My friend David Perry did it again by putting on a record-breaking Funiture Today Bedding Conference that hosted more people than ever before. Not only is Dave one of the hardest working journalist in the industry, he is a cash machine for the Furniture Today ownership team. I hope he has a corner office in that building.
Read to the bottom today for my favorite part of this event; you will love it.
This year was no different than past years, some of the sessions were great, some were not as great, but the real value is always delivered by what you learn from old friends and new friends over cocktails and at dinner. Here are a few things I took away from my time in Florida:
- The store is the brand. I happen to agree in most cases unless you are Tempur-Pedic who has earned a different kind of respect from the consumer.
- Joe Alexander with Nest Bedding is one of my new industry heroes. He has great swag and has accomplished a lot with his company. If you want it go take it, and deliver value to others along the way. So simple. So true.
- Imported mattress are now accounting for about 20% of the industries finished mattresses in the United States. I only heard that a few times but WOW?! More on that subject in a future blog.
- Equalman or Eric Qualman his alter ego is still bringing his “A” game. I had lunch with Eric several years ago and was impressed with his approach to digital. He was the key note to kick off the conference this year and didn’t disappoint. Bottom line; Social media isn’t a choice. The only choice you have is how well you do it and if you think there is no ROI to social at this point, you might be past the point of help. Get Socialnomics or watch THIS VIDEO and learn your way in.
- Bed in the box is here to stay, the only question is how big will it get? Brick and mortar has some serious advantages, but to underestimate this channel would be a mistake.
As always, the Retail Bedding Giant presentation dinner was a lot of fun. This year they honored Levin Furniture, Mattress Direct, and The Mattress Hub. I really enjoy hearing stories about how people built their business, and why they got into the mattress business. Each one of these guys has done an incredible job representing this industry so to all of them I say well done and congratulations! I had a brief moment to speak to Joe Fleckenstein with Levin Furniture so Joe if your reading this, two things. 1. Your humility inspires me. 2. Damn your tall. 🙂
The final award of the night was delivered to one of my mentors and the past CEO of Serta Inc., Ed Lilly. I worked for Ed over 15 years ago. He brought me in at the age of 28 to be the VP of National accounts managing Montgomery Wards and Sam’s Club which accounted for about 30% of the companies volume at the time. I’m not really sure what he saw in me to trust me with that but to say that I am grateful to him and Jeff VanTuyle would be an understatement. Unless you were there, you can’t appreciate what Ed really accomplished for Serta and for the industry but I can tell you this…he was what every leader should aspire to be. He had something like 15 different maverick owners of Serta Licensees all wanting to go their different direction and somehow, he brought them together, drove the heck out of the business, created a national brand, and placed his people at the top of his priority list. Ed and Nancy, I love you guys and I appreciate what you did for me more than I can express. Sitting at your table and sharing the night with you was an honor.
BUT THE BEST PART WAS…
At the end of the first day they had a team building session sponsored by E.S. Kluft. I have to admit, like many others, I really wanted to skip this as I have done a lot of “team building” crap in my career and my e-mail was screaming my name. But I went because Nelson Bercier with Sit’N Sleep convinced me it was going to be worthwhile because Howard Galant promised him it would be. Howard and I have been friends for as long as I have been in this industry so that was good enough for me. You were put into one of 15 groups and were instructed to build the bicycle sitting in the middle of your circle. After we built these bikes the team leader of the exercise drew some parallels of this exercise to our typical work life which was expected, but then the doors to the room swung open and in marched 15 children. These kids were extremely poor and not one of them had their own bike. We were told that a few of the families even lived in their cars. The look on their faces and the hugs from the kids did us all a lot of good. My thanks to Howard and to David Binke the CEO of E.S. Kluft; another class act. These guys did a great thing. Not only did these kids get a bike, but David handed the school principal a nice check to help the kids that didn’t get to come. Well done guys.