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Selling Sleep Essentials - Pillows & Mattress Protectors

Volume 142 NO.1 January/February 2012 Furniture World Magazine
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See additional articles in this Furniture World Magazine Series below


Article Summary: Part five of Furniture World’s selling better bedding series features expert sales tips and techniques for furniture and bedding retailers that want to sell more pillows and mattress protectors


Let’s face it. Most consumers don’t walk into your store to buy a pillow, a topper, mattress protector or sheets. They ask to test your mattresses or perhaps see the $599 advertised special. And most retail CSA’s are glad to oblige, happy to bring them to the bedding department and perhaps close a sale if the customer finds something agreeable. And by the way, it’s pretty easy to get customers to add an inexpensive mattress protector so the warranty /comfort guarantee isn’t voided. But is that good enough in today’s tough retail environment? The experts Furniture World interviewed for this article say, definitely not! 
In the first three installments of this “Selling Better Bedding” series that began with the April/May 2011 issue, Furniture World presented sales tools and merchandising techniques that the most successful bedding retailers use to make sure that their customers get the best mattress and the most comfortable night’s sleep they can afford.

This time, we will begin to present ways to increase average tickets by working with customers to add items such as pillows, toppers, mattress protectors, sheets and foundations. The importance of paying attention to this aspect of your business cannot be overstated.

That’s because retailers that fail to focus on these products, cede sales to big box stores and specialty web retailers. From a customer service standpoint, they also shortchange customers by not giving them the information and high quality products they deserve.

Ten years ago there wasn’t as much interest in investing sales time and floor space in these add ons. “There were objections to adding these products when business was good, but they are listening now,” observes Ralph Rossdeutscher, President of Natura, the maker of natural mattresses and top of bed products. “It’s a different selling process now. Retailers are more open to selling additional top of bed products because many stores aren’t making the money they need to in this economic environment and they have to maximize sales for every customer that comes through the door. Those stores that sell less expensive mattresses, either need more people buying to make the same profit, or they have to do better with each customer.”

And even for stores that have done a good job of selling premium mattresses at higher price points, there is no good reason to let customers walk out without presenting a complete sleep solution.

BIG SALES OPPORTUNITY

There is a huge opportunity for furniture and mattress specialty stores that have knowledgeable salespeople and a smartly merchandised selection of top of bed products. Mass merchants simply do not offer the level of assistance that your customers need to put together a package of products that will give them peace of mind and a better night’s sleep.

Your customers cannot test out a pillow, a topper or get anyone to explain the features, advantages or benefits of mattress accessories at big box stores. Plus, by offering a complete sleep solution you can save your customers time and trouble, a huge benefit you and your salespeople can feel good about.

Retail customers who upgrade from full to queen, or queen to king already know that they need new sheets, and perhaps a new mattress pad. They may plan to make a quick trip to Walmart, Kohls, Target, or Bed Bath and Beyond after buying a mattress. Some plan to use the old top of bed items they have at home on their new mattress, and others haven’t given the subject much thought.

“I don’t think that most consumers have figured it out, Says Kurt Ling CEO of Pure LatexBLISS, a company that makes latex mattresses, customFIT pillowtops, toppers and pillows. “They are not thinking that, ‘first I am going to buy a mattress, and then go to this retailer and that retailer to buy a pillow, mattress protector, topper or sheets.’ So there is a real opportunity for mattress retailers who do a good job of selling these extra products to take business away from the Kohls and Costco’s of the world.”

But the fact is, that even with some training, many salespeople just don’t know how to effectively introduce and close on these products. They may feel that there just doesn’t seem to be a proper time to introduce these items without rushing or distracting customers from their mattress purchase, and they don’t want to seem overly pushy.

