If you have been reading this blog very long, you know that I am a big fan of creative and innovative solutions to complex problems. One of the most innovative companies in our industry is Ashley Furniture, and folks, they have done it again.
They recently announced the launch of 50 sleep shops they are calling Zzz’s by Ashley with the intention of opening several thousand over the next 10 years. I am not sure about several thousand, but hey, go big or go home, right? When you consider Ashley’s track record, who says they can’t do it, anyway? They started as a furniture manufacturer and then evolved into a retailer opening their own stores. When they decided to open their own stores, people said they would lose their distribution with other retailers, but they did it anyway and grew fast in spite of the outside negative opinions. How? Because they continued to add value in everything they did. Production started moving overseas, so they built what is today considered one of the most sophisticated supply chains in the industry. Speaking of international interest, they also just announced their first store in China. The bottom line here is that this team has a long track record of just flat making it happen. So will Zzz’s be a bang or a bust?
I was invited to tour their prototype store in Wisconsin recently and listen to Ben Thorud of Ashley take us all through his vision of the future. It is really hard to WOW me when it comes to the bedding world, but he did it. Ben and his team have been working on this project for a few years now and it shows. The entire concept was developed using consumer/industry research and no detail was too small. Here are a few of my favorite highlights:
- When you first walk into the store, you don’t see a large space populated with white rectangles. Instead you walk into a nice and friendly seating area surrounded by sleep accessories on the wall.
- You are also given a tablet to help you shop the store. Consumers are hungry for information and the tablet is another way to get some answers in a very easy to access format.
- Everything I just talked about, from point-of-sale to the video content that can be found on the tablet, is geared toward teaching the shopper about sleep and building value in the mattress to deliver a better quality of life. WELL DONE, Ashley team.
- I have not seen too many sheet displays that are compelling to the consumer that allow them to really see and feel the product. What Ashley has done accomplishes that and more.
I could go on, but Ben will have me shot if I give away too much. You’ll have to check it out for yourself. At the time I walked through the concept model, Ben said the new sleep store had not been beta-tested yet, so they expect some tweaks. From where I stand, they are off to a great start. Is everything they showed us going to work and end up in the final concept? Probably not, but how are you going to get to greatness if you don’t challenge the status quo? I really love the thinking here and applaud Ben and his team for what they have done. So what is your group working on? How are you bringing innovation to what you do? Tell me in the comments section below.
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.