consumer a bunch of money by going direct to the retailer on line? NO!!!!!! At least not from what I see. The big story here is disruption, or at least that is why they were getting so much press. The problem there is that some of those articles were written after doing very little research. The hard truth of the matter is that you can run into a Sam’s Club or a Costco and pick up a bed in the box for less money than what the current e-commerce guys are charging at the same or better quality. My buddy Michael Fux, now the owner of Comfort Revolution, essentially invented this category well over a decade ago and was incredibly brilliant when he designed the wheeled box to get it to your car. Now this concept has been picked up and taken on line which is smart, but I don’t like it when companies BS the consumer.

The e-commerce company goes from the factory, (which they don’t own and have to pay a price loaded with some margin), straight through themselves to the consumer which is a three tier supply chain. If they own their factory then they can claim more of a factory direct but most of them don’t. If it is a brick and mortar retailer they are also buying from a manufacturer, through themselves, to the consumer. That is also a three tier supply chain. I guess you could make the argument that the e-commerce guys don’t have the brick and mortar cost of doing business so they can point to that for savings, but have you priced key words around the mattress category lately? It’s not cheap! You have to build a website that is able to run a robust e-commerce business platform, staff it with programmers, content creators and designers, spend a bunch of money to promote and get your name out there, build in extra dollars to handle returns and when it is all said and done what kind of money are you really saving the consumer?

Many of these guys have really moved away from saying their beds save consumers money because they know that they really don’t for the most part. You can go into any Mattress Firm or Sit’N Sleep out there and find a bed every bit as good as what you will find on line for the same money!

I give Casper and Tuft and Needle credit for making this category cool and for focusing on what matters most when it comes to buying a mattress. The huge benefit of great sleep. I have met both Daehee Park and JT Marino from Tuft and Needle and they are the real deal. Great guys with a very strong business strategy where they put the consumer right in the middle of everything that they do. I am a big fan and hope that they continue to have great success but I don’t agree with the claim of the better deal.

I speak to industry analyst on a frequent basis about this subject so I will tell you what I tell them keeping in mind that it is just one guys opinion. The category is real and is here to stay. The consumer review will continue to validate the concept and I am guessing that guys like Daehee and JT will continue to bring innovation to our business. They will not take over the industry however so we can relax a little. There is only a slice of the market that is going to be okay buying a bed on line. The question is, how big of a slice? If it ever eclipsed 20% I would be shocked but never say never. We don’t want to be the guys making film for cameras, or cd’s do we?

PS- There is no such thing as ONE BED FITS ALL!


Connecting The Dots

For years I could never understand why bedding producers and retailers didn’t focus more of their resources on telling the real story about a mattress so when it came time to build our new website, we knew we had an opportunity. When I say the “real story”,  I mean celebrate the fact that the mattress can deliver a great night of sleep which can improve your quality of life. This is emotional and compelling and should be a central part of what we are all talking about in our point of sale, advertising, and on our websites which brings me to my point.

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We have finally launched our new website now that we have products in the market and we are really excited about it. Our goal was to take the dotted line that exist between the mattress and good sleep and do our best to make that a solid line that trumpets the real benefits of a great mattress. Some things you will find on the new Spink and Edgar site.

  • The back story on WHY we decided to bring these products to market. If you don’t have the “WHY” figured out for any business you are really missing it. Just ask Simon Sinek or watch this video
  • Consumers love stories so we tried to make sure that the rsa’s out there have a great one to tell when it comes time to sell our mattresses. We grow beds. Pretty simple.
  • In addition to WHY we brought these products to market we wanted to answer the question of WHY luxury? We also value all of the work that went into designing these beds so you can get all of that and meet Simon Spinks, the innovator that built our story in THIS section.  While your there you can check out a quick video on why coil counts matter and how important they are to the comfort life of a bed.
  • We have always been big fans of Zappos and how they use video to teach consumers about their products. We loved it so much that we borrowed the idea and created our own videos for each of our products. Every video starts with the story about the bed and then on the back half we show the farm and where those beds came from. A product photo just doesn’t do a Spink and Edgar justice so this seemed to be a better solution. A picture might paint a thousand words, but a video brings it to life.
  • You have heard me talk about serving the consumer a lot in this blog so we are going to make sure we do that on our site. We have a section called the Scholar which is full of original content that our writers have produced. We talk about ways to improve your sleep environment, how luxury mattress brands differ, and why natural is a better choice over synthetic raw materials. Yes we even talk about why Spink and Edgar is better for intimacy, but if you have been reading this blog very long, you knew that would be included. People don’t just sleep in their beds after all so let’s be grown ups and talk about that. icon smile Connecting The Dots

I served on the Better Sleep Council for several years and really enjoyed my time with that group of people. Ryan Trainer, Mary Helen Uusimaki and Karin Mahoney are great people and were a lot of fun to work with. We talked a lot about getting the consumer to understand the emotional benefits of buying a new bed, so many of those conversations are coming to life on this site. It has been a fun project for my brother and I and we hope that you take a few minutes to check it out. (Mary Helen, a resource center where we link to the BSC is coming I promise!)

My hat is off to Studio C5, the real brains behind this effort. Carlos Arnavat is their servant leader, (his title is actually Chief Servant) and his group totally gets it. At every stage of development over the last 6 months they have been really great to work with so THANK YOU to everyone there that kicked some serious butt for us at Spink and Edgar. I also want to thank Nate and Danny at Zeus Visuals that helped us produce many of the videos you see on the site. They are equally awesome and we have had a great time working with them as well. Thank God for these partners because without them we wouldn’t have what we do today.