“The mattress industry” says Michael Wright, Senior Territory Sales Trainer for Leggett & Platt, Inc., “sometimes has a stereotype of being a little pushy and customers have their guard up. Mattresses are sometimes a product that they price shop competitively for, so consumer’s main focus is getting a good mattress deal. Most stores really want to satisfy the customer with a mattress first, so these add on sales become a secondary consideration.

That’s why our industry needs to change this customer’s mindset so that they begin to think of sleep as not just a function of the quality of the mattress, but also in terms of a combination of a lot of different products --one big package that includes all the value components of a healthy night’s sleep.”

Sean Bergman, VP Sales and Marketing for Fabrictech, the manufacturer of health-focused mattress and pillow protectors, told Furniture World that, “in order to effectively sell pillows, mattress protectors, sheets and foundations, these items need to be seen by retailers as sleep essentials and not accessories. In fact, the term accessories is a bad word for me. I believe that our products are essential items to enhance the sleep environment. And that’s a mentality that retailers have to adopt if they want to increase business substantially without having one more customer walk in their door.

“We know from a recent study that 60 percent of consumers within two to three weeks of buying a new mattress end up purchasing new pillows, a mattress protector, sheets and other top of bed items. It’s just natural for them to want to start with a cleaner, healthier environment. CSA’s can encourage them by showing them the way, with the technology that we have today, to keep that environment clean for years to come.”

“We’ve found that about 28 percent of customers, when they buy a new mattress, also end buying a whole bunch of new stuff that day,” adds Pure LatexBLISS’ Kurt Ling. “Once they’ve purchased the mattress, this group is going to buy a pillow and a new set of sheets somewhere. That’s just what they do anyway. They would never dream of putting old stuff on their new bed.”

But where should you start? Some of the industry experts Furniture World interviewed for this article advocate getting down to the business of showing products quickly. Others suggest taking time to get information from customers about their needs and the quality of their sleep.

PILLOW TALK

Whether time is invested in speaking about health and wellness first, or if customers are brought directly to top of bed products, our experts are in general agreement that the best time to introduce customers to a pillow is before mattress testing begins.

“If you wait until the end”, warns Pure Latex BLISS’ Kurt Ling, “you have three or four extra things to sell them which can get overwhelming for the customer. It’s like buying a new car, sitting down at the credit manager’s desk as he or she tries to sell you 17 accessories and upgrades in a row. Some retailers emphasize the creation of a sleep sanctuary all at once. We’ve learned exactly the opposite because to the consumer, that can feel like the retailer is trying to sell them $1,500 worth of stuff after they’ve just spent $1,000 or more on a mattress. We totally believe that there is an appropriate time to introduce each element in the sale.

“We found out that the best performers have a method. They don’t just throw all these products up against the wall. They introduce the pillow, topper and mattress protector at the right times. And their success is independent of the price point of the bed, and the income of the customer. They realize that if they show each of these things every single time, X-number of people will consistently buy. And this is true for retail furniture stores as well as sleep shops.

“We always suggest that retailers start with the premise that they are going to fit their customers for a pillow first, because the pillow customers choose makes a big difference in the mattress that they select. Most people haven’t thought about that, and one of the ways that retailers can drastically reduce mattress returns is to have customers select a pillow before they try out the first mattress.” 

Kurt makes an important point, because not only does using a pillow help customers to avoid choosing the wrong mattress, it also helps their delivered mattress feel the same as the one they tested in your store. Using a testing pillow may, therefore, result in fewer product returns.

All of our experts noted, that not only is it worthwhile to suggest that customers choose a pillow at the start of the sales process, it is very easy to get them to pick one up and carry it around.

“You really just need to ask them for permission to fit them for a pillow,” continues Kurt Ling. “It’s true that consumers may not be thinking about buying pillows when they enter your store, but if you let them know that a pillow and mattress go together, then most people will give you permission, even if they’ve never bought a pillow and mattress together before.
“Whether they will buy or not is a whole different story, but they will give you permission to give them a pillow to carry around from bed to bed.”

