Maybe great products can’t solve ALL of your problems but man O man, they can get close. Consider some of the opportunities facing retailers today and how a strong merchandising strategy can make life so much better. (It’s market time so there is a little selling at the end. 🙂 Thought you should know.)
Differentiate or die: It’s the title of one of my favorite business books and a good lesson for all. If your store is pretty much like every other store in your market, then you need to set yourself apart or you give no reasons for the consumer to shop with you instead of your competition. Your people can make that difference but so can’t your products. Carry a line that will blow people away because it looks and feels different than what everyone else has, and if your selling story is good enough, consumers will leave your store telling their friends. Do you have products like that, and if not why not?
Profits are the fuel: Rising acquisition cost, expensive financing cost, overhead, commissions, delivery fees, giveaways etc., There are a lot of things chipping away at your bottom line and your product assortment needs to provide you the healthy margins you need so you can promote your business, to sell more products, to make more profits to promote your business, to sell more products to make more profits and on it goes. How many beds on your floor carry 70% margins? What if you had more?
Stories matter: When we were kids we learned a lot of very important lessons from people that loved us, telling us stories. Some of the most iconic brands in our universe got that way because they were master storytellers that didn’t sell us 64G of storage space. They told us that we had 1000 songs in our pocket and then showed us the kind of joy that would deliver with people dancing around your screen. Do the products you carry capture the hearts and minds of your consumers or are they just like every other brand in the market?
Bottom line is this…what if you had a product line that was so sexy the story was actually fun for your sales force to share. Products that made you so much money there was actually something left over for you, and because of your vision as an incredible merchant looking out for their consumer, you were able to secure exclusive distribution and not share it with anyone?
I am really proud to be one of the founders of Spink and Co bedding and believe it or not, our collection of luxury mattresses does all of this and more. But don’t take my word for it, let me connect you to one of our retail partners and you can hear it from them. We grow our beds on our own 300-acre farm in Yorkshire, England using the wool from our own sheep and the hemp and flax from our fields. The Queen herself has celebrated our company with 5 awards for things like innovation and sustainability. But the best part is how these beds look and feel, so if you want to experience something nobody in the industry can offer you, please stop in and see me at Las Vegas Market in Dormeo space in B980. If you can’t make it just call me at 630-788-7138 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don’t forget about the Dos Marcos Meet-Up in Vegas on July 28th @4pm space C-1596 in the Englander showroom. Why stand in the hot and sweaty cab lines, hang out with us and have a cocktail! Trent Ranburger is our special guest host so swing by and enjoy some fellowship.
Also check out this podcast with one of our sponsors Sarah Bergan from PureCare. She is awesome and does an amazing job talking us through the sleep essentials category and why it is so important for mattress retailers to lean into this opportunity to build tickets and grow profits. Sarah gives up some very good tips on how to be successful in selling sheets, pillows and protectors so don’t miss it!!!
This poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson is a great reminder that it is our people that make this nation great. It’s the blood they poured out in battles to protect our freedom, and the grit, will and resolve from those men and women that keep us free today.
Enjoy your friends and families this weekend, and pause on the fact that you are blessed to live in the greatest country on the planet, then give thanks to those that make it possible.
A Nation’s Strength
By Ralph Waldo Emerson
What makes a nation’s pillars high
And its foundations strong?
What makes it mighty to defy
The foes that round it throng?
It is not gold. Its kingdoms grand
Go down in battle shock;
Its shafts are laid on sinking sand,
Not on abiding rock.
Is it the sword? Ask the red dust
Of empires passed away;
The blood has turned their stones to rust,
Their glory to decay.
And is it pride? Ah, that bright crown
Has seemed to nations sweet;
But God has struck its luster down
In ashes at his feet.
Not gold but only men can make
A people great and strong;
Men who for truth and honor’s sake
Stand fast and suffer long.
Brave men who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others fly…
They build a nation’s pillars deep
And lift them to the sky.
Mark Kinsley and I had an in-depth conversation about the Tempur-Pedic and Mattress Firm reconciliation so if you have not given that a listen, check it out here.
After giving it some more thought, there are a few things I thought I would go a little deeper on. If you really think about it, there are a lot of positives that will come out of this renewed partnership.
Jobs. Tempur-Sealy is saying that they are about to hire an additional 700 people which we know can’t be completely tied back to this announcement but I’m guessing the majority of these jobs can be. Giving people an opportunity for a career is always a good thing so this is a huge win for them.
This union could make the Mattress Firm a more successful company possibly creating more jobs, giving them access to one of the strongest brands in the category, ultimately driving top and bottom line results.
Even though retailers out there will have to compete with Mattress Firm for Tempurpedic, Sealy, and Stearns and Foster sales, the additional advertising in the market will definitely serve everyone well, bringing more attention to the category. Most of the retailers I talk to are confident that their sales force and store services can compete well with Mattress Firm so if that’s true, then the additional advertising should be a win for everyone.
In a weird way, it’s a good thing for Serta/Simmons Bedding as well. This will force SSB to get more aggressive with their product offerings adding more value to what they are doing for the retailer. Get ready guys because your phone is about to start ringing if it hasn’t already. From what I’m being told by SSB insiders, their CEO Dave Swift is hard at work on a strategy that is going to drive them forward.
