Mastering the Bedding Mix: Strategies for a Successful Bedding Product Mix

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Sleep Savvy talks with retailers about how they hone their mattress assortment to boost sales and keep customers sleeping well.

mastering the mix

At a time of soft bedding sales across the country, Ricky Christian is not alone in thinking it’s a challenge to figure out what mix of bedding products will get shoppers to walk in the door or click on the website — and then actually buy a new mattress. 

“I’m having a hard time figuring out where my (bedding) customers are lately and wondering what I need to be doing better,” says Christian, one of the second- and third-generation family members who run Esprit Décor Home Furnishings, a furniture retailer in Chesapeake, Virginia. “Nobody will ever have the perfect mix … and I know I don’t have quite the right product mix right now. We’re experimenting with different things.”

Sleep Savvy talked with several bedding retailers about the challenges of honing a selection of beds, the factors they consider while merchandising and the strategies they use to get their product mix right. 

Optimizing the Bedding Assortment: Location, Experimentation & Promotion

Several years ago, Esprit Décor relocated its bedding department, giving it a makeover and more prominent location in the 48,000-square-foot store. The move helped boost sales, but Christian hasn’t yet hit his goal of mattresses accounting for 10% of total store sales.

Current strong sellers include quilted hybrids and two-sided models, which appeal to the store’s more traditional customers, he says.

Among Christian’s experiments is recently adding Restonic’s higher-end Scott Living mattresses to the store’s lineup. And, in February, he refreshed the floor with the new promotional private-label Mattress 1st lineup he sources through the Furniture First buying group.

“That gave us a bit of a spark and created a little bit of excitement with our salespeople,” he says.

And he plans to spend more of his advertising budget focused on bedding to make sure his customers know the wide variety of mattresses that the retailer offers. 

“You’re always making an educated guess on what you think your customer wants,” he says.

Beyond the Mattress: The Value of Reliable Manufacturer Relationships

In addition to soft sales, another key reason mattress retailers shake up their product selection is because they are forced to do so when bedding producers discontinue a line or redesign models.

For retailers like Lisa Stansbury Humphrey, who likes to stick with solidly performing lines for a long time, that can be frustrating. When Sleep Savvy asked her, “How often do you change your merchandising assortment?” she replied: “Only
really when (manufacturers) make us” and noted that “getting the manufacturer to keep it the same for a while” is one of the biggest challenges in honing a product mix. 

“They’ve gotten better over the years,” says Humphrey, president of Fred’s Beds, “but it used to be that we would pick out a lineup and a year later (they’d say), ‘New fabric time! Time for new floor models!’”

Humphrey and her husband, Joel Humphrey, handle the mattress buying for the Fred’s Beds location in Southport, North Carolina,
while store manager Maurice Johnson takes the lead for the retailer’s location in Wilmington, North Carolina.

“If we hear about something new and different or see something exciting, we will bring him up to speed and vice versa. We work pretty well as a team,” she says.

In general, Fred’s Beds focuses on product longevity and price point when choosing beds for its stores, but for the family-owned business, good relationships with bedding manufacturers are just as important.

The retailer has carried Kingsdown mattresses, manufactured just hours away in Mebane, North Carolina, for 39 years, and has sold Simmons-branded products since the early 1990s, Humphrey says. 

Fred’s Beds added the Atlanta-based Posh + Lavish brand when it launched in 2015, making it a relative newbie for the stores. The retailer’s entry-level Jamison-brand beds are popular in the coastal area’s thriving rental home market.

“The brands we carry are based on the relationships formed,” Humphrey says. “… Really, every brand we carry, there is a rep behind it that we have a personal relationship with. It’s pretty old-school stuff.”

Beyond Demographics: Catering to Sleep Styles & Local Preferences

Although he’s been choosing mattresses for his store for nearly three decades, Trent Ranburger says the process is still largely a “50-50
educated guess.”

Guidelines that have served him well include offering mattresses in two or three firmness levels and at a wide array of price points. “Because my $2,000 customer two years ago might be my $1,000 customer today — or my $5,000 customer, I try to make sure I have good quality at the right price,” says Ranburger, owner of Trent Bedding, a specialty mattress store in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Price points for queen sizes currently range from $399 to $4,999. 

Trent Bedding’s store slogan is another merchandising guide: “If I won’t have it in my house, I won’t deliver it to yours.” 