“The first thing we do,” agrees Leggett & Platt’s Michael Wright, “is to have the customer select a pillow. It’s all about a good night’s sleep. One way to language this is to say, ‘Before we start looking at the beds today, let’s go and get a pillow, something that you might want to be sleeping on, or something similar to what you are sleeping on at home right now, and we are going to take that to every bed so you can really get a good idea of how each mattress is going to feel in your home. A pillow is the bed for the head. Over 25% of your body is going to be touching that pillow, so it’s really important to get a good one when we are testing out mattresses.’ You might also say, ‘you probably haven’t thought a lot about your pillow in a while. A lot has changed. You will probably be able to get a better night’s sleep with a new pillow.’ It’s the salesperson’s job to not just sell something, but improve the quality of their customer’s sleep. And if they can convey that message, customers purchase.

“So first you get them to touch the pillows and get them to pick one that might be right. You want them to think of your store as a laboratory, where the mattresses change, but the other variables are kept constant. Have a selection of pillows out, and let them pick and feel the one they like. Then offer them a personal pillowcase that goes right over the top. When customers touch something and try it out, they are more likely to buy it. And right away, they know that your store has emphasized the importance of the pillow by taking this extra step to introduce it. And that’s something that other salespeople in most other stores aren’t doing. It’s just one more way to personalize the experience customers have in your store.”

Michael’s brief mention in the previous paragraph about a “personal pillowcase” is not one that should be overlooked. Although it is true that not every customer will wonder how many other heads have touched the same pillow they are using, many will. So why not take away this potential worry? Why allow even passing images of poor sanitation to distract customers?

By having a supply of freshly washed or disposable pillowcases handy, and making a show of putting on a fresh case, you let customers know that you care about their concerns, and their health. "Sealy's research shows that a significant percentage of consumers, particularly women, are uncomfortable with putting their heads on an in-store pillow while testing floor models,” confirms Jodi Allen, Chief Marketing Officer at Sealy. “We addressed this hygiene concern by offering pillow protectors. The more we can create a positive, inviting shopping atmosphere and speak to consumers in relatable language, the more likely they will take the time to find the mattress that truly fits their comfort preferences and needs. This leads to both higher satisfaction and bigger ticket sales."

“So the salesperson gives them a nice pillow,” continues Michael Wright, “and isn’t trying to close the pillow sale yet, he or she is just giving the customer tools needed to pick out the right mattress. They are recreating the sleep experience, and in so doing, indirectly selling the pillow.

“What customers don’t know at this point, is that after they pick out a mattress, the salesperson will bring them back to talk about all the other things that will help them get a good night’s sleep. After you’ve sold a mattress, you don’t want to tank a mattress sale by pushing too many additional products. What you need to do is introduce customers to products in a pleasing and organized way so that they will want to buy -- not have to buy.

Kurt Ling suggests a slightly different approach. “Because there is such a broad assortment of pillows today,” he says, “Most people have a pillow that is worn out, and even though they’ve probably replaced their pillow since they purchased their last mattress, they really don’t know what’s available. If you tell them what is available, it’s amazing how many people will ask to be shown. If the customer is using a pillow that is 5 to 10 years old, she probably doesn’t have a $199 contour pillow. So if salespeople only try to replace what customers have, they will tend to undersell. But if they tell their customers what’s available in the market today, and let them choose by saying, ‘We offer these, what are you interested in?’ it’s interesting to see how many people will take the time to compare. And then it’s a conversation on the customer’s terms, instead of just trying to sell them something new.
“And even if they are buying a mattress for a guest bedroom and you take the time to show them a pillow that they fall in love with, they are going to buy that pillow for their master bedroom.”

DISPLAY PILLOWS

Our experts suggest that display pillows carrying manufacturers’ and retailer’s branding be removed before mattresses are tested.

