Perspectives from the bedding department of one of the world's most famous department stores... Herrod's.
For all its apparent boasting, the Latin motto-omnia omnibus ubique (everything for everyone everywhere)-etched high above the facade of the seven storied Herrod's of London may be an understatement. During my recent visit to London I saw for myself that Herrod's does indeed have "everything for everyone everywhere." In size, in grandeur, in sophistication it far exceeds any other department store I have been to or have seen in brochures by as much as a tiger exceeds a house cat, so that I found myself marveling at who had put together its spectacular symmetry. In fact, Herrod's could well borrow a part of another Latin motto, namely, that written by the ancient Roman historian Sallust-omnia venalia esse (all things are for sale) at Herrod's.
Understandably my attention was especially drawn to Herrod's furniture department, in particular to its bedding section. Owing to the limited time I had there, I thought it best to enlist the help of a few of its salespeople to obtain the information I felt I'd like to know about Herrod's.
The first salesperson I approached-his name was Jamie-worked in the upholstery section. By way of introduction I told him I wrote a monthly feature article for a furniture magazine in the States, that I was thinking of writing an article on Herrod's furniture department, and that I'd appreciate it if he might answer some of my questions. He immediately agreed and proceeded to furnish me with the following: Herrod's salespeople are salaried; they serve a lengthy apprenticeship prior to being entrusted on the sales floor by themselves; they tend to remain with Herrod's for quite a few years. He also added that they are carefully monitored about the care and attention Herrod's insists its customers receive from all its salespeople. He emphasized that Herrod's salespeople are especially directed not to be pushy.
I noted that while the salespeople were dressed formally, none of the several I enjoyed in conversation was in the least bit stiff or stodgy. Each one exhibited the kind of graciousness and kindness that would have made our own legendary John Wanamaker proud. In short, Herrod's apparently lives up to John Wanamaker's ideal that a store should be... "a place to feel at home in."
I was especially pleased to read in the VI Spring brochure and in that of another British manufacturer, Dunlopillo, how great an emphasis both manufacturers place on the importance of choosing the correct pillow to go with one's mattress. I quote from VI Spring: "A good quality pillow is almost as important to good quality sleep as a good quality mattress." Dunlopillo's brochure states the following: "One of the most common causes of neck pain is prolonged, abnormal posture during sleep. So choosing the right style of pillow will help prevent such problems from developing.'' I have felt for some time now that we have been tardy in voicing the importance of the pillow as an integral part of the sleepset.
How pricey can some of these English sleepsets be? The highest price tag I saw at Herrod's was 8,999 pounds. Whether that was the manufacturer's suggested retail price or the actual selling price, I failed to ask. I did find out that their sleepsets have a maximum warranty of five non-prorated years. Also, as far as I could determine, Herrod's does not offer our common comfort guarantee. Herrod's guarantee, verbatim, reads as follows: "Herrod's bed department respectfully reminds customers that as under law we are not permitted to sell used beds or mattresses, there is no policy offered in such items. This does not of course apply to merchandise which proves faulty since statutory rights are unaffected."
After four days in London, I took the Eurorail to Paris. Although I did not take the time to visit a furniture store there, I did take the time to jot down a mattress ad while I was riding the Metro, an ad that might tickle the fancy of our own "Dial-a Mattress." It read in French as follows: "Changer de matelas West plus un cauchemar. Choisisez votre matelas par telephone avec I'aide de nos couseilleurs. Livraison chez vous ce soir. 15 nuits a l'essai. Satisfait ov rembourse." Translated, it read: "Changing your mattress is no longer a nightmare. Select your mattress by phone with the assistance of one of our consultants. Delivery to your home tonight. 15 nights trial period. Satisfaction or your money back."
As I reflect on the wonderful sleepsets I saw at Herrod's and the wonderful sleepsets in our own American stores, how truly fortunate are the relatively few on our planet who have access to such sumptuous luxury. For as the poet of the Ancient Mariner wrote, sleep is indeed "beloved from pole to pole." Every retail salesperson who sells bedding should do his or her level best to sell their customers the best bed they can afford.
I then asked Jamie to direct me to the bedding section. There I was introduced to Audrey O'Dwyer, who to quote directly from her card is a "VI Spring Consultant in the furniture department." The Roman numeral VI is pronounced to rhyme with "high," as if the "V' and the "I" were letters instead of numbers. VI Spring is the name of a mattress manufacturer. The Roman numeral VI, indicates the six turns of the spring coil pocketed in calico that company advertises as the original patent bought from an Englishman in Canada in 1901. The company claims that what sets VI Spring apart from mass-produced beds is that among other things it continues to use skilled craftsmen who use only natural fillings like white-tailed horse hair and pure lamb's wool and cashmere. Also, VI Spring offers the option of 16 different spring gauges to guarantee each consumer his or her correct level of comfort and support. In one case VI Spring was able to customize the sleep set in the "shape of fish to fit into the bows of a yacht." In another case it went to great lengths to accommodate one couple whose house had an unusually tight spiral stair case. It did so by making the bed in four separate parts. In fact, VI Spring will honor just about any specifications as to size provided they do not interfere with the bed's functioning properly.
What I really found intriguing were two features of the beds I had not seen before. One is the "divan" the company uses as the boxspring. In some cases, the "divan," which is at least twice as thick as our American boxsprings, functions as a storage unit, much like the storage units in our junior captain's beds. The divan itself sits on casters. The second feature I found even more intriguing. VI Spring makes what it calls combination mattresses. These are equally divided by two different spring gauges, so that each partner can enjoy his and her amount of accommodating support and comfort. As an alternative to the combination mattress, VI Spring also uses the "Zip and Link solution," that is, it allows mattresses of separate and equal sections of differing support and comfort to be zipped and linked together.
In the VI Spring brochure Mrs. O'Dwyer gave me I noticed that nine different sizes are available. With so many options added to such elegant craftsmanship is it any wonder that one of the illustrations showed a woman propped up on her mattress, her arms stretched high above her head and leaning against her matching upholstered headboard, with the words, "Wake up and smile," printed on the lower right hand corner?
Trainer, educator and speaker Dr. Peter A. Marino has written extensively on sales training techniques and their furniture retailing applications. Questions can be sent to FURNITURE WORLD, fax:(800)784-8488. Post a message to the FURNITURE WORLD interactive website message board at http://www.furninfo.com or call him direct at (612)472-5026. See the Shopper Section in this issue for his "Golden Rules of Selling Bedding books and tapes. Check out "Selling by Proxy," for reps, "The Before and After of Customer Service" as well as hundreds of articles by Dr. Marino free on furninfo.com, the "information rich" website.
Corporate trainer, educator and speaker Dr. Peter A. Marino has written extensively on sales training techniques and their furniture retailing applications. Questions on any aspect of sales education can be sent to FURNITURE WORLD at email@example.com.