“I keep that in mind when I’m picking my mattresses, my pillows, my sheets,” Ranburger says.

He also has long used a “know your market” approach to choosing the beds for his store, a task he now handles with Brian Talley, president and CEO of the retailer.

For instance, Ranburger’s customers appreciate a “buy local” message and Ranburger, in turn, likes working with nearby manufacturers, including Nashville-based Southerland and Atlanta-based Posh + Lavish, which can offer quick delivery.

mastering the mix

What’s in the Mix
When it comes to honing your product mix, there are several factors to consider. Among them:
– Price points (from promotional to premium)
– Constructions (innerspring, foam, hybrid, etc.)
– Sizes (twin to California king and even beyond if you want to offer special-order mattresses)
– Special features (cooling materials, recovery properties, heavy-duty components, etc.)
– Brands (exclusive partnerships, private-label lines, highly rated brands)
– Relationships (What vendors do you enjoy working with because they keep their word, deliver on time and respond quickly to your requests?)

Customer Satisfaction First: Ensuring Value and Minimizing Returns

One merchandising priority for Margaret Wright, owner of Mattress Store, is providing a wide range of price points — and making sure every mattress is a good value. 

“I tell my customers all the time that I offer quality for the dollar,” says Wright, who has two stores, one each in Annapolis, Maryland, and Chester, Maryland, and offers 40 mattresses in price points from $299 to $3,899 in queen size. “Some big retailers look for the biggest markup they can get. That’s not me.”

To Wright, quality means mattresses without manufacturing defects that will last. “Since I do my own customer service, I want to make sure that I’ve got a reliable product — something reliably produced and delivered,” she says. “… I answer all the customer service calls, and I don’t like people yelling at me.”

A problematic mattress model is quick to get kicked off her floor, Wright says.

“If there’s a problem with a product, whether it’s a construction issue or how it feels or if there are a lot of warranty issues, it goes as soon as I can get rid of it,” she says. “But, at the same time, if I see and feel something and it’s fabulous, I will find a way to get it on my floor.”

Such was the case when she first saw Highclere mattresses, inspired by the Highclere Castle (the setting for “Downton Abbey”) and produced in the United States by AW Mattresses in Landover, Maryland.

“When I saw those mattresses, I could not get them here fast enough,” she says. “They feel substantial. They have modern technologies, but they’re really built well. They feel old-school.”

Highclere mattresses are among Mattress Store’s bestsellers. A couple of models from the Serta iComfort Eco line are also doing well, Wright says.

Beyond Intuition: Mastering the Bedding Mix Through Research & Analysis

So important is product selection to Mattress Next Day, an online retailer with a showroom in Kent, England, that it has three people “dedicated exclusively to the task of curating our product assortment,” says Martin Seeley, CEO of the U.K. company. 

The retailer evaluates the product mix quarterly, but “in response to market trends, customer feedback and supplier availability, more frequent adjustments are possible,” Seeley explains.

And it is not an easy process. “One of the most challenging aspects of merchandising is striking a balance between coherence and variety,” Seeley says. “The task of maintaining a consistent brand image while accommodating a wide range of customer preferences into our offerings necessitates meticulous deliberation and analysis.”

Currently selling well for Mattress Next Day are memory foam mattresses from DreamCloud and Tempur-Pedic, he says. 

For retailers who are struggling with their current merchandising mix, Seeley recommends first “gaining a comprehension of the needs and preferences” of target customers. 

“Perform comprehensive market research, solicit consumer feedback and analyze sales data in order to identify emerging trends and potential opportunities. Concentrate on constructing a curated assortment that resonates with your target market and is consistent with your brand identity,” he says. “Furthermore, it is advisable to collaborate with reputable suppliers in order to capitalize on their expertise and improve the quality of your products.”

Beyond the Mattress: Building Trust and Rapport for Long-Term Success

The retailers Sleep Savvy spoke with use a number of strategies to create and adjust their product mix, but Humphrey and Ranburger offer advice that could serve any retailer: Product matters, but the relationship you build with customers matters most.

“If I hire you to sell for me, I ask, ‘What are you selling?’ The answer really is, ‘I’m selling myself.’ The relationship is the key as long as the product is good,” Ranburger says.

Humphrey echoes his thoughts. “You are selling yourself first. Your customer comes to you because you are who you are. Find (product) you like and that you can believe in yourself — and you can sell it.”

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