“We’ve gotten a lot of retailers to take the bolster pads off of their mattresses,” reports Natura’s Ralph Rossdeutscher. “There are still some retailers that resist, but it doesn’t make any sense to have them on there because it messes up the feel of the mattress. Customers need a proper pillow to take along and try out the different mattresses.”

Michael Wright agrees. “There are point-of-sale bolsters on mattress displays designed to look aesthetically pleasing,” he says, “and they work for the design of the stores and reflect the branding of the lines stores carry. Stores are selling mattress first and pillows as an add-on, so we don’t want to complicate that, but it is important to pull off the display pillow to allow customers to experience maximum comfort. Even if I were the mattress manufacturer, I would want customers to test out my mattresses with a nice pillow because the experience is better.

“Sales associates just need to always keep a step ahead. When moving a customer from one mattress to another, they might say something like, ‘Hey, this mattress is a little soft for you, so let’s take you over to this mattress that is a little bit firmer.’ Then the salesperson just pulls off the display pillow on the firmer bed so that the customer can use the pillow they are carrying along with them.”

PILLOW SELECTION

“There are some stores that carry 40 pillows and in my mind that complicates it for the store, the salesperson and the customer, says Ralph Rossdeutscher. “We encourage retailers to initially provide four different pillow feels, and explain each of them. Typically the consumer will be drawn to one of them. They can then offer a few different pillows having a similar feel to the customer’s initial choice, but at different price points, thicknesses and materials.

Customers may not have an opinion about the kind of mattress they want to buy, but they definitely have an opinion about pillows. A lot of stores fit customers by asking them if they are back, side or stomach sleepers. I disagree with this approach. Our research shows that the pillows that people actually choose for comfort doesn’t correlate well with pillows that are chosen for them based on how they characterize themselves as being stomach, side or back sleepers. It is much more important to have them choose a pillow that they love, which will allow them to have a great night’s sleep. It can’t be reduced to a simple formula.”

Michael Wright told Furniture World that, “retailers should offer a traditional pillow, a latex pillow and maybe a synthetic. They should have a broad selection. The secret is to not overload the consumer when they come in to look for a mattress with too many choices and too many pillows. I call it a pillow pause.

“Our pillows are merchandised by the way customers talk about the way they sleep, which is as a back, side or stomach sleeper. Consumers don’t say that they had a wonderful night’s sleep on their memory foam pillow or a wonderful night’s sleep on their triple chamber down pillow. They say, ‘I sleep on my side, and I have a crink in my neck.’ Their choice can be narrowed down by asking the customer, ‘What kind of a sleeper are you? How does this feel?’ Then let them choose, put the pillowcase on it and then go look at some mattresses.”

CLOSING THE PILLOW SALE

Many retailers end up giving away pillows. It’s a way for them to throw in a little extra value, or to provide some consolation to customers who are disappointed that they can’t extract a discount on the mattress they’ve chosen. Some customers also remember that they received a free pillow the last time they purchased a mattress, and see no harm in asking for one again.

Commenting on this practice, Pure Latex BLISS’ Kurt Ling explains that, “We think that the worst thing that a retailer can do is give away something after the customer has given clear body language that they are going to buy. All the salesperson needs to do is watch the body language of the person they just helped to select a pillow, and carry it around the store. If the customer holds it by the top, it basically means that they don’t care about the pillow and have agreed to carry it because the salesperson asked them to. If they carry it like a baby or hug it, it’s a clear signal that they are actually going to buy.

“This is a behavior that retail sales people who are good at selling accessories have observed. We, therefore, always ask our retailers to teach salespeople how to watch for this nonverbal cue, because that will tell you whether they care, whether they want you to give it to them or whether they will pay for it. And if the CSA sees a pillow hugger, someone who is carrying the pillow like they care, we suggest using an assumptive close with that customer. Smile at the customer and say, ‘And we assume that you want the pillow.’

