Despite their different roles in the mattress industry, retailers and manufacturers who work together have the most success.
As 2023 is predicted to be a tough year in retail, there are a few ways manufacturers can help retailers get through this hard time.
Frank Hood, CEO of Kingsdown, says manufacturers have had Average Unit Selling Price increases because of recent price hikes, and because their customers are recession resistant.
“Despite AUSP increases, retailers and manufacturers are still suffering because there are fewer people coming in retailers’ doors,” Hood explains. “Smarter retailers are hoping to preserve that AUSP or make it higher, but they are wary because of foot traffic.”
He says the best way to help retailers is provide quality products that preserve retail margins.
“This really helps educate the retailer that they don’t always have to go low,” Hood says. “You don’t always have to trade the customer down. We train on the importance of sleep and on our value proposition and quality. We have proof points to support and academic data to support why we think we’re better. So we’re just effectively saying, this is what we do and you’re welcome as a retailer to extol similar virtues.”
Hood explains that Kingsdown offers retailers everything from exclusive data to review, marketing materials and more.
Speaking of marketing, he also says you have to be more deviant — in a good way — as to how you’re marketing. You have to find new ways to go after customers and get them into the door. One of those ways is taking advantage of what he calls “the Great Eight Holidays” which includes July 4, President’s Day, Memorial Day and other selling holidays.
“You need to be modifying your message to support,” he says. “As a retailer, you don’t want to lose your market share. People still have to sleep, and moreover, they should be sleeping even better now considering how stressful things are with the economy.”
Alan Hirschhorn, executive vice president at Ghostbed, says the key to driving sales is putting innovative new products on the sales floor at competitive prices.
“Give the retailers the ability to make some margin and give the consumer a reason to buy in the store,” he says. “It’s important to get people shopping and looking at their mattresses, but I think it’s also important to get people back into stores. Because we all know that going into a store is really the best place to buy a mattress because you can see it, feel it experience it.”
Hirschhorn explains that we’ve had another evolution in the mattress business and that’s the direct-to-consumer category. He says retailers need to embrace those brands because over a billion dollars worth of sales have gone to DTC players. They spend millions on advertising to get in front of customers, and retailers need to floor DTC brands so they can get that traffic from advertising.
“We’ve spent a lot of money to get our brand out there and to let people know that we’re a company with legacy, and we are very proud of the fact that we have years of experience in the business,” he says. We do everything in-house and have our own photographic studio, as well as several graphic designers and contract content writers. We try to give retailers everything they need in order to be successful.”
Many manufacturers, including Hirschhorn, think that another key to driving retail sales in 2023 is upselling.
‘Selling better products is always good, because with a better product you’ve got better features and benefits, as you get more quality ingredients in it,” Hirschhorn says. “But you’re offering the consumer a better product and giving your business a chance to provide and thrive. Each sale needs to bring in the revenue that maybe two or three lower-priced items could.”
David Binke, CEO of King Koil, says his company customizes its marketing programs with its retail partners to help them drive traffic and help them sell better products at higher margins, because “if traffic dies off, the way you can counter that is by selling higher tickets.”
“It takes the same amount of work to sell a $500 bed as it does a $3,000 bed, and at least the same cost to deliver it and stuff,” he continues. “We work very closely with retailers, and our AUSP has gone up by eight times in the last four years. So with us transitioning from promotional to ultra-premium luxury, we’re generating a lot of very nice gross-margin dollars for our retail partners.”
Binke says the company is going to continue to invest in digital marketing going forward.
Nick Bates, president at Spring Air, says one of the most effective ways manufacturers can help retailers is to continue to drive value on their floors.
“The past couple of years, mattresses prices have gone up,” Bates explains. “Value can be a lot of things. It can be good training. It’s putting people first and making sure that the sales rep, the customer and everyone else are taken care of. It’s more than just a price of a bed. It’s about giving them that whole support package that makes their life easier. And for RSAs, when someone comes in, it makes them more confident with their paycheck that they could sell some of that mattress. We’ve heard it 1,000 times, ‘I don’t sell beds above $2,000.’ But after we train them, they start to sell beds at $8,000.”
At Spring Air, Bates says the company has gotten good at getting its AUSP up.
“How do we get above $1,000, but still give value underneath that, because we know our retailers seem to live there,” he says. “But if we lived under $1,000 as a company — in our mind it’s not a survivable AUSP to live under. So now we’re getting all the way up to $15,000 and we’ve actually gotten really good at elevating that, which has helped us out a ton when retailers are selling less units.”
Bates encourages RSAs to show the best bed they have in the showroom and work their way down through top-down selling, and he says retailers should encourage consumers to take advantage of finance deals to help them afford higher-priced items.
“We’re seeing a little bit of a slowdown in door swings and people wanting to go in and purchase there,” he says. “They’re second guessing it sometimes, and where a lot of people are winning is when they offer good finance deals. Instead of laying our $5,000 today, they can pay $300 over the next five years, and that’s really lessening the burden on those customers that you actually get in the door.”