By Gordon Hecht
Furniture and Mattress Stores are well represented in some of the major metropolitan markets, but many more stores serve their communities in suburbs and rural areas. For people living in those exurbs, SHOPPING LOCALLY is a great option, but others will actually plan a day’s trip to the BIG CITY to make major purchases.
Those long distance buying outings reminds me of an old song. "How Ya Gonna Keep 'em Down on the Farm (After They've Seen Paree?)" is a World War I song that rose to popularity after that war had ended. The lyrics highlight concern that American soldiers from rural environments would not want to return to farm life after experiencing the European city life and culture of Paris during their time serving in Europe.
You might be able to imagine your own friends and neighbors experiencing the same thing after traveling to the nearest Megopolis with its endless strip centers, malls, warehouse clubs, and national retail chains.
Your shoppers say that they would rather buy local and support small business, but sometimes their actions speak otherwise. Chances are that you can offer more nimble service and delivery, are more caring and knowledgeable about your neighbors’ needs, more concerned about their happiness with your products, and, in some cases willing to give credit based on relationships instead of FICO scores. However, your big city competition may be winning the battle because of what they can offer.
At the top of the list is Consistency in Shopping Experience. Let’s face it, most chain stores are “cookie cutter” places. The look and feel may not be superior, but it is constant. Shoppers know what to expect when they buy from chains and they get no surprises. They know they will see CLEAN CLUTTER FREE showrooms, and if needed, the rest rooms will also be well-stocked and spotless. If you think your store exceeds those standards, take another look today to see if it passes the MOM TEST (would your Mom say it’s clean!)
Some chain stores require uniform dress for their associates. Others just give general appearance guidelines. Macy’s doesn’t provide outfits, but all sales clerks wear BLACK all of the time. And whether it’s McDonald’s, Payless Shoes, or a Mega Mattress Chain, all employees wear name badges. Whether you decide to invest in America’s Mattress Logo Nike Dri-Fit shirts, or expect your team to wear blue oxford shirts and khaki slacks, setting some expectations on dress code will give your store a professional clean look that shows confidence and expertise. Investing $10 on name badges is a nice touch to show you’re in the game!
Chain stores use signage and POP to turn a Sale Ad into an event. While it may be true that there is no day on the calendar that Furniture and Mattresses aren’t on sale, chances are that you change your promotional message often. It may be Memorial Day Savings this month and Hot Summer Savings next month-there’s always a theme. Chain stores change their window banners, tags, tent cards so often that those POP assets never fade or wear out. It helps them project an image that this week’s special is REALLY SPECIAL! During today’s store floor tour, check out your tags and signage-if it’s faded, damaged, out of date, over parked, curled at the edge, or worse-you’re telling your shoppers that your event never changes, and there’s no immediate call to action.
And speaking of windows, chains pay someone to regularly clean their windows. That includes removing faded decals, scotch tape, and fingerprints. I guess they don’t want to be known as another dirty window store.
Those BIG CITY stores are possessive of their customers. They know that it costs SIX times more money to attract a new shopper compared to an existing customer. That’s why they use e-mail or snail mail to keep in touch with their BUYERS. They send offers, birthday cards, and thank you cards to keep the contact going. They even pay people to call customers after delivery, just to make sure everything is OK. The USPS just reduced the price of stamps to 47 cents. Why not invest a sawbuck and let 20 customers know that you love them!
Finally, chain store management train and insist that their sales team show and sell accessories. There’s TWO REASONS for this-first, each accessory adds to the bottom line. Next, each accessory purchase ADDS to the customer’s satisfaction with use of the product. Accessories are not ADD-ONS, they are NECCESSITIES to enjoyment. Make a goal or requirement to tack at least one extra item to each sale and watch your sales grow.
Count yourself as LUCKY if you live in a town where the supermarket checker knows you by name or if they choose the Mayor with “rock, paper, scissors”! Use every one of your home grown assets combined with incorporating big city success practices and you’ll save your neighbors time, gas, and congested traffic by giving them a world class place to shop-right around the corner.
And, if you don’t happen to have “How You Gonna Keep Them Down on the Farm” on your iPod, click here for your listening pleasure!
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