“People do ask for a free pillow and there are three categories of responses retailers give. There are retailers that are more than happy to give away pillows to get the sale. Others say ‘no’ due to a management policy. The third category of response is to offer customers a basic pillow that might cost $39 for free, but if they are carrying around a $99 test pillow, then the store can give them a $39 credit against the premium pillow. This is satisfying for the customer and a win for the retailer.”

And what can you do if they don’t buy a mattress or want to look further? Michael Wright advises retailers to not give up on the pillow sale. “So, we’ve indirectly introduced them to a pillow,” he says, “and if they say that they are going to look somewhere else for a mattress, you can tell them, ‘hey, did you like that pillow? Do you want to sleep on that pillow tonight? Go ahead, and we can ring that up. And you can come back with your husband tomorrow. We can get him a pillow and maybe look together for a mattress.’ We can actually leave them with an add on without selling a mattress.”

MATTRESS PROTECTORS

Many customers can be persuaded to purchase a mattress protector at the end of the sales process if the salesperson says something like, “to avoid voiding your warranty, you will need to put your mattress in a mattress protector. We have one that costs $49 and one that costs $99. The $99 one gives a higher level of protection.” At this point, the consumer may be thinking. “I can probably buy one cheaper down the street at that big box store,” or “this is just another way to get $100 bucks from me by threatening to take away my warranty; something I deserve to have after paying $1,500 for this mattress.” This last minute offer can, therefore, be something that has the potential to negatively affect the customer’s perception of the salesperson and the store.

Fortunately there is a lot more that you can do throughout the sales process to let customers know why purchasing better mattress protection from you provides benefits they will want to take advantage of.

TIMING

Just as there is agreement that the pillow should be introduced before customers comfort test your mattresses, there is also a consensus among the experts interviewed for this article that timing the introduction of mattress protection is important.

Leggett & Platt’s Michael Wright suggests that, “After the pillow, you pick a mattress. Then you want to go into the good, better and best foundation options -- frames, recessed legs, better steel, better warranties, better decorative stuff. After that, you want to talk about a mattress protector. We suggest that the things you talk about first are the items your customer has to have. They have to have a frame. They have to have a mattress protector and then after that, it’s time to introduce sheets, and then close on that pillow you previously introduced them to.”

Fabrictech’s Vice President of Sales & Marketing Sean Bergman stresses the importance of collecting specific information early in the customer/ salesperson interaction. “In the qualifying phase of the sale,” he says, “you need to ask your customer, ‘do you have any allergies or asthma that I should be aware of?’ If it’s for a kid’s bed, ask if their children have any allergies or asthma.”

Furthermore, Bergman told Furniture World that collecting this information can help the salesperson in the mattress testing phase to introduce customers, when appropriate, to high value mattresses that contain materials such as latex and memory foam that, over time, collect fewer allergens. “But on top of that,” he says, “you can tell them, ‘at the end we are going to provide you with a completely allergen and dust mite proof barrier for your mattress and your pillow that’s going to completely seal off those allergens.’”

Jared Bell, Protect-A-Bed’s Sales Director thinks that retailers can benefit from introducing mattress protection products early in the sales sequence. He says, “The best retailers and sales associates build mattress protection into the mattress sales process. We suggest that they have a mattress protection display rack visible in the store and also spread the product throughout the showroom, placing the packaging, for example, on bedside tables. At that point, some customers will see it, be interested, pick it up, and start a conversation with sales associates, by asking, ‘what is this?’

“Then, once the mattress selection process has started, as they walk through the showroom, the salesperson might ask them an open ended question to start them thinking about mattress protection, such as, ‘while I understand that you are here to purchase a mattress today, have you ever thought about how you might protect that investment by purchasing mattress protection?’

“Mattress protection is still relatively new in the US, so a lot of customers don’t know that a mattress really does need protection. Also, many customers don’t think about their mattress as an expensive piece of furniture, so, salespeople can make this point right from the get go, by saying, ‘look, you are going to spend $2,000 for a new mattress, let’s talk about investing maybe 10% of that total purchase price and add mattress protection. It will protect the investment you are making today.’”

