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The Traveling Retailer's Tip #15: Don’t Get Caught Where the Uber Meets the Road

Furniture World News


I’ll take nothing for granted here-In case you haven’t heard of it, Uber is a transportation service that is conquering the world. And the idea is so simple. They rounded up a lot of people who have nice clean cars with time to drive other people around, and then they connect them with people who need rides! You book the whole thing online with a moment’s notice, pay a set charge based on distance traveled, and can slap it on a credit card. The cost includes a tip, information about the pre-vetted driver, and information about the car that will pick you up. You know who hates them? Taxi cab and limo services-because they are hemorrhaging business to Uber every day!

Essentially, Uber took everything that people hate about taking a cab, and removed it. Dirty cabs, unknown final costs, drivers angling for a tip, cabbie’s incentive to stretch a ride for tourists, waiting for an open car, having to have cash on hand-use Uber and it’s all gone. It’s great for consumers, and also for people who want to make a few extra bucks full or part time by driving for Uber. They can pick the times they want to drive, take the fares they want, no worries about people skipping, as the fare is pre-paid, and no need for a costly taxi medallion that amounts to graft in many cities.

Here’s the scary part. Someone is looking to “Uber” your business! There is a disruptive idea out there that will change the way things are done in ways we cannot imagine. And I don’t have a clue who it is, or what they will do. Along the way, there have been people who put little dents in the retail supply system for our products, 800 phone numbers in the 1980s, warehouse clubs in the 1990s, online sites in the 2000s, but there can be a force as strong as Uber that can eliminate or minimalize our market.

We like to think that it will never happen to us. “People have to touch and feel our products” is our ongoing mantra! Think about this:
  • Newspaper publishers like to think “People have to see it in print to believe it”

  • Soft Drink companies like to think “No one would pay $1.50 for a bottle of water with no color, flavor or fizz”

  • Local hardware, shoes stores, and grocery stores like to think “Wal-Mart would never steal my customers”

  • Time Warner likes to think “No one can go without 300 channel choices once they see what we offer”
And yet every one of those industries are learning that a disruptive service or product can severely impact their sales, profit, and maybe-ability to survive.

I truly do not know what will change our industry, retail and manufacturing. I wish I did! It’s probably worth a few trillion bucks these days!. But I do know what will cause the disruption. It will be the elimination of all of the roadblocks, failures, and hoops that we make shoppers go through to buy our products. Maybe it’s longer store hours, or maybe no store at all. It could be Mattress of the Month club, get a new bed every month until you get the feel that you like! It could be a “REAL” topper that actually removes the need for a new bed!

Here is something that you can do to come up with the next Uber-and protect your business for the short and medium run. Start an honest assessment of everything that you do, and offer, that your shoppers HATE! Things that they put up with, because every other store offers those same things that they HATE! I don’t mean give away the store, but make your store more attractive as a place to do business because you become the best place to buy.

If you are currently doing follow-up calls with customers, cut the crap about asking if they would recommend you to a friend! (Here’s a hint, they are not recommending you). Ask instead-
  • What was the most unpleasant part of your buying experience? 
  • How did we annoy you? 
  • If you owned this business what would you change?
You’ll learn what you need to do to avoid becoming ROADKILL! And when you learn it, change it that day. Change your culture, policies, and even employees if needed.

I’d love to hear from you-What do you think we (as an industry) do to annoy, bother, pester our customers to make their buying experience difficult.

Gordon Hecht is a Growth and Development Manager for National Bedding Company’s America’s Mattress stores, nearly 400 locally owned and operated bedding stores across the country selling Serta-branded and America’s Mattress-branded mattresses. He started his 30+ years experience in the Home Furnishings industry in Las Vegas, NV as a delivery helper and driver.

He has been recognized for outstanding sales and management achievement with several organizations including Ashley Furniture HomeStores, Drexel-Heritage, RB Furniture, Reliable Stores, and Sofa Express. He has served as Store Manager, Multi-unit manager and National Director of Sales. With his first-hand knowledge of our industry’s front line, Gordon has devoted his career to guiding others to exceed their goals.

Joining National Bedding Company in 2014, as part of the Serta Retail Concepts Group With over 400 stores, America’s Mattress stores is one of the fastest growing bedding retailers in the country.

Co-author of the “Better Bedding Selling Tips” featured on Furniture World Online, Gordon has been a frequent contributor to company newsletters, and contributing writer for industry magazines.
Read other articles by Gordon Hecht

Furniture Industry News and in depth magazine articles for the furniture retail, furniture manufacturers, and furniture distributors.
Read other articles by Gordon Hecht