I just got back from Aventura, Florida, and the 2012 Furniture Today Bedding Conference; it was a big success. The staff at Furniture Today does an outstanding job of putting this event together and really making it look easy, so I start off thanking them again for their effort.
Here are a few of the highlights:
Kevin Freiberg started us off with an inspirational talk about the state of business today and how critical it is to challenge what we are doing. Innovation brings consumer interest and we need to be laser beam-focused on it. He punctuated that by talking about the $2,500 car produced in India by Tata Motors.
They asked the question, “Can we make a quality vehicle that cheaply?” And they did. So my question is, what can we do?
Dr. Neil Stanley came up next, although I wasn’t able to attend as I was getting ready for my presentation. I heard he was funny and that you can get away saying just about anything as long as you do it with a British accent. I think I am going to try that today; you should as well and report back.
So, next up was me and I focused on celebrating the RSA (retail sales associate) and his/her role in the bedding industry. Let’s face it, nothing happens in this business until the RSAs make it happen on the retail floor. We wanted to talk about the importance of listening to the RSAs and how crucial it is for them to be involved in every discussion. During my presentation, I shared some research that we conducted with the RSA (more on that in a later blog), and as one data point shared, we learned that 86 percent of the RSAs out in the field actually like or love the industry, so that was some good news. We then opened it up to Collin Cook and Shari Peck–a few select Sleep Geeks who were able to participate in a panel Q&A from the audience. The Sleep Geeks did a fantastic job representing their retailers on a number of issues.
My good friend, Craig McAndrews from The Mattress Firm, was up next and did a great job talking about the consumer and the future direction of retail. He asked the audience if they believed that body impressions were a significant problem in the industry. Using the audience response electronic voting system that Leggett & Platt brought in for the conference, 70 percent told us that they did think we had an issue.
There was the retail panel that featured Jim Ross from Simmons, Dave Roberts from Comfort Solutions, Jodi Allen from Sealy and Bob Sherman from Serta. Bob stole the show, as usual, with his quick wit, warning Jodi after a friendly jab that if she wasn’t careful Sealy’s stock would take a dive just like Tempur-Pedic’s did if she continued to mess with Serta.
Michael Magnuson spoke on Friday and shared some of his consumer research as well. Ninety-three percent of consumers are actually happy with their mattress-shopping experience, which is contrary to what we usually hear. Of that group, 86 percent cited that great service was a reason for being happy. On the other hand, when a consumer is not happy, 96 percent of them blame poor service, so it is easy to see how important the RSA and store customer focus is to the industry.
During the conference, Furniture Today crowned the 2012 Retail Bedding Giants. The winners this year were Metro Mattress, Broad River Furniture, Badcock Home Furniture, Sears and more. These guys do a great job representing the bedding industry and the sponsor, Comfort Solutions, hosted a nice evening for everyone in attendance. You have to watch this video that was shown at the beginning of the night–it is VERY funny so check it out.
There‘s much more to share, but given the space here I will have to limit my coverage. If you did not attend, I strongly encourage you to go next year. The real benefit does not just come from listening to these speakers, it comes from the conversations you have sharing a drink with old friends or when you meet new people and learn something you didn’t know. It is about community and sharing your work/life experience in a way that makes you better when you leave. I feel very lucky to have so many friends in this industry and appreciate all of you. It was good catching up and I look forward to the next gathering.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine and mine alone. They do not represent the thinking of the company I work for, or anyone else with whom I am affiliated. Except my wife of course, who is good at telling me what not to say.