BENEFITS OF MATTRESS PROTECTION

Major benefits of mattress protectors include:

Protection From Spills & Stains: “A mattress protector protects your mattress from you,” Leggett & Platt’s Michael Wright told Furniture World. “What I mean is that people leak every night. That seems pretty gross, but our customer’s bodies do lose water throughout the night. Water gets into the mattress causing its comfort layers to change over time and wear faster.”

Warranty: “Sales associates should bring up the warranty on the mattress protector to close the sale, notes Protect-A-Bed’s Jared Bell.” Many mattress warranties require that a mattress protector be used, but in addition to that, mattress protectors carry their own warranties.  “In most cases,” continues Bell, “the mattress protectors that customers end up buying from a big box retailer have a very limited warranty, and they usually don’t warranty the mattress at all. Purchasing a protector that will warranty the mattress in case anything does get through and soil it, and will also last a long time are important considerations for customers to be aware of.” To make the benefit more tangible, he offers this observation. “The mattress protector protects the mattresses’ comfort layers by stopping the moisture from going in and destroying it. So it is really protecting the customer’s investment rather than protecting a warranty per se.”

Sean Bergman believes that although the warranty is important, that a focus on health and wellness should be paramount. “Sales associates,” he explains, “should do their best to sell the stain warranty by saying, ‘Yes, protecting your mattress is easy, we will give you a guarantee against stains and soil, no problem, but what we really do is focus on making a cleaner, healthier sleep environment for you.’”

Protection From Allergens: “People don’t realize that allergens and dust mites found in and around their sleep system are the leading cause of allergy and asthma attacks at night,” Fabrictech’s Sean Bergman told Furniture World. “Over 50 million Americans in the United States suffer from allergies and allergy induced asthma. When a customer that has allergies and asthma, hears that, they perk up and they say, ‘yeah why? what does that have to do with buying a mattress?’ This serves to change the conversation between the retailer and the end consumer from just mattress protection, which is the easiest thing that we do, to health and wellness protection which is the real issue.”

Bed Bug Barrier: Most customers will never see a bed bug and are at low risk for having an infestation. Living in a big city apartment can increase the chances of infestation as can overseas travel and frequent hotel stays. Jared Bell says that, “if you have an active bedbug infestation, a total encasement will prevent bedbugs from getting out of your mattress, If you don’t have an active infestation, it will prevent bedbugs from getting into your mattress, but the number one feature of bedbug prevention with mattress encasements is that they are all stark white. The first sign of a bedbug infestation is fecal blood spotting on the mattress and todays mattresses are so elaborate in terms of design, ticking and piping that it is very easy to miss a little blood spot that a bedbug might leave behind. So if your customer has a nice white encasement exterior on their mattress, all of a sudden that little blood spot becomes more noticeable so they can be more proactive in fighting an infestation.”

“Here’s the issue with bedbugs,” adds Sean Bergman. “People don’t realize that if they have bedbugs living in their mattress, or have bedbugs outside of their mattress and don’t want them to get in, they can’t ever take off the total encasement. That’s because if they take it off to wash it, there can be an infestation. We suggest that retailers advise customers to put a total encasement on their mattress and never take it off again. Then, if the customer also purchases a five-sided protector that is dust mite proof, allergen proof and moisture proof, on the top and sides, it can be placed like a fitted sheet over the total encasement. When the customer is ready to launder, they just take off their five sided, wash it, then put it back on and never have to worry about an infestation getting in or out.”

