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Retail Industry Update: What We Can Learn From This?
The retail industry has been getting quite a bit of press recently - but unfortunately, not all of it has been good. A New York Times article, published last week, set forth a bold question from the outset: “Is American Retail At A Historic Tipping Point?” Citing the recent wave of retail store closures — despite high consumer confidence and low unemployment numbers — the article suggested that “a permanent restructuring is underway, rather than a dip in the normal business cycle. In short, traditional retail may never recover.” While much of the focus has been on the problems plaguing larger department and apparel stores, the driving forces behind this sluggish trend reveal valuable insight for how retailers of all kinds can avoid similar pitfalls.
According to the National Retail Federation, the retail industry is not struggling quite so dramatically as it may seem. Overall, sales actually increased in March—by a seasonally adjusted 0.3% over February and an unadjusted 3.5% year-over-year. And while furniture and home furniture store sales decreased by 0.3% since February, they increased by 3.3% when compared to this time last year. “Various factors were at play in the first quarter, but we are again seeing a pattern similar to previous years,” explained NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz. “Consumer spending was weak but is expected to pick up as we move through the year.”
But analysts remain unconvinced. Even as 90% of all retailing still comes from brick-and-mortar stores, the rise in e-commerce sales has continued to destabilize the marketplace—with non-store sales in March increasing by 11.4% year-over-year, compared to just 3.5% for retail sales as a whole (excluding automobiles, gas and food services).
As struggling brick-and-mortar retailers have begun closing down store locations in the hope of regaining profitability, some economists question the efficacy of this strategy. For many, these closures signal larger, more underlying problems with the business itself. These problems can be as simple as a lack of investment in the physical space. Dwindling profits have left many stores understaffed and increasingly dilapidated, which in turn creates a less than satisfying shopping experience. Additionally, many retailers have fallen prey to the “sea of sameness” by offering nearly identical product assortments and presentations as their competition. As such, it’s no wonder that more and more consumers are heading online to do their everyday shopping.
As an uncertain future continues to loom, these stories should serve as cautionary tales for all retailers. Now more than ever, it’s important to understand what it is your customers are really looking for—and be willing to invest in creating new solutions. Whether you offer unparalleled customer service or stock a unique assortment of new and different products, the key to retail success is making sure your store stands out from the crowd.
The Fight Between Tempur Sealy and Mattress Firm Continues
Since the news of Tempur Sealy and Mattress Firm was first announced in January of this year, there has been plenty of talk about the less-than-amicable nature of the split. That has only intensified in recent weeks, as both companies have filed legal action against one another. Mattress Firm struck first, on March 30th, issuing a suit that claims Tempur Sealy had been carrying out a “systemic campaign aimed at extracting retribution for their losses” following the termination of their relationship. The mattress manufacturer hit back not long after, filing a suit of its own that alleged the retailer had violated the terms of their agreement by failing to “cease and desist from the use of Tempur Sealy trademarks.” While the two companies battle it out in court, the jury’s still out on how this will impact the wider bedding marketplace.
According to the Mattress Firm lawsuit, Tempur Sealy “failed to comply with obligations to deliver product as to time, location and specifications,” which resulted in lost sales for the retailer. Additionally, the suit claims Tempur Sealy launched a nationwide digital ad campaign that warned of misleading retail sales tactics and directed shoppers to buy directly from the manufacturer instead. “Tempur Sealy’s sharp tactics violated the parties’ written agreements and interfered with Mattress Firm’s customer relationships,” the suit says. “Mattress Firm therefore seeks an award of damages, declaratory relief, and attorney’s fees.”
In a suit filed nearly a week later, Tempur Sealy claimed that Mattress Firm has violated the terms of their termination agreement by continuing to use the brand’s trademarks after the agreed upon date of April 3, 2017—promoting a “once-in-a-lifetime” sale that included a number of brands within the Tempur Sealy portfolio. According to the suit, “Mattress Firm has failed, as promised, to: (a) take down all signs in its stores referring to Tempur-Pedic or Sealy; (b) remove all references to Tempur-Pedic and Sealy from its website; and (c) cease all Mattress Firm advertising referring to Tempur-Pedic and Sealy.”
In addition to the ongoing battle with Mattress Firm, Tempur Sealy is also experiencing internal ramifications of the break-up. Company investors have filed class action allegations that claim the manufacturer violated federal securities law by failing to disclose to shareholders that it was engaged in “contentious” negotiations with Mattress Firm. According to that suit, prior to the dissolution of the relationship, Tempur Sealy had “made materially false and misleading statements about its then existing and future financial prospects, including those with Mattress Firm.”
In spite of the contentious split, Tempur Sealy and Mattress Firm are both confident about their futures. Prior to the significant drop in share price it experienced following the announcement, Tempur Sealy saw banner sales in 2016 — which means that many analysts are curious to see how the company fared in the first quarter of this year. Tempur Sealy will release these financial results before the New York Stock Exchange opening of regular trading on Thursday, May 4th. As for Mattress Firm, the retailer recently announced an expanded partnership with Serta Simmons Bedding.
Don't Sit Back And Wait For Rave Reviews
In today’s increasingly connected world, online reviews are more important than ever for retailers - and they can have a real, tangible impact on your sales. Just bumping your average ranking from 3 to 4 stars can more than double the number of prospects who will consider buying from you. Sadly, research has shown that unhappy customers are four times more likely to leave a bad review than their happy counterparts are to leave a good one. In order to ensure that your online reputation accurately reflects the service you provide to your community, consider moving from a reactive to a proactive mode when it comes to reviews. In RE:MARKET, a new e-book published by Retailer Web Services, Jennie Gilbert and James Kane Jr. outline several key strategies for actively cultivating as many positive reviews as you can from your most enthusiastic customers.
