The Most Buzzed About Trends In Mattress Retail

And How To Tailor Them To Your Store

We all know that the traditional retail market is in a period of major transformation. While the demise of some retail veterans has caused a lot of anxiety throughout the industry, these changes have actually opened up new opportunities for newer companies to move from online-only into the traditional brick-and-mortar space. As Mattress Firm faces store closures and potential bankruptcy, Casper is opening 200 more brick-and-mortar stores throughout the country. This begs the question: when it comes to the retail experience, what is Casper doing that Mattress Firm is not? We took a closer look at the stores being touted as the “future” of mattress retail - and offer our tips for how traditional retailers can incorporate some of the key trends into their stores.

There’s no doubt that the ecommerce market has shaken up the mattress industry. While the sales numbers for online mattress sales are still mostly speculative, Seth Basham (an equity research analyst at Wedbush financial services and investment firm) estimates that 12-15 percent of all mattress sales have moved online—and that number is increasing at a rate of three percentage points a year. This has shifted consumer buying habits, resulting in decreased sales and foot traffic for many traditional mattress retailers. But then why are so many online brands heading to brick-and-mortar retailer?

According to Clara Sieg, a partner at the venture capital firm Revolution, the viability of digital-only selling strategies has waned in recent years - and online brands must move into retail spaces in order to maintain continued growth. But that’s not the only reason!

Faced with dwindling sales and expensive store leases, traditional retail chains have been hit hard in recent years—with many of them forced to shutter stores to regain profitability. This can be seen most notably in the bedding industry with Mattress Firm. There has been a lot of talk lately that Mattress Firm may be headed for bankruptcy as it attempts to recover from major sales losses.  The retailer closed nearly 70 stores last year, according to Wedbush, and analysts are estimating that the retailer could close anywhere from 600 to 1,000 more locations this year.

While this is bad news for Mattress Firm and a number of legacy retailers throughout the country, this wave of store closures is actually benefiting retail newcomers by driving down commercial real estate prices. With more available locations, bigger spaces and flexible lease terms, digital-first brands and smaller retail companies have been able to expand their brick-and-mortar footprint more aggressively.

Which is exactly what Casper is doing. In the past four years, the bed-in-a-box brand has tried its hand at retail through pop-up shops, retail partnerships and trendy concept stores. While the brand's new stores are expected to be much more traditional, they will share a similar aesthetic to its more "experiential" locations.

"We do not think there is anything near the death of retail, but we do think that there is a death of poor retail," Casper CEO Philip Krim told Business Insider. "The traditional mattress store where you are met with a commission salesperson, you're lying on products you know nothing about under fluorescent lights, where there is a sale every day because they are able to play games and use tricks to deceive consumers, is not going to survive.”

This approach is not unlike the one Sleep Number adopted when developing its new Manhattan store. Aiming to position itself as a more modern “health-and-wellness” company, Sleep Number strategically designed the space to engage with consumers in a new way. Divided into five rooms, each section highlights a different aspect of the brand and provides a specific experience—and interactive technology is incorporated throughout to provide the customer with dynamic sleep data and product information.

While both Casper and Sleep Number have garnered a lot of press for their “of-the-moment” retail spaces, their approach cannot—and probably should not—be replicated by all mattress retailers for a number of reasons. First, these are both examples of single-brand stores, which allows them more design freedom and uniformity than most retailers that are stocking numerous brands.

And let’s face it: not every mattress retailer is trying to appeal to the same market as Casper or Sleep Number. We don’t want to promote a homogenization of the shopping experience — nor do we need to pretend that the retail strategies that work in Manhattan are going to be successful everything.

But the buzz surrounding these new stores cannot be ignored. So we took a closer look at some of mattress retail’s trendiest features and ideologies — and came up with a few tips that retailers everywhere can incorporate into their own stores.

A Bright & Airy Interior
Your store doesn’t have to look like a Swedish design museum - but you shouldn’t underestimate the power of ambiance. Consumers are ultimately looking for a product that will help them get the rest and relaxation they need to perform their best; the shopping experience should reflect or inspire that. One easy way to freshen up your store is by updating elements like too-harsh overhead lighting and dark or dingy wall color.

Thoughtful Product Organization
The arrangement of product options can have a major effect on the shopping experience as well. While stores like Costco or Sam’s Club have built their brand around a warehouse feel, that look is often synonymous with low prices or bulk ordering. Even just a “cavernous showroom” overfilled with mattresses can be a turn-off, as consumers are easily overwhelmed by too many choices. By taking the time to organize groupings of products around certain themes and features, you can help guide shoppers to the mattress they’re looking for.

Retailers can even incorporate sleep accessories into this organization. By arranging mock bedrooms sets that show off its mattresses, bases, sheets and pillows, you help the consumer see the value in upgrading their mattress purchases to a full sleep system. This is also true when it comes to bedding products that connect to other home technologies, like Ergomotion’s adjustable bases’ or Protect-A-Bed’s ZEEQ pillow’s Alexa integration or the USB ports on Therapedic International’s American Glory line-up.

A Little Privacy, Please
Research has shown that many of today’s consumers still believe that rest-testing a mattress before buying is important - but they find the actual process to be awkward or uncomfortable. Frankly, no one wants strangers staring at them when they’re lying in bed. Today’s trendiest mattress retail spaces all make a point to prioritize privacy, whether it be in the form of individual pods, rest-test rooms or even just a dedicated section of the floor that is away from the windows with the models a little more spread out. No matter what, consumers will appreciate the fact that you’re making an effort to make them feel more at ease.

Seamlessly Integrated Technology
While new technology is supposed to be the key to upgrading your store, it can feel like a daunting task for many retailers. Thankfully, a number of mattress and bedding manufacturers have invested in developing high-tech resources that can be seamlessly integrated into the brick-and-mortar space. From bedgear’s interactive display systems to Kingsdown’s BedMATCH kiosk, these new tech-focused tools not only give your store a more modern look, they are designed to actively help boost sales.

Hire ‘Sleep Experts' - Not Sales People
Whether through personal experience or tactical marketing efforts, many of today’s consumers have learned to be suspicious of mattress sales people, believing them to be too pushy or unhelpful. Maybe that’s why a lot of retail stores are trying to rebrand their RSA’s as “sleep experts” instead. According to Sleep Number, its in-store experts “will be able to work with the technology and products to help shoppers find their perfect mattress, pillows or bedding.” While that may sound exactly like what an RSA does, sometimes a little bit of rebranding is all that it takes to change people’s minds. The key is training your staff to focus on consultative selling strategies that really focus on how each customer is sleeping. If you want to take it a step further, Reverie’s new Sleep Coach program connects consumers with actual sleep experts who will provide them with personalized, one-on-one coaching. As the market for wellness products and services continues to grow, mattress retailers can tap into this opportunity by selling not just beds - but the transformative health and well-being benefits of sleep.

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This article originally appeared in Sleep Retailer eNews on September 13, 2018

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