We’re putting the emphasis on products in this article, starting with tips for freshening up your merchandising strategy to best show off mattresses and sleep accessories in your brick-and-mortar stores. But display only goes so far in selling more and better bedding, so we also look at easy ways you can keep your staff educated and up to date on new components, technologies and products.
Give Shoppers a Reason to Visit Stores With Great Displays and Inviting Showrooms
With the closures and uncertainties since spring 2020 — and fewer customers coming into stores, especially early in the pandemic — it might have been a while since you’ve refreshed your showroom design and layout.
Updating your merchandising, especially with an emphasis on tangible experiences, can bring vibrancy to your bedding floor.
Get in touch
If shoppers are coming into your store these days, it’s because they want to see and feel a product for themselves. They’re not there to research products. They’ve already done that online.
That means now, more than ever, your brick-and-mortar locations need to be tactile wonderlands. Think pristine floor models with sumptuous fabrics that beg to be touched, and displays of sleep accessories that enable shoppers to plump pillows and feel the difference between a crisp organic cotton sheet set and one made with silky Tencel.
Here are some ways to rethink your showroom in terms of touch:
O If protector and pillow packaging doesn’t allow shoppers to feel the product, unbox some samples and encourage shoppers to explore the textures of various materials. For cool-to-the-touch fabrics, this is a must.
O Ask your accessories vendors to provide fabric swatches for sheets and other accessories. If the companies offer drop-shipping directly to customers — and many now do — this has the added benefit of enabling you to display more options without keeping a lot of inventory.
O Use buns to show shoppers what the inside of the mattress looks like. Buns give shoppers a tactile “educational toy” that connects them to the product. The Original Mattress Factory, a manufacturer-retailer with more than 100 stores in nine states, makes good use of buns in its showrooms, setting them at the foot of floor models.
O Set up a “filling station” using attractive containers generously filled with the foam shreds, down, down alternatives and other materials inside the pillows you carry. Set up a second filling station with bits of the gel foams, latex and other soft components found inside your bestselling mattresses.
Note: Although public health experts and virologists don’t think the coronavirus transmits easily via surfaces, some shoppers are more reluctant than in the past to touch items frequently handled by others. Many bedding suppliers have stepped up to offer disposable protectors for pillows and mattresses to keep items clean. For instance, Precision Textiles, based in Totowa, New Jersey, packages a mattress and pillow protector together in a kit designed to be used once by a shopper and then tossed.
Get the place moving
Bedding showrooms are static spaces. Shoppers account for most of the movement, but then retail sales associates ask them to lie down for long stretches. And static can be a snooze fest.
One easy way to add motion to your bedding displays is to put an adjustable base in action. If that base is near the store’s front windows, even better. It will catch the eye of passersby. Simply putting a few power bases into the head-up or zero-gravity position adds a sense of movement to the bedding floor and showcases your offerings at the same time.
Other ways to add the feel of motion to your space:
O Break up the inherent hard lines of mattress silhouettes by arranging featured beds in a circle or semicircle. If you have the space, you can create a meandering display with beds following a curved path. Furnitureland South, the massive furniture store near High Point, North Carolina, incorporated both curved paths and curved bedding arrays when it recently redesigned its bedding department, Sleepland.
O Create pathways to guide shoppers through your showroom by varying the floor type, say carpet under the beds and a complementary vinyl tile on the pathway, or contrasting wood tones in different parts of the store.
O Use an attractive wheeled cart that can be moved around to display accessories or offer customers a beverage.
O Vary the heights of your displays. A wall of accessories visible from the store entrance makes a strong statement about your commitment to these important products — and draws the eye up, which is nice in a mattress showroom where almost everything else is low and horizontal. Look for other ways to add height. Maybe create a backdrop of shirred sheets in a rainbow of hues on one wall or flank windows with curtains that go from the top of the frame to the floor (a decorator’s tip to add height to a room).
Look at “old” products in new ways
Sure, mattresses and pillows help people get a good night’s sleep. If you’re creative, they also have artistic value. Bring out your inner artist by finding ways to turn displays into focal points.
O Stack colorful foam pillows at angles to create a jaunty, eye-catching tower near the store entrance. Even flipping pillows so they stand vertically instead of horizontally can punch up a display.
O If you have a focus on natural and organic products, bring in driftwood and maybe some shells and rocks, draping sheets or protectors attractively around a branch. This can be an especially effective way to highlight products made with plastics pulled from the oceans.
O Bring attractive furniture into the store to show off accessories. Square Deal Mattress Factory, a manufacturer-retailer in Chico, California, creates a homey feel by using etageres and hutches to showcase bath products and home fragrances.
O Use several types of coil samples to create wall art with a modern, industrial feel. You could do the same thing with foam squares for a more colorful wall piece.
Bring the store to life
Finally, any mattress showroom can benefit from the addition of flowers or plants. They are a colorful counterbalance to the neutral hues of most mattress fabrics and their shapes are a nice contrast to all the rectangles of floor models. Some even help to “clean” the air. You don’t have to turn the space into a greenhouse but try for more than a supermarket bouquet stuck in a vase at the sales desk. A collection of succulents or a few vases of striking gladiolas make more of a statement.