Excerpted from RE:MARKET - New digital techniques independent retailers can use now to compete better, grow faster and work smarter.
Before you set out to solicit reviews, it’s helpful to understand how your customers feel about reviews in the first place. “The Power of Reviews” survey, which compiled responses from 800 shoppers, offers some valuable insight on how and why people take the time to write online reviews. While we know that an overwhelming majority of consumers read and are influenced by reviews, less than half—only 42% —of shoppers write them themselves. Of consumers asked to write a review post-purchase, only 3% to 10% will write a review for any given transaction. That means in order to earn five new reviews, you will likely have to solicit 100 or more customers.
So, how do you get your most delighted customers to fire up their computers, smartphones or tablets and take time out of their busy lives to share their experience?
Here are key steps towards getting more—and more positive—reviews:
-Ask! There’s no way around this; if you want more reviews left by happy customers, you have to ask for them.
-Make the process easy and fast. Don’t force customers to navigate themselves to review sites: include clickable linked images right in your solicitation. Instead of just directing someone to Google, some solicitation software can send customers to the exact location where they can leave a review in one click. Since individual customers may prefer Google, Yelp, Facebook or other review sites, letting your customers choose from several options will boost your conversion rate. Consider adding review links in everyday communications, like email signature, newsletters and any other customer outreach. Finally, you can also use in-store signage. Post physical signs and window stickers recommending one or more review sites in your store, or create a handout to accompany each sale that describes how to leave a review.
-Engage your employees in the process. While incenting customers to leave reviews is frowned upon, you can incent your employees to help in your quest for them. For example, you can provide some special recognition or bonus if they are mentioned by name in an online review.
-Be thankful. By consistently thanking reviewers for taking the time and effort to talk about your business on review sites and social media, you’re demonstrating how much you value customer opinions. New customers will see that and be more likely to add their own.
-Automate it. Employing smart reputation management software can automate the process, so there’s not nearly as much handholding required on your part. These programs can be configured to automatically solicit feedback from customers after a purchase keeping your efforts consistent and driving better results. These systems also can often make the solicitation process savvier, directing those who indicate they are unhappy to more private channels and pushing customers who are ready to rave towards more public venues.
By systematically requesting feedback and soliciting reviews from all your customers, you’re not just improving what people see online—you’re demonstrating how much you care about providing exceptional service. Ultimately, that turns into a virtuous circle, as more overall feedback allows you to hone your business performance and drive new customers at the same time.
Sleeping Alone, Together
In coupledom, when you make the leap to sharing your house with someone, there’s an expectation that you will also be sharing your bed – an assumption that generally doesn’t take into account how compatible you and your significant other might be as sleepers. If the unpleasant truth is that you and your partner struggle to share a sleeping space, know that you’re not alone. There is a quietly growing movement of couples forsaking a shared bed in favor of getting a solid, good night’s sleep. And while there still might be a social stigma associated with sleeping separately from your significant other, recent articles highlighting personal success stories are helping to bring the positive benefits of this oft maligned option into the public sphere.
According to a 2012 Survey conducted by the Better Sleep Council, 63 percent of couples reported sleeping most of the night separated, whether it be on opposite sides of a shared bed (20%), or keeping completely separate sleeping quarters (9%). Common reasons for the separation aren’t surprising: snoring/sleep apnea, tossing and turning, temperature incompatibilities and mattress quality.
For couples reluctant to look at the “nuclear option” of different bedrooms, there are other alternatives that might feel less intimidating. For sure, if snoring is playing a role, a trip to the doctor makes sense to suss out whether or not the snoring is indicative of a more serious health issue like sleep apnea. While partners of snorers find the inconsistent snort and snuff of a snoring bedfellow to be aggravating, many will happily sleep through the hum of a CPAP machine. Couples who battle over temperature may opt for using separate blankets or splurge on a hi-tech bed that allows for independent temperature control for each side. Similarly, if one spouse prefers a firmer sleeping surface than the other, there are a number of dual comfort mattress options now on the market. For some couples, the proven scientific benefits of sleeping together (the increase of oxytocin from touching, a sense of greater emotional intimacy and potentially more frequent sex) outweigh these nightly annoyances.
However, for those sleepers who struggle to get shuteye when sleeping with their partner, there’s no shame in setting up separate sleeping rooms. Research has indicated that spouses who each get a solid night’s sleep tend to react with more kindness, appreciation and generosity to their significant others. And when you’re feeling more enamored of your partner, there’s more motivation to initiate some physical intimacy. Many “bed divorce” veterans claim that their sleeping arrangements add more creativity and excitement to their sex lives because they have to put more thought into making it happen. It doesn’t hurt that sleeping apart allows for each person to miss the other a little, which can work to fan the flames of passion and bring a new dimension to a relationship.
It’s important to note that separate bedrooms won’t fix a relationship in crisis. But they can help to alleviate sleep dysfunction between otherwise compatible people. A big part of successfully navigating sleeping separately is open communication and effort from both parties to keep the spark alive and make time for each other out of the bedroom.
Bottom line, it is possible to have separate bedrooms while maintaining a strong, vibrant and fulfilling relationship. And the research has shown that if you and your spouse decide to sleep separately, you’re in good company.
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