THE CLOSE

Bergman also advises that, “When the customer starts giving buying signs while they are on a mattress, it’s time for the sales associate to transition to the actual close. We recommend an assumptive close, so when the customer is still on the mattress and we feel that they’ve found the right one, we suggest that they say, ‘it seems like we’ve found the right mattress for you. What we would like to do now is to show you your three options of health, allergen and stain protection. You have three options to choose from.’ Now if you notice, we didn’t say, ‘do you want,’ or ‘do you need,’ or ‘would you like to see’ a mattress protector?’ That will never work. Then they can add, ‘of the three options that I’ve shown you, which one would you like to complete your sleep system?’ Then, after the customer chooses, say, ‘well that’s great. Why don’t you follow me up to the counter.’ This approach gives retail salespeople the tools to get customers away from thinking about mattress protectors as accessories and starts them thinking, ‘I need something like this.’ When they start to feel this way, and understand the value of not just protecting the mattress, but also protecting their sleep environment, then the retailer has changed the conversation from just mattress protection to one about health and wellness protection.”

Also with regard to transitioning to the close, Jared Bell recommends that, “After the customer solidifies their mattress decision, the salesperson might say, ‘Earlier I showed you some mattress protectors that you might be interested in to help protect the investment that you are putting down on your mattress. Let me talk about this more.’” He also observes that, “The best retailers take a good, better, best approach to offering mattress protection. And that they start with their best first, and then, if necessary, work their way down in terms of features and price.”

PROTECTING CUSTOMERS

When customers get home, chances are that they will rip open the protector packaging and throw it away with the care instructions. Then just before they put it on the mattress they may realize that they bought something they know relatively little about. Will it fit so loosely that it wrinkles on the top? Does it feel like vinyl or cotton? If it is a total encasement they bought to keep bedbugs out, what will happen if they remove the cover to wash it? Will it be sturdy enough to resist tearing when they put it on a heavy, bulky mattress? Will it limit the temperature sensing properties of memory foam? Will it change the feel of the mattress? Can it be machine washed and dried without affecting its properties and the warranty? Should it be washed on cold or hot settings? Will they still need to put their old, fitted cotton pad over the mattress protector? Did they make a big mistake buying this thing?

It is, therefore, important that salespeople address at least some of these concerns. And this shouldn’t take too long, “CSA’s are walking a fine line. They don’t want to inundate customers with too much information,” says Sean Berman, “but they do want to give customers what they need to know. A mattress protector pitch should take four to five minutes tops.”

Care Instructions: “The most important reason,” Jared Bell says, “why warranties get rejected is that customers don’t know the washing instructions. So at very least, sales associates should let customers know if using bleach or drying on a hot setting will compromise the protector.”

Plus, It is also a good idea to explain that if they have questions about the warranty or care, that they can find information on the manufacturer’s website or by checking information included in the packaging. “A tip that a salesperson told me years ago,” Sean Bergman told Furniture World, is to tell the customer to save the warranty and care instructions, by putting packaging in between the mattress and the boxspring. I always thought that was a great tip.”

Mattress Pads: “Mattress pads are a personal preference,” says Jared Bell. “But in this day and age they are really unnecessary. People often use a mattress pad because it was something their parents did.”

“Also, Fabrictech’s Sean Bergman notes, “when a customer buys a new mattress, they are buying the comfort. Materials added on top can alter the comfort that they enjoyed in the store. That’s why a really good mattress protector is so useful because it doesn’t alter the true comfort of the mattress. Today mattresses incorporate better materials that give customers the pressure release they need. Anything that adds thickness just shouldn’t be used.”

Size: Mattress protectors need to fit properly,” says Bergman. “It is important that it not alter the comfort or feel of the mattress, be it made of memory foam or latex or whatever. Protectors should not bunch or be too thick. And that insures that the protector is virtually not even detectable; just like a fitted sheet. Customers don’t even know it is there.”