Remember, the designer’s guideline that odd-numbered groups are more attractive to the eye, so include seven succulents in that collection or five gladiolas in each vase. Fresh plants and flowers are best, but if you don’t have a green thumb, you could substitute the highly realistic permanent botanicals available today.
Regardless of which merchandising tips you try, updating your product displays will reward in-store shoppers with a delightful, enticing buying experience.
3 Places to Turn for More Merchandising Inspiration
1. Take an interest in Pinterest. The social site has numerous accounts devoted to merchandising ideas. Type in “retail displays” or “retail merchandising ideas,” and you’ll see thousands of photos of clever displays and vignettes.
2. Do markets differently. Take an hour or two at bedding markets to explore other furniture and accessories showrooms. A lighting showroom might inspire you to add stylish pendants to bring soft light to your premium bedding collection, or you might discover a stunning new color palette in a rug display.
3. Shop around. Visit stores you normally wouldn’t, whether that’s an outfitter for outdoor enthusiasts or a clothing store appealing to Gen Z. You may be surprised by the clever ideas you bring back to your business.
Higher Education: Keep Your Team Up to Date on Ever-Changing Products
We call them consumers but they are researchers, too. In fact, a Better Sleep Council survey in 2020 found that, on average, people consult three to four sources before they make a mattress purchase, and some consult far more as they learn about components and constructions, features, and benefits.
So, you want your sales team to be as up to speed as shoppers are — and for it to be able to help those shoppers make sense of all the information they have gleaned while doing their research.
Successful bedding retailers have solid training programs for new hires, and many have formal structured continuing education systems, as well.
But as many students head back to grades K-12 and college classrooms this fall, now is a good time for retailers to update their own product training curricula. Here are some ways to keep your team educated about the bedding products they sell.
The coronavirus pandemic, awful and tragic as it has been, brought about changes to product tutorials available from sleep products manufacturers that make it more convenient for your staff to study and learn. With sales reps unable to travel as they did in the past, bedding makers spent much of the early pandemic period creating online product rollout and explainer videos that bedding buyers, retail sales associates and customer service reps can view and study when convenient for them. Even before the pandemic, CertiPUR-US, an organization in Rochester Hills, Michigan, that certifies flexible polyurethane foams for bedding and upholstered furniture, created an online certification course that helps retailers better understand the certification process and value of certified foams.
If necessary, revamp your product training program to include employees regularly spending 30 minutes or an hour using new online educational tools.
Expand your market team
If you tend to take the same people to the biannual furniture and bedding markets in High Point, North Carolina, and Las Vegas, shake up your routine. Invite top-performing RSAs or members of your e-commerce team to spend a day or two at the trade shows. They’ll learn things they can take back to their co-workers, and their questions could lead you to approach your buying or merchandising strategies differently.
And just as many bedding products makers are offering more information about their products online, they also are doing more virtual markets. Online versions of showroom visits make it even easier for more members of your team to learn what’s new from your vendors.
Go to the source
Virtual tours and tutorials are handy but sometimes nothing beats an in-person visit to the factory, which gives RSAs deep insights into the manufacturing process, including how and why certain components are included in particular models. Sleep products makers are proud of what they do and are eager to explain their processes. Include an annual visit to a vendor’s nearby plant as part of your product education, taking managers, customer service reps, bedding buyers and RSAs along for an unsurpassed educational opportunity.
Spread Sleep Savvy around
One of Sleep Savvy’s missions is to instruct bedding retailers, and the magazine is a great source of continuing education materials. For instance, in every issue, Sleep Savvy delves into one bedding category. This issue’s Product Spotlight focuses on mattresses for young sleepers, whether toddlers or twentysomethings. (See page 28.) And after every major bedding market, we bring you sleep products introductions from the shows.
Sleep Savvy is free to qualifying retailers and many subscribers request multiple copies. (You can receive as many as five per location.) Order additional copies for your educational efforts by visiting SleepSavvyMagazine.com and clicking on Subscriber Services.
And for more frequent merchandising and sales tips, plus the latest bedding news, sign up for our weekly e-newsletter, ShopTalk by Sleep Savvy, by visiting SleepSavvyMagazine.com and clicking on the Newsletter tab.
ISPA is a source of info, too
Trade shows and conventions hosted by the International Sleep Products Association aren’t just for bedding manufacturers and suppliers. They can be a great educational tool for retailers who want to get a sneak peek of trends, learn more about components and better understand how beds are made. The next ISPA EXPO will be March 8-10, 2022, in Orlando, Florida. Learn more at ISPAEXPO.com and plan to head to the Sunshine State with a few key members of your sales and buying teams.
See what you can do this fall to take your product training curricula from A to A+.
Julie A. Palm has been covering the mattress and home furnishings industries for more than 25 years and is a past editor in chief of both BedTimes and Sleep Savvy magazines. As chief wordsmith at Palm Ink LLC, she specializes in writing, editing, publications management and communications consulting for a variety of clients. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.