Think about the similarities between independent sales reps and retailers in the mattress industry.
Many of them sell the same product — albeit to different people — and they have extensive product and sales knowledge from being in the field every day.
That connection has spurred a small number of retailers to double as sales reps.
“Mattress sales are a marathon, not a sprint,” says Steve Houk, owner of Boise Mattress. “I would spend a ton of time helping other dealers find the right product by connecting them with vendors, but I got tired of sending that money down the road.”
While still mainly a retailer, Houk found a way to capitalize on being a sales rep and says he enjoys continuing to help people in a new way. He currently reps for 3Z brands.
“The hardest part is balancing it because I spend half the day on the phone with retailers and the other half on the phone with customers,” he says. “Most of what I do I can do over the phone or on the computer, and I’m also not a territory rep.”
However, Greg Jent, co-owner of Discount Mattress Outlet in Bowling Green, Kentucky, is a territory rep. He works with Puffy and says being an independent rep is like running your own business. He also thinks more retailers are joining the rep game.
“I see a trend happening, and I see it for multiple reasons,” he says about retailers doubling as reps. “First, you’re seeing fewer company reps, meaning people who work for XYZ brand exclusively. You’re seeing more independent reps, and they typically have to have a second source of income.”
Chris Reiken, co-owner of retail store Mattress Now, also reps for Puffy. He says his process when looking for a brand was to find lines that he felt he would want to take to his customers.
“Because of today’s modern technology, we can all do business in a much different manner,” he says. “Some people don’t like it, but a lot of people are embracing it and understand it.”
With retailers selling lines through their stores and repping for other brands, is there a conflict of interest with retailers doubling as reps?
“The conflict of interest comes from your other brands,” Jent says. “Manufacturers that you are selling in your store don’t particularly like that. It does affect your relationship with your other vendors, to a degree, so you have to be prepared for that.”
Houk says he hasn’t had any push-back, and that he sells the products in his stores because he believes in them. He adds that it hopefully gives other retailers peace of mind when they know a retailer that sells the product is repping the brand.
Reinken also hasn’t had any push-back and says it’s been a great side hustle for him. “The only thing that makes me mad is I should have done it 20 years ago,” he says.