I guess the downside could be that when two big companies make massive changes like this there is a serious ripple effect for the rest of the industry. Suppliers will have to reconcile inventories, some job titles will be changing, and there is some uncertainty around the supply chain given the new demand Tempur/Sealy will be facing. The bottom line here is that if you continue adding value in what you offer and how you do your job, there will be opportunities. At least that’s what the free market tells us right? What’s the impact going to be on your business if any? Share your thoughts in the comments section!
As I travel the country and talk to retail sales associates selling Spink and Co beds I get a lot of great feedback. Most of it is very positive but every now and then I hear something that sounds my alarm. The natural reaction to this for me and I’m sure for many of you, is to jump into action and address the issue. But is it really an issue?
I have seen HUGE mistakes made by business leaders (including myself) because they don’t thoroughly vet the feedback they are getting. Is it anecdotal or is there something to it? How often is it coming up? What is the proof that what is being suggested as a problem or opportunity really is something that needs to be addressed?
My friendly reminder to you today is that when you get feedback from people you should obviously listen to it, evaluate it, test the idea as much as you can, look for other consistent threads from different sources to see if it’s real or contrived, and only then should you act.
A few examples:
A buyer walks the floor and hears from his top salesperson that they really need a plush bed at a certain price point when the data says that only firm beds work up there.
An operations guy says that doing it “this way” is too difficult and takes too long until you do a time study and see for yourself that it actually helps you in multiple ways.
Your wife gives you directions on how to get places because it is a “better way to go” but Google maps says she is FULL OF IT. Not sure this one really applies. You are probably better off not listening to a computer over your spouse…the ultimate price is much greater than the cost of a few extra minutes.
Bottom line…don’t jump in, wade in, and make sure what you are hearing is more than one guy’s opinion. Not that you shouldn’t act on those every now and then, but for the big stuff you are better off proving it out in multiple ways.
Can you think of a time when you leaped before you looked? Share it with me in the comments section.
On behalf of the Lollipop Guild I would like to welcome John Eck into the industry. As you probably know John is the new CEO of Mattress Firm and is already hard at work learning his way into the category. In the past, I have been pretty tough on industry outsiders but allow me to put forward a positive opinion on the hiring of Mr. Eck.
As soon as the announcement about John was made, I started getting phone calls from people pointing out that it does not appear that John has any retail experience, which given the job he is taking over, could come in handy. This is true, but is it absolutely necessary? Consider his background:
He has worked with Univision for the past three years as their Chief Local Media Officer. Univision has over 126 television and radio stations across the country so this is no small job, and if you’re going to do that successfully, you have to have some very strong leadership skills which will be critically important in his new role.
John was also Univision’s EVP of Technology, Operations, and Engineering. Give thought to how important operations are to a company like Mattress Firm with 2,500 locations. I understand that running a media company is nothing like running a national chain of sleep shops but his experience will serve him well. He should be able to look at the operational opportunities facing Mattress Firm, diagnose the problems, discover ways to cut cost, engineer new ways to improve the process, and hopefully, make them more efficient. Two totally different industries but many of the principals remain the same no matter what business you’re running. How about the importance of technology these days? Given where things are going in our business and the integration of technology into just about everything that we do, I like the fact that Mr. Eck will be able to apply that knowledge to make Mattress Firm better on multiple levels. Any chance John knows a few things that mattress executives don’t when it comes to technology?
Mr. Eck was in the media business for the past several years, but he was with General Electric for a stretch before all of that. He has worked with GE Capital, GE Power Systems, GE Aircraft Engines, and GE Lighting. I wonder if the people at NBC complained about the fact that he was not a “MEDIA GUY” prior to him taking a top spot at NBC?
John graduated from Indiana University, (how wholesome is that?), and is a recipient of the very distinguished Boy Scouts of America 2001 Communications Art Industries “Good Scout” Award. Any of you out there have one of those?
This guy has worked in multiple industries and has been very successful. Remember that some of the top companies in our category right now are being run by people that didn’t know a thing about mattresses, they were just tech-savvy and understood how to market products on the internet. Fresh thinking is a good thing and can be a great thing if the strategy supporting that new opinion is solid and ultimately puts the consumer in the middle of everything they do.
For me this all comes down to good leadership skills. If John does a great job of listening, surrounds himself with a good mix of insiders and outsiders, convinces his own team that his plan and purpose are worth fighting for, and helps Mattress Firm realize their potential as a massive omnichannel business, then good things will happen for the company.
My son Nick just finished up his track season and was running a very strong 400M race, finishing in 1st place by a comfortable margin at most of his meets. At the end of their season, he went up against this kid that had some serious wheels on him. At the start, Nick got the jump and was out in front as usual but after turn two, this other boy started to pass him by. Nick can’t stand to lose so he turned it up a notch, but in the end, it wasn’t enough and Nick took second in that meet. The bad news is that Nick lost. The good news is that he got his personal record that day turning in his fastest time of the year.
Competition is good. If Mattress Firm does what it’s capable of then you are going to see even more advertising from them which brings more awareness to the category. (I’m guessing John knows a few things about buying media efficiently). When Mattress Firm steps it up, it will push everyone supplying them and the competitors going up against them to bring their best game and in the end, that can bring great results for everyone. Maybe even a personal record.
Well John, once again welcome to the industry. You are now a part of something very special and are going to meet some of the best people you will ever know! Best of luck on this new journey.