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Independent retailers talk Memorial Day numbers, differentiators and takeaways

Independent retailers talk Memorial Day numbers, differentiators and takeaways

Between TV and radio commercials, print advertisements in local publications and giant billboards around town, big-box retailers pull out all the stops for Memorial Day weekend to ensure consumers know about their sales and promotions. 

The weekend is known in the mattress industry as one of the biggest sales holidays of the year — but it seems the conversation is always focused on larger stores that have deep wallets. We spoke with a few smaller retailers about how their weekend was, and as it turns out, one-store retailers didn’t have any trouble pulling in business this year. 

Brandon Brewer, owner at Mid Tenn Furniture in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, says his sales were up 50%, with Memorial Day itself being the best day. “Many people used financing, and bedding sales were up the most for us, including a lot of motion bases,” he says. “We saw clients shopping several stores comparing the offerings.”

Gavin Gosik, owner of Legacy Furniture Mattress in Ocala, Florida, saw an 857% increase over last Memorial Day. He did say he added furniture to the lineup since last year, but even halving that number still shows a huge increase year-over-year. 

So what does he attribute that success to? 

“Knowing furniture and mattress sales have slowed down quite a bit recently, we decided that we wanted to be able to ride through the summer on Memorial Day sales, so we increased advertising significantly. We went through different channels that we typically don’t, like direct mailers, publications and magazines that are local. We also did radio and TV ads as well.”

This strategy paid off well for the retailer, however, he does say that for July Fourth and Memorial Day next year, he will not continue radio ads. 

Beyond the type of advertising the store used, Gosik says he noticed something happening in terms of customer type — there has been a slow decline in lower to middle-class shoppers. For that reason, his store also started carrying more premium products which have created better margins and higher ticket prices. 

“Typically, during these campaigns, a lot of retailers focus on the fact that they need to have the lowest price — like a $100 mattress,” he says. “We have started to do the opposite, and I think that made a huge difference in our sales this year.”

Vernon Williams, co-owner of Jacksonville Bedding in Jacksonville, Florida, saw a 400% increase year-over-year which he says is because the company recently changed its strategy and started focusing more on sleep quality, the benefits of good sleep, and health and wellness. 

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“We accentuate the relationship and experience,” Williams explains. “When people buy from us, one of the reasons they give is because it’s so different from any other mattress shopping experience they’ve had.”

The company did not advertise against Memorial Day weekend this year. And yet, they still had a successful sales holiday. 

This begs a bigger question: What does it mean about the broader bedding industry that smaller stores can do so well on a holiday when 1) general business is slow and 2) they’re faced up against giants like Mattress Firm?

Perhaps the industry is at a turning point, where those who sell cheap low-quality mattresses will no longer get the sale on holiday sales weekends because that’s not what people are in the market for anymore. Serious consumers today are willing to pay for quality, regardless of the price, and that message is something successful mattress retailers know and capitalize on.

The “Sale! Sale! Sale!” mentality of big-box retailers may still serve them simply because of their size, but the way people shop has ultimately changed and will continue to. If small, one-store retailers can be up over 100% year-over-year, that means that not only are they doing something right, but also the message about better sleep and mattresses is getting through to customers. 

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