Mattress depth is an important consideration to consider. “A number of mattress encasement providers offer several depths for their encasements to fit 9” to 22” inch mattresses,” adds Bell, “so salespeople need to make sure that customers are purchasing the correct depth.
“And finally,” he says, “The inexpensive mattress protectors customers often buy at Kohls or Target are often vinyl based, loud and crinkly. They offer basic waterproof protection, but can be hot to sleep on. The products that they buy from a furniture or mattress retailer are going to be cotton or polyester based, won’t radiate heat or change the feel of the mattress. There are reasons why cheap protectors sell for $30 for a queen size. They are cheap, poorly made and will probably need to be replaced often, so customers are better off spending a bit more.”

MANAGE THE PROCESS

Furniture World was also told that to ensure retail success, it is vitally important to have store management involved in setting up a program, creating incentives for sales associates, and monitoring it’s progress.

Fabrictech’s Sean Bergman told us, “I always tell our retailers to WIIFM their CSA’s. Sales associates need to know “What’s In It For Me.” If retailers don’t provide incentives for them to learn why health and wellness protectors are so important to them, they are going to have a hard time. Retailers can do this with a spiff program or by building in a good commission. If sales associates earn 15 or 20 bucks for a 5 sided or total encasement mattress protector, less on cotton terry, they will focus on selling them as sleep essentials and on learning the step-up story to sell more 5 sided and total encasement protectors. Bergman also stressed the importance of working to build a coordinated sales strategy between retailer and manufacturer so that, “retailers and the manufacturer speak the same language and tell the same story.”

“One of the key elements to having a successful mattress protection program,” Jared Bell said with regard to management involvement, “is to manage the process. It is important to set targets each month for selling mattress protection and the effort should be pushed down from the CEO, all the way to the sales associates on the floor. Salespeople should be presented with a target mattress protection attachment rate and profitability dollars they have to reach. When management doesn’t provide those numbers to sales associates, it sends the message that this aspect of the business really isn’t important to them. Then, if it’s allowed, salespeople may use mattress protectors as a closing technique -- as a give away to sell the mattress. Some retailers haven’t yet realized that mattress protection is a viable and profitable category for them, but the second management gets involved setting sales goals and targets, that’s when sales take off.

AFTER THE SAL

The final word comes from Shana Rocheleau, Marketing Director of Guard-Master, a company that manufactures performance bedding essentials. She advises Furniture World readers to, ”Remember that selling accessories shouldn’t stop in the bedding department. Regardless of what approach retailers use with guests in their stores, they may not close every bedding essential sale, every time. So, it is important that every employee has the opportunity to help the business to be more successful, and build consumer loyalty. The Service person who schedules a mattress delivery can remind customers that this is the perfect time for them to add a mattress protector to protect their new purchase. Delivery drivers can have protectors as stock items on their trucks to make the same suggestion, if they see a need, when in customers’ homes.”

POWER FOUNDATIONS

The number of manufacturers selling power foundations has increased dramatically in the past two years. The category has made the quantum leap from being marketed to an older, infirm population to a luxury product that adds substantially to the comfort and functionality of the mattress.

Power foundations are big-ticket items, and like a pillow or mattress protector, most customers don’t consider purchasing one before they are introduced to their features and benefits in a store.

Sales associates, can support the sale of more power foundations by:

  • Using appropriate qualifying techniques to collect information from customers early in the sales process.
      
  • Knowing what to say to get customers to demo and become excited about the purchase of a power foundation.
      
  • Learning techniques to make sure that customers seamlessly choose a compatible mattress.
      
  • Closing effectively.
      
  • Following up with customers who have an interest, but aren’t ready to buy a power foundation for their new mattress right away.

In the March/April edition of Furniture World, this series will continue with a look at these and other techniques for presenting power foundations and better stationary bed frames.


Furniture World is the oldest, continuously published trade publication in the United States. It is published for the benefit of furniture retail executives. Print circulation of 20,000 is directed primarily to furniture retailers in the US and Canada.  In 1970, the magazine established and endowed the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library (www.furniturelibrary.com) in High Point, NC, now a public foundation containing more than 5,000 books on furniture and design dating from 1620. For more information contact editor@furninfo.com.

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